Japantown San Jose Preservation and Development

Senate Bill 307 San Jose Japantown Report






May 28, 2004

Kathleen M. Sakamoto











Definition of the Area

Historical Context

Business and Neighborhood Plans and Strategies

Cultural Preservation

  • a. Definition
    b. Town Hall results
    c. Community description
  • Development

    Japantown Community Congress of San Jose

  • a. Town Hall #1 October 5, 2002
    b. Town Hall #2 January 25, 2004
    c. Town Hall #3 January 24, 2004
    d. Current JCCsj activity

    7. Overall Findings

    8. Bibliography


    a. Maps
    b. Interviews
    c. Town Hall Meetings
    d. Other materials



    Japantown Preservation and Development

    SB307 San Jose Report

    Definition of the Area

    The borders of Japantown are varied according to the association or group or agency that is defining it. For Business Improvement District boundaries, administered by the Japantown Business Association, it defined as those commercial properties and businesses found between First and Seventh Streets, both north and south sides of Taylor Streets and both north and south sides of Jackson Street according to specific address.

    The Redevelopment area boundaries are slightly different, including the entire block of Sixth and Seventh Streets between Jackson and Empire and extending eastward on Jcakson Street to include Eight and Ninth Streets. Also along Taylor Street, the area extends along the triangular piece of property west of the railroad tracks bordering Seventh and Taylor Streets and extends eastward along Taylor midway to Ninth Street.

    The Nihonmachi Business District Plan, prepared for the City of San Jose by Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons, John B. Dykstra and Associates, Economics Research Associates, Fehr and Peers Associates in 1987, addresses a detailed revitalization and development strategy defining the business district as occupying the north and south frontages of Jackson Street between North Third Street and North Sixth Street.

    The Jackson Taylor Residential Strategy, adopted by the City of San Jose in 1992 and revised in November 1996 and November 1997 includes ‘Nihonmachi Business District.’

    Other studies of this area include a Japantown Parking Analysis prepared for the Redevelopment Agency by Hexagon Transportation Consultants, Inc in 1987 and a Japantown Community Facilities and Resources Study prepared for the Redevelopment Agency by Eduardo Martinez Architects, May 2001.

    Historical Context

    The early history of Japantown San Jose, begins with the migrant laborer that made his way to Santa Clara Valley to work in the rich agricultural fields and orchards that made up the greater economy of the valley between the 1850’s through the 1940’s and 1950’s. One of the six Chinatowns in San Jose, Heinlenville, was established in 1887 on Sixth and Taylor Streets. The brick buildings, a small number of which are still evident today, were the center of Chinese cultural and business life till the early 1900;s. It was here that Japanese farm workers would come and next to which the first wooden buildings that were to define Japantown or Nihonmachi were first established. They began as cheap bunkhouses with, eventually, accompanying gambling parlors, a bathhouse, pool halls and houses of prostitution.

    Japanese laborers, mainly single men, while housed on the farms upon whose land they toiled, came to Chinatown and early Japantown in the mid to late 1890’s through the early 1900’s to eat, sometimes to sleep and sometimes to buy items of food, or clothing, of necessity more than likely, that were culturally familiar to them or at the very least available to them as they were not in other places in the city.

    By the early 1900’s Kuwabara Hospital and a mid-wifery across the street had been established and were quite well known in the community. The hospital building, has become known as the Issei Memorial Building and stands today as a San Jose City Landmark.

    The Japantown Business district as it is configured in more recent times, began with the establishment of family life in Japantown in the 1920’s which grew from the ability of Japanese farmers to group into farm clusters, California’s Alien Land Laws of 1913 notwithstanding, these farm clusters then enabled an increased stability in community life.

    Between 1910 and 1940 there was a bustling town of markets, barbershops, dry goods stores, restaurants, Japanese confectionaries, a fish market, candy stores and much more. Basically, Japantown was a town for the Japanese. Sumo tournaments at the sumo basho area on Sixth and Jackson as well as baseball and regular koto (long, multiple stringed Japanese instrument) and odori (classical Japanese dance) concerts and recitals were also actively attended and pursued. It was a place where a family could visit friends, conduct business, have fun and attend church at Wesley United Methodist or San Jose Buddhist Church. It was the heartbeat of the Japanese community.

    By 1939, San Jose was the largest dried-fruit packing and canning center in the world. At the start of 1940, on Jackson, Fifth and Sixth Streets, it has been recorded by census data available that ‘there were 26 residences, 3 confectionary stores, 3 restaurants, 3 dry goods/general merchandise stores, 3 insurance agents, 2 markets, 2 physicians, 2 barbershops, 2 gas stations, and a tailor, a dressmaker, a watch repair store, a photographers, a fish market, a soda works, a furniture store, a pharmacy, a printer, a stationery store, and a laundry in addition to other businesses. There were also the Buddhist and Methodist churches, the office of the Japanese Association, and the Japanese language school.’

    But in December of 1941, with the issuance of Executive Order 9066, all this changed. Santa Clara Valley fell into Military Area No. 1 as established by Lt. General John L. DeWitt, commander in charge of the West Coast. At first there was offered what was termed ‘voluntary evacuation’ which allowed families to move from one area to another or even further east, out of California to avoid evacuation and confinement entirely. This opportunity ended with a March 29, 1942 order, which commanded all those who remained to await eviction under direction of the United States Army. Japanese farmers, workers, business owners, and residents were carted off with little time or opportunity to sell their goods and property or to see that they were taken care of while they were gone. They neither knew where they were going or when they would be back.

