Imai, Ken

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Imai, Ken

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  • Reverend Canon Paul Ken Imai

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Reverend Canon Paul Ken Imai was born November 10, 1911 in what was at the time called Manchuria, though his family had roots in Tottori Prefecture, Japan. His father, Kumajiro Imai was a devout Anglican and named his son Ken as it means “offering” in Japanese. He studied and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts from Rikkyo University also known as Saint Paul’s University. He then achieved a Bachelor of Divinity from the Anglican Theological College, in 1936 in Tokyo. A year later on July 28, 1937 Imai was ordained to Deacon at the Christ Church Cathedral in Sendai, Japan. His studies continued in Ohio where he began to study at the Graduate School of Applied Religion within the University of Cincinnati, then studied at the General Theological Seminary and Columbia University within the Department of Sociology, in New York City from 1938-1940. It was during this time that he leaned English. Returning to Japan, Imai was ordained to Priesthood December 4, 1940 at Christ Church Cathedral. For a short period in 1941 he spent time at the Saint Savior’s Church in Akita, Japan.

When WWII began, Imai was a conscientious objector, but was eventually drafted into the Japanese army. Before being drafted, he gave a sermon from the pulpit against the war. During the war, he was often sent to the front lines as a scout. His English language skills served him well, and he often interpreted for the army. Imai was injured in Papua New Guinea and later captured by the Americans. He also spent time in a POW camp in Australia.

Not much is known about Imai’s family prior to WWII. He had a wife and daughter, the later passing away during her travel from Manchuria to Japan. It is not known when his first wife passed away. It is believed that the Nozomi Rose, a strain of roses, was names after his first daughter.

After WWII, Imai became the Chaplin at St. Margaret’s Rikkyo School in Tokyo. In 1947 Imai married Yachiyo Grace Tobimatsu (1920-2017), an English teacher. They had two children in Japan, Shin Imai (1950-) and Margaret Imai Ko (1952-) and once in Canada they had, Rei Imai (1954-). He stayed at the school in Tokyo until 1953 until he was called by the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada to minister Japanese Canadians in the Toronto, Hamilton, London, St. Catherine’s, and Montreal area.

Ken Imai and his family were some of the few Japanese permitted to enter Canada during the period after the war. The family traveled from Yokohama to San Francisco, then took a train to Toronto via Chicago. The assignment from the Church was initially to be three years, but the family decided to continue their life in Canada, and received citizenship in the 60s.

Imai continued his education in Toronto. As part of the three year assignment, Imai was also awarded a scholarship from Trinity College at the University of Toronto, to pursue a Master of Theology (Degree granted in 1958).

Rev. Ken Imai began to lead the St. Andrew’s Japanese congregation and their first location was the Church of the Holy Trinity (10 Trinity Square, Toronto). Their congregation outgrew the church, so they moved to St. Anne's Parish Hall (651 Dufferin Street, Toronto) in 1956. By 1957 they were self-supporting and named St. Andrew’s Dufferin. The congregation rapidly grew and moved to the Cathedral of St. Alban the Martyr in 1961. Eventually, when the choir school took over, the congregation moved to St. David, Donlands (49 Donlands Ave, Toronto).

Imai was dedicated to his parishioners. In order to better reach the Issei who read mostly Japanese, he translated the Book of Common Prayer with the assistance of Rev Reg N. Savary and copy-editing done by Shizuko Moritsugu from 1965-1967. 1969 marked the 25th anniversary of the congregation. Celebrations were held, and guests included Lt. Governor of Ontario Ross Macdonald and Right Rev. Bishop Hunt. 1973 marked the 100th anniversary of the first Canadian missionary to Japan. To celebrate the occasion, Rev. Imai and his congregation gathered with notables including Canadian primate Most Rev. Ted Scott, the presiding Bishop of Japan John N. Okubo, the Japanese Ambassador to Canada and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Nishiyama, Counsel General Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi, and 33 Canadian missionaries to Japan.

In 1975 Rev. Imai was appointed honorary Canon of the Cathedral Church of St James in Toronto. By 1976 he was inducted as Incumbent of St. Andrew’s Church and retired from there in 1978. He and his wife went to England, where he was Chaplain of the Rikkyo Japanese School. After, he moved into the position of Dean of Shoei Centre at King Alfred's College in Winchester, England, holding the position from 1981 to 1983. At the time this was an all-girls boarding school, with pupils from ages 18-20.

Rev. Canon Imai and his wife returned to Toronto in 1983 to retire. Imai’s dedication to the Japanese Anglican community continued until 1997, as he would often guest preach at Japanese language churches, while also running a Bible class. He passed away November 27, 2007.


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Imai, Shin (1950-)

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Imai, Shin

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Imai, Ken

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Created February 3, 2023 by E Carroll.




Anglican Journal staff. “Paul Ken Imai.” Anglican Journal, February 1, 2008.

“Canon Imai Obituary.” The Globe and Mail, November 29, 2007.

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