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Japanese Community Volunteers Association (Tonari Gumi)


Business Number: 107526246RR0001

1000-Cranes "Sen Ba Zuru" Initiative

Campaign Ended Dec. 31, 2018

1000-Cranes “Sen Ba Zuru” Initiative

In Japanese culture, cranes are seen as symbols of longevity, good luck, happiness, love and fidelity (because they paired for life). Fathers will often give their children 1,000 origami cranes on their wedding day for all of these reasons.

Cranes are recognized for their magical caring and protective properties and has become a popular subject of origami with the myth that cranes live for 1,000 years. Folding 1,000 origami cranes will make a wish you make come true.

The legend of the crane was popularized by the story of Sadako Sasaki, a 12 year old in Japan, who tried to fold 1,000 cranes in her hospital in hope of surviving radiation sickness, resulting from exposure to radiation from the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945. After folding 644 cranes, she passed away on October 25, 1955. In her honour, her classmates folded the remaining cranes. 

At Tonari Gumi we have over 300 volunteers whose spirit embody that of the crane. Their hands are like the wings of the cranes – protecting, caring for and bringing happiness to the lives our Japanese Canadian and new immigrant seniors.


“Home is a place where you make the family yourself. There are a lot of lonely people out there. When I first started volunteering, we delivered lunches once a week. I have to remember to sit down because I’m not a volunteer anymore. It’s funny.” (Nancy Morishita)


Origins of Tonari Gumi by Tamio Wakayama

Established in 1977, Tonari Gumi was a place where all generations and all representatives of our community met and functioned and had joy and had this creative outburst. There were the Issei, there were the Nisei, there were the Sansei and there were the new immigrants. For the first time, all these diverse elements of our community gathered together and created this wonderful institution called Tonari Gumi.

Tonari Gumi was set up to provide services for the first generation Issei who had returned after the war thinking there would be some semblance of their robust prewar community. When they came back there was hardly anything left there so they were at a disadvantage because they still had language problems, they still had problems of acculturation, and so there was this co-mingling of these people. It was like the salmon returning to their original spawning beds and the epicenter of that particular activity was Tonari Gumi. 


“Tonari Gumi” means neighbourhood organization in Japanese and historically, neighbourhood organizations played a wider social role of involving all generations and members in the support and improvement of the community. During the Japanese Canadian internment during WWII, neighbourhood organizations were formed in the work camps to assist members in the community.

Our name carries a reminder of the past and hope for the future as volunteers, young and old, work together for the betterment of the community.

Today, we are dedicated to providing social, recreational, and educational programs and services for the betterment of the Japanese Canadians and new immigrants in our community and Canadian society. 

My enjoyment is working with all the seniors here. I just love being with them, you know they are really precious. I think there’s love between each of us. To me that’s most important.” (Lurana Tasaka)


Programs and Services

Tonari Gumi cares for people through services and programs and offers a Japanese community resource centre where people can better themselves.

We have several services for seniors focusing on people who are homebound. We have friendly visitations, Telephone Buddy services, and volunteering activities. We also have a ‘meals-on-wheels’ service and Lighthouse “Iki Iki” program at Tonari Gumi.

Usually we are thinking that volunteers give their affection to seniors. But on the other hand, they receive many important things from seniors. They learn about history and what happened and what they did or what they feel.

Through these volunteer activities we gain important experiences for ourselves that we can share with our friends and families.

“Volunteer work is actually considered to be working for others, but you learn through the process that you are actually working for yourself, too. What this interrelationship really develops is a sense of community and as long as Tonari Gumi keeps on producing that, it’s going to be a thriving organization for long years to come.” (Takeo Yamashiro)


Our Future and a Sense of Community

Through the spirit of volunteerism, Tonari Gumi hopes to provide more resources for all generations of Japanese Canadians and new immigrants so that they become full and active participants in Canadian society. We see these resources as:

  • Improving our quality of life;
  • Helping people achieve independence;
  • Fostering personal development;
  • Expanding and strengthening friendships; and
  • Affirming our cultural heritage 

We see our role as a place where youth can learn about their heritage, gain knowledge and personal experiences by working will all generations of Japanese Canadians and new immigrants.