    The bustling, happy business district that was known as Japantown was now in the hands of a few trusted individuals who would care for the property of their clients and friends, which actions subjected themselves to criticism and exclusion from mainstream society. It might be appropriate to note here that the largely agrarian culture that Japanese and Japanese American society had formed through socio-political and generally negative economic limitations put upon them would continue after the return of the Japanese to the valley. Friends and goodwill were present to welcome them back but again the negativity and racism leveled against them provided slim chance to recoup losses. Instead, small gains were made on individual bases on berry farms and working other crops as manual labor, saving money and thinking of the future, Through determined efforts by the community to keep doors open and serve the community itself, the Japanese community re-established itself as a viable and contributing factor in the valley.

    Discriminatory legislation, beginning in 1906 not ending until 1952, has much to do with the attitudes and current nature of the community. Gradually, through hard work and the ability to overcome adversity and believe in the friendship that was extended by those citizens that chose to be acquainted with them, the business district that once was the sole haven of migrant male laborers became a place where the Japanese community once again gathered, this time to create permanent situations for the political and cultural growth of the community as a whole.


    Business and Neighborhood Plans and Strategies

    The first of these began in the mid to late 1960’s. The Jackson Taylor Professional and Business Association formed to coalesce interests of the once again booming business district. As Japanese Americans found their livelihoods possible and even prosperous in the changing valley economy, the community shopped and played in Japantown. It was in this era that the third generation or Sansei were attending college and becoming professionals in their own right. Once again there were dry goods and department stores in Japantown. Barbershops, optometrists, dry cleaners and restaurants flourished.

    During the 1970’s and the beginnings of Silicon Valley, the farming community found themselves with fewer family members to help run the farms and valley land once prized for its agricultural merits was now prime housing and office development land. The lopsided nature of the growth of the computer industry heralded the end of the ‘Valley of Hearts Delight’ and ushered in the infancy of the silicon chip.

    For Japantown, this meant that people found the world at their fingertips in more ways than one. Farmers were approached to sell their land and children went away to school and jobs, often coming home for a traditional New Year’s celebration but venturing further and further away from Japantown streets. The community followed the natural cycle of aging grandparents. The Issei were dying and being memorialized by the Sansei in the manner of recording oral history, documented in film and eventually video, in theater and poetry, their lives and histories. This era also saw the beginnings of San Jose Taiko and Asian American history movements within the valley as ethnic identities and celebration began here and in other Japanese American communities in California.

    The Jackson Taylor Professional and Business Association banded together to keep the community thriving. Annual dinners were dressy affairs with and Master of Ceremonies, awards to retirees, music, entertainment and even dancing. Sometimes, this was the one night out the hard working small business owners were able to attend. This feeling of camaraderie benefited the district. Businesses were founded upon demand and need but in addition to basic business principles, these businesses also had the common experience and legacy of the World War II internment and all that was suffered as a result of internment to bind them.

    While in Japantown, the common interest prevailed, the society around the district was changing and economic impact of the change from the traditional agricultural customer base also changed Japantown. In a rapidly changing economic climate, interest shifted to revitalization and preservation of Japantown. While other Japantowns were disappearing and undergoing urban renewal development, San Jose’s Japantown decided to revitalize. In 1987 the bold Nihonmachi Business District Plan proposed design guidelines and development possibilities that would enhance and preserve Japantown, citing as first principles, 3b. ‘Nihonmachi as a Community – To Americans of Japanese ancestry in Santa Clara County, Nihonmachi is much more than a business district. For most it is identified as the area’s historic center of Japanese American community life. For some, it is a place to live. For many it is a place to worship. For others it is a place to shop for traditional food and to dine with old friends or relatives. It is also a place for cultural activities, special festivals, weddings, and funerals. It is a community.’

    In the 1980’s the Jackson-Taylor Business & Professional Association became the ‘Japantown Business Association’ and also became the third Business Improvement District (BID) in the City of San Jose, following Willow Glen BID and the Downtown BID.

    Beginning in 1990, the Jackson Taylor Residential Strategy was created. Adopted as a part of the General Plan for the City of San Jose, guidelines and restrictions were put into play that limited development while being understanding of additional housing needs and urban development. Pedestrian friendly streets and landscapes were written into the plan whose stated purpose was to support public transportation as well. In the section marked ‘History of the Site’ it it noted that ‘Most recently, the Jackson-Taylor industrial area is experiencing another transition. The area’s low rents and easily subdivided older warehouse buildings hav attracted a number of small incubator manufacturing and auto-detailing businesses, as well as rehabilitated office space for professionals, non-profits, artists, and performance groups.’ Land use was listed to ‘Provide for a mix of housing types, densities, and prices, Encourage supportive mixed uses, including, but not limited to: Job-supporting uses, Day care centers, Churches, Cultural/community centers, Improve the quantity/quality of neighborhood open space, Minimize alcohol-related uses, Discourage new homeless shelters in the study area.’

