San Jose’s Japantown is one of three remaining Japantowns in the United States. In its early days, the community served as a refuge for Japanese immigrants. Now, in its 125th year, the streets are filled with everything from tofu shops to artsy boutiques to low-riders. We talk to Japantown’s residents, look back on the neighborhood’s history and find out how it is evolving.

125 Years of History and Culture in San Jose’s Japantown 27 March,2015forum

Mike Honda, U.S. congressman (D) representing California's 15th Congressional District and chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
April Gee, artist and owner of Petite Galleria, an art boutique in Japantown San Jose
Curt Fukuda, co-author of "San Jose Japantown: A Journey"
Ralph Pearce, co-author "San Jose Japantown: A Journey"
PJ Hirabayashi, co-founder San Jose Taiko

  • Noelle

    We moved to Japantown in 2005 since it was close to transit and downtown. We grew to like living there and bought a house in 2010 2 blocks over from where we were renting. Happy to see it becoming surprisingly hip, with the influence of artists a big part of it. Nice that you have April Gee on, I enjoy visiting the shop full of handmade goods!

    • Leah Deffenbaugh

      I moved to the area just a year ago – and I LOVE living near Japantown, its a vibrant area, but still peaceful and quiet at the same time.

  • Divjot Narang

    Your guests mentioned Japanese and Chinese immigrants not being able to buy or lease land in the early 1900’s.

    However, they did not mention Indians of the Sikh religion were also negivately affected. They had their legally owned land taken away from them … Could not bring their wives to the USA, etc.

    • ES Trader

      the program is about Japan-town, not other ethnicity.

      • Divjot Narang

        True. But, the guest mentioned Chinese immigrants in addition, etc… And how a legal challenge of not being able to leasing or owing land went to the Supreme Court … and was upheld.

        We have an interesting history in our USA about non European immigration. Call it what you will…

        • ES Trader

          Prejudice will always be a part of human life, unfortunately.

          Even to the rivalries of cross town high schools and cliques.

          I assume you are Indian, aren’t Sikh’s persecuted in India? Not to mention other class prejudice and persecution.

    • Leah Deffenbaugh

      Unfortnately, Japanese, Chinese, and Indians were not the only people discrimated against in this country. MANY areas had laws on the books that ANYONE that was not white could not own (that goes for Hispanics, African Americans etc). This show only spoke about Japanese and Chinese as those were the ethinic groups with a deep history in this particiilar area.

  • roxie

    Can the guests not assume listners know what the definitions of Nissei, Issei etc please. Also, please have them share more on the racism Japanese Americans faced after their forced Internment even though they were Americans too.

  • Betty

    I’m half Japanese and some of my best memories are of my sister, two brothers and I dressing up in our kimonos for the Obon festival every year. We’ve gone to it since the late 1960’s. Still love it now with my own children.

  • ES Trader

    Japan town in SF has dramatically changed since the 70’s. Many businesses, like Japanese grocers have closed.

    My impression was that younger generations leaving for college and to professional careers and the likely low immigration from Japan since they became an economic powerhouse in the 70 – 80’s.

    Is that about the right conclusion and is that also occuring in Japan town’s nationally ?

  • Mike Inouye

    An important distinction, as made by Ms. Gee (on the air), is that SJ Japantown is very much still a product of the people who reside in the area. It’s not just a business zone, it’s where Japanese American families have been living for generations. It has a culture unto itself.

  • Guest

    In 1958 Elsie Yamamoto a co worker at Gousha Map Company on the Alameda, invited me to an Obon Festival in Japantown. At the time I was not even aware where Japantown was located. I had a great time and some years later my daughter Marion wanted to go to Japantown as part of a Girl Scout event. More good times. My husband Jim (Glenn) and I were pleased to host and witness the marriage of our son Ralph to Emelie Ohara Anacleto whose mother had taught at the Buddhist Temple. Emelie and Ralph had a son Michael who has juggled for several events in Japantown.
    Ralph later met and joined with Curt Fukuda in completion of the book, “San Jose Japantown”.
    This is a happy story of how cultures met and melded in “Our Valley Of Hearts Delight.”

  • Ralph M. Pearce

    Curt and I enjoyed our participation in the program today. Thanks once again to Rachael Myrow and producer Irene Noguchi for having us as guests. Btw, I stand corrected regarding the number of prewar Japantowns (Curt was right); I’m finding between 43-46 in California, and maybe 65 including those in other states.
    Thank you all for your comments and energy on the topic,

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