“We are very loyal to Tonari Gumi because they were so good to my mother. Being all-alone in your home and nobody to talk to, this place is something that people can come to and socialize. And I think that’s what a lot of people need. I’m --- you know – I feel that way too myself.” (Myttsu Fugeta)


Please support the 1000 Cranes (“Sen Ba Zuru”) Initiative

In 2013 Tonari Gumi moved to 42 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver: a move made possible by a key supporter. With this great gift bestowed upon us, it is our responsibility to raise the funds to make this Japanese community resource centre meaningful and accessible to the community.

For decades, Japanese Canadians and new immigrant seniors have come to rely on Tonari Gumi as a home-away-from home, a place to meet friends, and a place to find support. Your support is critical to help maintain these programs, services and our new Japanese community resource centre. So, we are launching our 1,000 Cranes Initiative.

With every donation of $100 you make, you will receive one origami crane folded just for you by our volunteers and seniors in appreciation of your support.

Your donation will be used to provide programs and services that help care for and support our seniors at our Japanese community resource centre and in the community. Your donation will also be used to maintain and grow our resource centre to provide a unique environment for all generations of Japanese Canadians, new immigrants, and all Canadians, to come together to support one another, exchange information, share similar experiences and make friends.

Please help ensure the people we love, receive the care and support they need to live happy lives when they need it.

Your donation will be used to support one of the following areas

Annual Needs for Programs and Services

  • $20,000 for Lighthouse “Iki Iki”:Focuses on healthy and stimulating activities for seniors who prefer a slower pace, or are frail. We are not ‘helping’ people but creating a family environment where we learn from each other.
  • $7,500 for the Lunch Program:Three times a week volunteers prepare inexpensive lunches so people in the community can join together over lunch for friendly socialization. Meals are partially donated by vendors.
  • $5,000 for Meals on Wheels:Our volunteer drivers deliver delicious Japanese style meals prepared by our volunteers. We have also partnered with “Hi Genki Japanese restaurant” and “Izumiya Japanese Marketplace” for the friendly provision of this food. 
  • $5,000 Tech 2 Go:Helping to improve seniors staying connected with friends and family by teaching them how to use technology such iPad and email.
  • $2,500 for the TG Cruiser ProgramTonari Gumi will soon be replacing its passenger van with a new one, the “TG Cruiser”. This vehicle will be use to transport people to Tonari Gumi and from Tonari Gumi to enjoy programs and activities.
  • $2,500 Telephone Buddies:Our volunteers make regular phone calls to seniors who feel lonely because they do not have family or friends close by, or they are shut-in due to old age or illness.  The Telephone Buddy Service is also great for caregivers who may be feeling over-loaded and in-need of contact with others.
  • $2,500 Friendly Visitation:Our volunteers pay regular visits with seniors at care facilities or hospitals as a companion.  Our current visitation recipients are delighted with regular visits and interaction with our volunteers.

Staffing Annual Requirement

  • $20,000 Programs, Services & Lighthouse “Iki Iki” Coordinator

Building Preventative Maintenance Annual Requirement

  • $50,000 Making it Your Home Fund‘Making it Your Home’ Endowment Fund (pending) - Our Japanese Canadian Resource Centre is a place where people drop in for information and socializing. A home-away-from home feeling has been created. The Making it Your Home Endowment Fund will help preserve and maintain this beautiful building made possible by generous supporters in the community.

Sponsorships Annual Requirements

  • $15,000 1000-Cranes Gold Classic on Sunday, June 12, 2016
  • $15,000 "Spirits of Japan" Sake Tasting, Sushi Roll Challenge Event featuring Tim Tamashiro at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel on October 29, 2016 
  • $5,000 Nikkei Plus Club

Recognition of your gift:

Your generous donation will be recognized publicly as follows

  • Hand folded origami cranes made by volunteers and seniors
  • Monthly Bulletin and Vancouver Shinpo
  • On our 1000 Cranes Annual Donor Wall for one year (for annual donations of the $300 or greater due to space limitations)
  • Gifts of $5,000 and over will be recognized on the donor wall for 3-years

For enquiries, please contact:

Tonari Gumi: Japanese Community Volunteers Association42 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1M7Tel: (604) 687-2172                        Email: info@tonarigumi.caWebsite:


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