    High density residential housing development was to require building facades to be ‘articulated to echo the character of the surrounding area. Anyh high density housing development on the north side of Taylor between 7th & 8th Streets should include ground floor retail. This would allow for the preservation of Bini’s Bar and Grill, a "landmark business" in the Jackson-Taylor area."

    Parking was beginning to become a prominent issue for Japantown with single family homes giving way to apartment complexes and open fields and light industrial spaces disappearing.

    In the early 1990’s the Preservation Action Council of San Jose put together an Open House identifying some early Japantown structures that were still standing. This was the first semi-official notice of the built environment that was rapidly deteriorating. Some of these same buildings are noted in the current (2004) Japantown Business Association brochure as a part of the Self-guided Historical Walking Tour.

    The Redevelopment Agency plan for Japantown concerns the Agency’s prime directives by Community Redevelopment Law which include the elimination of blight, revitalization and new commercial expansion, provision of more adequate parking resources, rehabilitation and seismic strengthening of commercial buildings, creation of a more attractive environment as a means of attracting more people and activity and attraction of private investment and employment into the Redevelopment Area and adjoining areas. This plan cites in its Development Standards and Design, "The building intensities and standards proposed for the Project Area will be in accordance with the City’s General Plan and provisions of this Redevelopment Plan. In addition, future development in the Project Area shall be consistent with the Jackson-Taylor Revitalization Plan, the Nihonmachi Business District Plan, and the Jackson-Taylor Residential Strategy."

    In item #307, Rehabilitation and conservation it is stated that "The Agency is authorized to rehabilitate and conserve, or to cause to be rehabilitated and conserved, any building or structure in the Project Area owned by the Agency. The Agency is also authorized and directed to advise, encourage, and assist in the rehabilitation and conservation of property in the Project Area not owned by the Agency. The Agency is also authorized to acquire, restore, rehabilitate, move, and conserve buildings of historic or architectural significance, or to assist such actions."

    With the strength of all these plans working to revitalize the district, Japantown kept and maintained its cultural character, worked and continues working to preserve and expand upon its built environment and remains a neighborly and friendly working community despite the challenges of a weak economy and fading Redevelopment Agency financial resources.

    Cultural Preservation

    Definition: To preserve that which identifies one cultural from any other; the language, the traditions, the pivotal societal reactions and changes, incentives and evolution, the family structure, the American history of and the recording and maintenance of such which can include any or all of the following: food, festivals, religious traditions, attitudes, clothing, arts and performing arts, aesthetics of design, mythology, sports traditions, traditional celebrations and notations.

    Town Hall results

    It is, perhaps, a symptom of our time or more likely, a function of our ethnic history that the Japanese American community hesitates to separate itself from the diversity that is its current home in Silicon Valley. However, Japantown is a community unto itself still in that its whole direction is to identify itself as being unique in recorded history and that the lessons learned in the acquisition of this uniqueness is of value to greater society as it was not sought, but occurred and grew out of reaction from and because of that society.

    Town Hall recordings bring out the pride the community feels about its own legacy and traditions and the sense that if something is not done, this heritage and the qualities of the Issei, the strength, the suffering, the hard work, would be lost to not only following generations of Japanese Americans, but to the greater public who might benefit from those lessons.

    It was also plain to see that those who were not inherently a part of the community could and would invest time and interest in Japantown not just because of the restaurants although no one disputed the popularity of the good food that is offered by the many eating establishments of the area, but rather, because the community and history of that community is one that deserves attention.

    Information given: Town Hall 1.24.4, the following information sheet was distributed to all participants (29 participants, two sessions from all walks of life, not all lJapanese American but also not all specified an enthnicity.

    Cultural Preservation


    January 24, 2004

    Themes on Cultural Preservation

    1 Cultural Preservation can be: Keeping the connection between past, present, and future generations. It can be manifested through architectural preservation of a community’s contribution to the built environment, i.e. via memorials, plaques commemorating historical events and historical traditions of a community and the progress made over generations (as in the Memorial monument, the JCCsj work on the Historical Markers)

    2 Cultural Preservation can be: Maintaining and expanding the essence of ones race of heritage. Cultural Preservation acknowledges the contributions, values, and beliefs of a people in a society. Cultural preservation records and protects these contributions through time and space. It can be manifested through efforts at concentrating institutions which meet the social, cultural, educational, business and spiritual needs of a community, i.e. cultural centers and religious venues, museums, chambers of commerce, places of music and art, open spaces with particular floriculture and horticultural themes native to that community. It can take the form of a central place or clearing hose of information. It could be a place for intergenerational dynamics connecting in a common space for interaction. It can be a magnet to connect social service volunteer activities, which perpetuate cultural preservation.

    3 Cultural Preservation des not happen in a vacuum, it is a process, which seeks to be inclusive, and creates bridges with other cultures; it requires the ‘marketing’ of the community to make more tangible the recognition of diversity in a place, i.e. opportunities for education and experiencing of that culture.


    Japantown, Chinatown (or Heinlenville), the Filipino community, Italian Amerians, African Americans, Latinos, Hawaiian, now Vietnamese. After reading this, I hope tat you will understand the predicament that people encounter when in a discussion about cultural preservation. Through the next series of questions, I hope to have you understand and communicate what you feel is essential in the planning and future development of this are we currently call ‘Japantown’ and coincidentally, that which we call the preservation of Japanese American culture.


