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Mail order brides came to Canada to build a life with men they had never met. In 1942, Canadian authorities rounded up more than 20,000 people of Japanese descent, took away their homes and businesses, and carted them off mostly to detention camps or Prairie farms. Their tragic saga has gained a foothold in the country's consciousness -- in large part due to the official apology then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney issued in 1988. Less familiar is the story of how many of those wartime internees arrived on Canada's shores. Theirs was not the typical journey of the 20th-century immigrant.

Mail order brides marry in absentia
Take Asayo Murakami. In 1924, the 26-year-old mail order bride stepped off an ocean liner in Vancouver with only a few personal possessions, including a violin she had learned to play as a child and some treasured photographs -- two of which she would keep hidden from family and friends for the next 75 years. Another picture was of the man she had recently married in a Japanese civil ceremony, although the mail order bride and groom had yet to meet. Her husband, a Japanese fisherman living in British Columbia, stood on the docks anticipating her arrival. "As soon as I saw his face," recalls mail order bride Murakami in a recent documentary, Obaachan's Garden, directed by her granddaughter, Vancouver filmmaker Linda Ohama, "I knew he was not my type. I didn't like him at all -- he was very short, so small." Murakami immediately broke her mail order brides marriage contract, but chose to stay in Canada. She spent the next three years picking strawberries and working in a cannery to repay the $250 crossing fare to the man she jilted.

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