VANCOUVER - For more than a century, a small school in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has kept British Columbia's rich Japanese tradition alive.

Now, the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall is receiving one of Canada’s highest honours: a National Historic Sites designation.

“It brought back fond memories of my childhood days," said Akira "Aki" Horrii, who was a student at the school before the Second World War.

The school's past tells the story of the Japanese community in Vancouver and what little remains of the city's Japantown, a once-thriving community of 8,000 people.

"We were impressed with the architectural argument and with the cultural and community history argument," said Timothy Christian of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

During the Second World War, the school was forced to close while many of its students and their families were moved to internment camps.

"We were told that the reason for the internment was we were a security risk to the country of Canada," Horrii said.

Community leaders fought to prevent the property's sale, and they were successful. When the war ended, the school was one of the only properties returned to any Japanese Canadian.

The school reopened in 1953.

“To have younger people study Japanese language and to carry on that culture and tradition, I think it is a wonderful thing," Horrii said.