    Questions asked: At the Town Hall 1.24.2004, the following questions were asked. Participants were asked to state their names and give contact information. Sessions were also recorded and transcripts are available upon request.

    Why Japantown?
    Questions to get you started.
    Is the Japanese American culture important in Japantown? Please state why either way, ‘yes’ or ‘no’
    What does the phrase "Japanese American Culture" mean to you? History? Current Issues? Words we use? Buildings we see…etc?
    What would you see continue? Organizations, Churches, Businesses, Festivals, The arts
    What do you think is missing here in Japantown? Stores, Restaurants, Activities, Bathhouse, Saturday Movies, anything else you miss?
    Is it important to preserve the history and past stories of Japantown? How? Give it your best short!
    What do you want to see or not see in Japantown’s future? Do we need a pharmacy, social hall, more restaurants…?


    Community descriptions

    Perry Dobashi of Dobashi Market remembers the good times he had as a kid in the early 1950’s, playing kick the can and marbles. They would ride their bicycles, all the kids in Japantown of a certain age group, up to Alum Rock Park, 20 or 30 kids together. He remembers having ‘koge gohan’ as an after-school snack from the ladies or ‘obachans’ at the Buddhist church who always seemed to be there, everyday, cooking.

    Even before Perry Dobashi’s time, earlier than the 1950’s, others remembered always being able to go from one house to the next, never having a problem with understanding or worrying that they would be taken care of or not. In the late 1930’s the bathhouse was owned and operated by MS Hatsuye Minato Shiroyama’s family. The Minato Sento (Bathhouse) was on the northeast corner of Sixth and Jackson Street. May Ishikawa Shimoguchi and Ritsuko Kani’s families owned and operated establishments, dry goods and a restaurant nearby also. They all remembered going from one house to the next, never caring or worrying whether or not they or their friend, Yuriko Amemiya, would suffer scolding or reprimand from any of their parents. Japantown was a place where you could be yourself, safe from the scrutiny of others who didn’t understand your parents or your friends or even you yourself.

    Steve Cook, who’s father owned and operated Cook & Sons Appliances on Jackson Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets in the 1940’s through the 1960’s, grew up in Japantown and remembers quite a few people up and down the street, their establishments, their fathers, sons, wives, cousins. He, although not of Japanese ancestry, was a juko-ka and still very proud of the brown belt he earned.

    Martha Onishi, a retired teacher, grew up ‘outside’ of Japantown, on Hedding and Seventh, but remembers many stores and store owners and coming to the Buddhist church most of all.

    PJ Hirabayashi, quoted in the METRO newspaper article October 2, 2003 says, "You get an eyeful, an earful, a noseful. You can feel the tick … tick … of the community," San Jose Taiko, the article continues, has finally moved into its permanent rehearsal hall in Okida Hall, Japantown, San Jose. This is the same Okida Hall as is mentioned time and time again and is recognizable in photograph after photograph in the pictures and archives in the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.

    Community memory is rich with memories and stories passed down of sumo tournaments, baseball games, basketball games, music, dance and theatrical performances and kenjinkai (prefectural ‘clubs’ that were formed for social interaction of like Japanese locales) picnics. People remember the weddings, the funerals, the festivals and accept the changing face of Japantown as they would accept the graceful aging and subsequent offspring of a treasured friend.

    San Jose Japantown is fortunate to have artists and artisans among its ranks such as Shuei-do Manju and San Jose Tofu, San Jose Taiko and Chidori Band, Ken Matsumoto and Jim Nagareda. Aspen Shoji and Ikebana Arts. Retailers that began after the Japanese community’s return to the valley who remain graciously serving customers such as Kay’s Shiseido, Soko Hardware, Dobashi and Santo Markets, Nichi Bei Bussan, Mako’s Amy’s, Nikaku and Koguras, help form the nucleus of the current Business District. There are the anchors of the Japanese American community Wesley United Methodist Church, the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin which also bring in new individuals and families of all ethnicities. There are, of course, the devoted restaurant goers and owners who serve them to continue the legacy like Wings, Tsugaru, Okayama, and the newer tenants who bring the younger generation back to Japantown and visitors from Japan and elsewhere like Kaita, the Hukilau, El Tarasco, Sushimaru, Each and every body contributes to the preservation of the district by working, eating, shopping and playing in Japantown. Future plans are for the area to keep developing in ways that will generate income, economic survival for its inhabitants and creative ways of living, working, playing and doing business in the future.


    The Japantown Community Congress of San Jose, while in its infancy as the yet undefined ad hoc committee from San Jose to the California Japanese American Leadership Council, took some months of meetings in the year 2002 to set down some community proposed guidelines for the development of the City Corporation Yard or Maintenance Yard. The Corp Yard as it is popularly referred to, is set in the heart of Japantown taking up the block of Sixth to Seventh Streets between Taylor and Jackson Streets, a part of the old Chinatown and the old Japantown across from the former San Jose Produce Market, now a commercial living complex known as Pavona Apartments.

    These are:

    The Corp Yard must be included in the overall development plan for Japantown, it is not currently referenced in any planning document, (Please note that this reference will be corrected when discussing ‘Business Plans and Strategies.’ The Corp Yard area is addressed in the Redevelopment Plan, 1993).

    A community review to evaluate developers’ proposals must be a part of the development process: Issues: Who will evaluate development proposals; what role will district council person have in terms of choosing, electing, and appointing community representation.

