Kemo Inamasu


In the early 1900s, Kumataro (Kemo) Inamasu immigrated to Canada from Japan as a single, adventurous young man. When he was just a teenager and prior to his settling in Calgary, he spent time in Europe, and even ventured to the Klondike during the gold rush. In 1905, Kemo arrived in Calgary, taking work as a cook’s helper and pastry chef. He was eventually persuaded by Senator Pat Burns to operate a restaurant and laundry at the P. Burns meat packing plant in East Calgary.

In 1906, Kemo, through an arranged marriage, brought his picture bride Masae from Japan and this union produced eight children, five boys and three girls, all of whom were born at their home between the years of 1908 through 1923. Their names were Mary, Margaret, Cecile, Jim, Pat, George, Harry and Albert.

In 1910, Kemo took over the plant café and in 1919, branched out and purchased the Stockyards Hotel and Café. When the hotel was demolished in 1934, Kemo operated the restaurant in the Stockyards Exchange building where his sons served the public until the early 1960s.

It was during the 1930s that Kemo, having established his business as a restaurateur, turned to his love of horses and began his career as a horseman.

He enjoyed the title of the only Japanese owner/breeder/trainer in North America and he held this title until his death in 1959. His famous mare, the Duchess of York, was the queen of Western Canadian horse racing during the 1930s, capturing purses in Toronto, New Orleans, California as well as Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina.

Most of Kemo’s children stayed in Calgary, putting down strong roots and contributing to the community. Following the death of Kemo’s wife in the mid-1930s, Mary, the eldest of the eight children became the family matriarch to her younger siblings. Mary enjoyed a distinguished career with the Calgary Separate School Board as Secretary and Secretary/Treasurer, where she worked for 35 years.

Cecile, Jim, Pat, George, Harry and Albert all helped with the family restaurant at one time or another until it closed in 1961. Jim, Kemo’s eldest son, served with Canadian forces in the Second World War. Pat, Harry and Jim all took turns caring for the horses and family farm that Kemo so loved.

Kemo and his offsprings left a valuable and important mark on the history of Calgary. Today the Inamasu name is not only synonymous with Western Canadian horse racing, but the pioneering spirit of the early Japanese who enjoyed success in Canada.