    Development of the Corp Yard must include community-serving components and provide support for Japantown’s service and cultural agencies;

    Development in the Corp Yard must reflect Japanese American culture and heritage while recognizing the multicultural history of the area.

    Projects in the Corp Yard, as a whole must be financially self-supporting.

    Projects in the Corp Yard, must become a link to Asian-Pacific business and cultural activities.

    Art and Gardens must be incorporated into the proposed development of the Corp Yard.

    A town hall meeting titled the ‘San Jose Japantown Community Congress’ was held on October 5, 2002 to familiarize the community, community being defined as all those who were interested in Japantown through cultural, family, associative, business or organizational history, with these seven guiding principles. Although issues such as parking, conference rooms and theatrical space are not specifically mentioned, the principles were laid down with the intention of creating an atmosphere within which many ideas and plans could grow that would be strengthened by the structure of community involvement and decision making that would be bottom lined by the principles.

    It is also important to note that the ad hoc committee evolved into the formally recognized 501c(3) organization known as the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose whose members were specifically aligned with the composition requirements of the community organization that would be partner to the City of San Jose per SB307 legislation.


    The Japantown Community Congress of San Jose (JCCsj)

    As the progress of SB307 continued, a Resolution from the City Council of the City of San Jose authorizing the City Manager to make the application for grant funds for the California Japantown Preservation Pilot Project was adopted on March 12, 2002. With the passage of Prop 40 and the opportunity to put some capital improvement projects into Japantown, the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose (JCCsj) was further empowered to create a series of Town Hall meetings for community input and review of some of the projects that were brainstormed with community input and received approval by the California Japanese American Leadership Council Japantown Preservation Subcommittee.

    Current list of participating organizations:

    Contemporary Asian Theater Scene (CATS)
    Community Youth Services (CYS)
    Japanese American Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley (JACCSV)
    Japanese American Community Resource Organization (JACRO)
    Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj)
    Japantown Business Association (JBA)
    Japantown Neighborhood Association (JNA)
    Nikkei Matsuri Committee
    San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin
    San Jose JACL
    Wesley United Methodist Church
    Yu-Ai Kai


    Town Hall #1, October 5, 2002

    At San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin

    Town Hall October 5, 2002 consisted of community comment on 7 Guiding Principles developed in many meetings of the JCCsj and comments on a proposed Gateway project to be funded with allocated City funds through the Redevelopment Agency. Common among all three breakout sessions were the ideas of bringing the youth back to Japantown through activities such as music, all forms of the arts and athletics.

    Park space and pedestrian friendly walkways were also popular wishes as well as senior friendly activities and housing. Moving from affordable housing to assisted living in the Japantown community was suggested along with the need for a parking facility and institutions that would preserve the cultural flavor of the area. There was also recognition of the continued need for high density housing, with for-purchase housing, meaning individual ownership, being preferred.

    The questions of aesthetics for a Japantown Gateway were also discussed (Group 3). The word ‘quality’ and ‘placemaker’ focusing on themes that the community wants listed high in importance; design acceptance by the community, an oversight selection committee, etc. The question of diversity and the issue of ‘Japanese vs Japanese-American’ aesthetics and symbols and issues of maintenance were all discussed.


    Town Hall #2, January 25, 2003

    At Wesley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall

    The Second Town Hall focused on the fostering of community participation and updates about the Japantown directional signage, the gateway project and the necessity and understanding of a cultural preservation statement. Prop 40 projects were being discussed and identified for San Jose as JCCsj meetings continued through the year. The Town Hall gave our City Councilwoman, Cindy Chavez, Senator Vasconcellos, author of SB307, and other government officials such as US Congressman Mike Honda, an opportunity to address the community with plans and their expectations for Japantown’s future and vice versa, an opportunity for the Japantown community of interests to meet face to face with their legislators and agencies.

    The three breakout sessions for this Town Hall were Group I; a results oriented session on Landmarks, artwork and Directional identifiers, bringing work the committee had done back to the community. Group II focused on the formation of what came to be the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose, at this point mentioned as the ‘San Jose Community Association.’ Organizational make up, duties and organizational structure were discussed. Group III was a catch-all group set up with the intention of bringing community issues and concerns to the fore in order to address what could be addressed and work out and take back to committee issues that need further attention.

    Once again, the 7 Guiding Principles for the future development of the Corporation Yard were included in registrants’ handouts. As individuals walked in they were given a colored sticker which indicated their starting groups. All persons were to be rotated through the three groups sessions.

    Group I

    Landmarks, artwork and

    Directional identifiers

    Group II

    "San Jose Community Association"

    Group III

    "Cracker Barrel"

    City scribe

    Ad hoc committee co-facilitators:

    Helen Hayashi - Community

    Dr. Jerrold Hiura-Community & Arts

    City scribe

    Ad hoc committee co-facilitators:

    Warren Hayashi – Nikkei Matsuri Committee

    Kenzo Kimura – San Jose JACL


    City scribe

    Ad hoc committee co-facilitators:

    Kathy Sakamoto: Japantown Business Association

    Dr. Roy Takeuchi: Wesley United Methodist Church

    Vicky Taketa: Japantown Neighborhood Association

    Recorded results from this Town Hall meeting brought some specific responses to the questions of asked of all three groups. Signage and markers went from the practical ‘How many markers can we get?’ to the color and design of the markers, the symbols used and recognized (plum blossom logo) to the necessity of large lettering and the necessity or lack thereof of printing a translation in Japanese characters on the signs. Group III posed the questions ‘Why do you come to Japantown?’ and ‘Why does it mean something to you?’ in hopes of getting some informational feedback for help in the definition of cultural preservation as well as to offer the opportunity for involvement in the process of defining just exactly what ‘Cultural Preservation’ might mean? Replies repeated the notion of Japantown supplying a ‘sense of community.’ It was also noted that it used to be the only place one could live. Now people want to live in Japantown! Activities, meeting friends and family, enjoying the cultural sense of belonging and familiarity seemed to rank high on the lists of attendees also.


    Town Hall #3, January 24, 2004

    At Wesley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall

    Prop 40 projects (California State Department of Parks and Recreation) were identified by the JCCsj working with the Redevelopment Agency of San Jose team and submitted to both the California Japanese American Leadership Council and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. These are: Ikoi no Ba – Streetscape rest areas (5) five on Fifth Street between Taylor and Jackson Streets, Historical Markers and a Landmark Enhancement at Fifth and Jackson Streets to total approximately #333,000, with $15,000 of that total marked for installation of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP) Landmark Memorial sculpture which was separately funded by the aforementioned California State program, one near identical, slightly customized sculpture each to be placed in each of the three Japantowns. Artists, Quintance & Daub were selected through a process guided by the CCLPEP program guidelines to render drawings and ultimately deliver and install each of the three pieces.

    This Town Hall focused on the Prop 40 projects with drawings and comments set up by the Redevelopment Agency team for the Ikoi no Ba and Fifth and Jackson Landmark to draw out the community and elicit response to design and placement questions. In addition to these, the model of the CCLPEP sculpture was on display, the Historic District Survey consulting team hired by the City of San Jose to perform a first reconnaissance survey of the Japantown area were on hand in one workshop to answer questions and inform the community of their work. And there were also two sessions of a discussion and sharing of ideas about just what comprises cultural preservation.

    Each attendee was asked to choose one subject for Session 1 and one subject out of the four for Session 2. (see document below)

    Results from the input on the Ikoi no Ba, the Landmark at Fifth and Jackson and the workshop on Cultural Preservation were directly utilized by the JCCsj and the community at large in subcommittee to create the five locations of the Ikoi no Ba and review respondents to the RFP for the Fifth and Jackson Landmark. Cultural elements of the design were also decided by committee according to input received from this Town Hall workshop.

    Results of the Landmark at Fifth and Jackson and Ikoi no Ba workshops are compiled and viewable on the Japantown website, www.japantownsanjose.org

    Workshops – January 24, 2004

    Japantown Community Congress Town Hall

    Group 1 – Historical District Survey
    Description: Part of our legacy is preserving a sense of place, a continuity of the neighborhood that is San Jose’s Japantown. Through a state grant, the City of San Jose’s Planning Department, in conjunction with the JCCsj, will document the area’s historic buildings and sites. Historic preservation consultants will conduct a reconnaissance level survey of the Japantown area, including some oral history to identify properties and to generate a historic context for future evaluations. Meet with the subcommittee chairs, consultants, and staff to learn about the process and its implications and most importantly, to contribute your information to the knowledge of Japantown’s past and present life.

    City Scribe
    JCCsj members: Leslie Masunaga, Jim McClure.
    City of San Jose: Courtney Damkroger
    Carey & Co: Bill Sugaya and Team

    Group 2 – ‘Ikoi no Ba’

    Description: One of the three identified Prop 40 funded projects, these rest places along the public right of way are conceptually designed to enhance Japantowns important institutional assets as well as provide resting spots for residents and visitors. Five themed and fourteen smaller spaces are porposed with variable design elements included in their designs. Come to see what they might look like and what the subcommittee and the City staff has been working on and contribute your suggestions.

    City Scribe
    JCCsj members: Jerry Hiura, Wes Mukoyama
    City of San Jose (SJRA) – Gerald Greenleaf

    Group 3 – Landmark at Fifth & Jackson

    Description: Another of the three Prop 40 funded identified projects in Japantown. A Request for Proposals (RFP) went out to numerous designers for a proposal toward a landmark structure on Fifth and Jackson. We would like to know what you think that structure should be. Among other considerations, the JCCsj is working on the idea that it should be seen from the new San Jose City Hall on Fifth Street, create excitement about Japantown and mean something to the community and say something about the history and people here. Come join in the discussion and contribute your thoughts.

    City Scribe
    JCCsj members: Vicki Taketa, John Ristow, Jimi Yamaichi
    City of San Jose (SJRA): Peter Geraghty


    Group 4 – Cultural Preservation
    Description: When deciding to work towards the preservation of the three Japantowns remaining in the United States, we all found that although there are pathways to ensure the foundations of Historic Districts and buildings, there was nothing on the books in Sacramento about Cultural Preservation. We are, therefore, taking some steps in what is an intangible resource and that is the memory and inner being of this place we call "Japantown." Participate in the process of defining what it is that we can and will preserve of what we are calling "Japanese American Culture."

    City Scribe
    JCCsj members: Kathy Sakamoto, Roy Hirabayashi

    Note: a form of this document was given to each attendee upon registration.













































    Current JCCsj Activity

    Board meetings are held regularly once a month, the fourth Tuesday of the month at 6pm at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose unless otherwise noted.

    Interviews have been conducted (April 20th and 22nc) by subcommittee of the JCCsj, of the four finalists out of eleven who responded to the RFP for the Landmark at Fifth and Jackson Streets and one firm selected which is now in the process of working with the Redevelopment Agency on their contract. Plans are that the entire project will be finished by summer of 2005.

    Ikoi no Ba projects are also in their final design determination stages with a final project to be finished also by summer of 2005.

    As the community develops future plans, which include such agenda items as the possible development of the Corporation Yard, they are being discussed and promoted with full cooperation and partnership by the City Councilmember, Cindy Chavez, and the Redevelopment Agency. JCCsj continues to be aggressive in its pursuit of further funding for more capital improvements as well as community program funding for its organizations and arts groups. The JCCsj remains open to both public and private development and ongoing preservation efforts.


    Overall Findings

    The San Jose Japantown area, besides having a number of plans that work for the expansion and preservation of the district, has also embarked upon new projects that will enhance community and greater public enjoyment of the area. Culture and community are being rekindled by attention received by State funding, City cooperation and favorable publicity.

    Reasonable suggestions are that the JCCsj and its member organizations continue to work closely with government and community, individuals and new organizations toward providing a vital and enduring community.





    1. Japanese Legacy, Farming and Community Life in California’s Santa Clara Valley by Timothy J. Lukes and Gary U. Okihiro, California History Center, 1985.

    2. Sento at Sixth and Main - Preserving Landmarks of Japanese American Heritage by Gail Dubrow with Donna Graves, published by Seattle Arts Commission, © 2002 Gail Dubrow.

    3. 1902-2002 Our First Hundred Years, San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, San Jose, CA copyright, 2003, Centennial Yearbook Committee, San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin.

    4. San Jose Historic Japantown Open House booklet, Sponsored by: The Preservation Action council of San Jose and The Japantown Business Association, © 1994, Preservation Action Council of San Jose.


    Hokubei Mainichi

    San Jose Mercury News




    1. Japanese American Museum of San Jose, 535 N. Fifth Street, San Jose, CA 95112, www.jamsj.org

    2. Wesley United Methodist Church, 566 N. Fifth Street, San Jose, CA 95112

    3. San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, 640 N. Fifth Street, San Jose, CA 95112. www.sjbetsuin.com

    4. Japanese American Chamber of Commerce, 95 So. Market Street, #520, San Jose, CA 95113, www.jaccsv.com

    5. Japantown Business Association, 565 N. Sixth Street, San Jose, CA 95112, www.japantownsanjose.org

    Oral Interviews/transcriptions

    1. Yuriko Amemiya Reception, planning conversations, sans notes. In attendance, Ritsuko Tani, Mrs. Etsuko Shirayama (formerly Minato), Mrs. May Shimaguchi (formerly Ishikawa), Kathy Sakamoto, Ken Iwagaki at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, August, 2003.

    2. Workshop I and Workshop II, Cultural Preservation Workshop, Japantown Community Congress Town Hall, January 24, 2004 at Wesley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall

    3. Steve Cook, memories, recorded January 30, 2004, transcript

    4. Martha Onishi, memories, recorded February 1, 2004, transcript.

    5. Perry Dobashi, memories, by telephone, February 13, 2004, notes.






    Business Improvement District Map (to present)

    Redevelopment Agency of San Jose, Japantown Redevelopment Plan Map 1993.

    Nihonmachi Business District Plan, 1987.

    Jackson Taylor Residential Strategy Map, 1997.

    Old Japantown map and legend, circa 1910-1920.


    Perry Dobashi, February 13, 2004

    Steve Cook, January 30, 2004

    Martha Onishi, February 1, 2004

    Town Hall Meetings

    Raw data stored in Japantown Business Association (JBA) office, 565 N. Sixth Street, Suite G, San Jose, CA 95112

    Other Materials

    Yuriko Amemiya in Japantown San Jose, JBA office.

    Article ‘Beating Down Boundaries,’ by Vera H-C Chan, METRO newspapers, METRO Active.com copy available in JBA office.

    Business Improvement District information, JBA office.

    Nihonmachi Business District Plan, Japantown Redevelopment Plan RDA, Jackson Taylor Residential Strategy, Japantown Parking Analysis, Japantown Community Resources and Strategy, copies available in JBA office.







    1. Business Improvement District (to present)

    2. Japantown Redevelopment Plan, 1993



    Nihonmachi Business Plan Map, 1987


    4. Jackson-Taylor Residential Strategy, 1992, 1996, 1997


    5. Old Japantown map and legend, 1910-1920










    Perry Dobashi, February 14, 2004

    Interviewee: Perry Dobashi
    Interviewer: Kathy Sakamoto
    Date: 2.13.4


    Grandma came in to San Jose – cam w/uncle @ 13 years old. Father was born in 1912 Grandpa was in San Francisco. Father could hold property because he was born here, he was a citizen and could hold property.

    It was a big thing then – they toodk trucks up to San Juan Bautista – used a traveling truck, a traveling store . It was a big truck. When Perry was a kid, one of his memories is of being told to siet in the truck to make sure people didn’t steal anything.

    In about 1910-1912 the store was known as Kanakawa

    Perry had two brothers and a sister. Larry worked for IBM Perry always worked in the store. Perry was born in 1938 in the midwife’s house. He was 2 years old, when he went to camp. A younger brother and Larry were born in camp.

    Three uncles and Perry’s dad worked in the store.

    Uncle Kiyoshi lived on 7th and Hedding. He had 5 children and all died, the oldest in his 40’s.

    James, was Perry’s dad. He was the second oldest. He was the California Sumo Champion. At one time he went as far as Los Angeles to fight. At one time they wanted him to go to Japan, but he got married. And that was the end of his sumo career. Mr. Akizuki was also a sumo athlete and the Okidas. They are all gone now.

    Perry’s family all lived in Gilroy for a year. The sumo trophies, there were lots, most of them burned up. His dad had to give the good ones to the club. He kept some. Perry has a few. Most burned in a fire after they came back to San Jose.

    Kay is Perry’s aunt. She’s now in her 80’s and works 2 or 3 days a week in the store. They had one daughter.

    Japantown was a great place back when Perry was young, he said. There were always lots of kid in front of the church (Buddhist Church). The played games like flashlight, kick the can, prisoner base, ally allie oxen free, marbles. The older kids would take care of the younger kids so they could go on long bike rides. They used to go to Alum Rock Park, 20 or 30 kids together. He remembered the dogs would chase you…it was fun!

    There were activities all the time. Misora Hibari came once, when she was a young girl yet. All the kids sat in the front row of the church hall spellbound.

    At the church, the old laides would cook everyday. Perry remembered ‘koge gohan.’ He would go to the church kitchen and the ladies would give him the crispy rice at the bottom of the pan to munch on as an after school snack.

    They went to Japanese school every Saturday, Saturday school. They would throw erasers and the teacher would pull them by the ears and make them sit quietly.

    At the Buddhist church: Rev. Aso used to tell’obake stories’ (ghost stories).

    Rev. Nagatani had a limp. Perry rememberd that he moved to the Central Valley but lost track of him after that.

    Rev. Kumata is his brother-in-law. He remembered meeting him in Kyoto once when Perry went to Japan.

    Perry went to Grant Elementary school for 1st and 2nd grade.

    Dobashi’s used to sell outboard motors, shoes, fishing tackle. Perry remembered that they had chairs for trying on shoes. This must’ve been after the was, he thought. He thinks that maybe Robert Peckham, and there was another Italian man also who helped save the Japanese American properties.

    Perry remembers working at the store all the time – all his life.

    There used to be a theater next door (Okida Hall) to his mom’s house (now a parking lot). Someone from Stockton, Lodi, San Francisco maybe – used to come to show movies on weekends. He remembers that there was one lady who was real short. She had an older husband, There was one younger lady. They used to have theater and movie nights at the Buddhist church gymnasium. Okida Hall got run down. Jack Wada (Aikido sensei) moved in a did a little to fix it up.

    All the theater stopped when people started buying televisions. They stayed home to watch television rather than going out to the theater.

    Obon used to be on Jackson Street. There were holes in the street where they put poles to hang the chochin.

    The family changed the location of the store a couple of times. They owned a restaurant for a long time. Tachibana Restaurant – before the store – grandma raised goldfish on 6th Street where the parking lot is now there used to be a big wooden pond lined with metal to raise goldfish. He doesn’t remember how long she did this.

    Eventually the house was torn down to make the parking lot. It was too big and too much to take care of for his mother. Nobody lived there. They just stored things in it.

    Perry remembered that there, on the railroad tracks on Seventh Street, they would bring a freight car full of rice. It would all have to be unloaded n a week. It was a lot of work. People told him that his dad was so strong that he could carry 5 sacks of rice by himself. He figured his dad was about 5’8" or so.

    Helen Mineta was putting some things together for the museum he thought. She had asked for pictures.

    Bob Ishikawa, in Oakland, is the son of Mrs. Ishikawa. Perry’s Aunties are sisters. (former Judge) Wayne Kanemoto is his uncle. His wife used to be a Koga.

    The Dobashi’s are from Wakayama-ken. The store was named for the river that went through Wakayama he thinks. The Dobashi’s were good merchants. They made money in selling mikan (Japanese tangerines) – selling in Tokyo.

    Perry figures he’ll work a couple more years…


    2. Steve Cook Interview, January 30, 2004

    Interviewee: Steve Cook

    Interviewer: Kathy Sakamoto

    Date: January 30, 2004

    Steve just happened to walk into the Japantown Business Association office one afternoon. He wanted to give the neighborhood community first chance at the property he was selling on Fourth Street. Since I was deep in the mission of gathering information about Japantown and just recently listened to community thought about Cultural Preservation, I asked Steve if I could record some of his memories if he wouldn’t mind. He was happy to oblige as you’ll see from the transcription.

    Transcription of tape.


    Steve: My name is Steven Cook. I am the only son, my sister is Jean Cook Jorgensen. Our father passed away in about 1993, Edwin Cook married to Gertrude Cook. My father came to San Jose in1942 close enough and the War had imprisoned the Japanese Americans – a lot of empty buildings. A lot of hakujin had taken over different businesses. One of the properties that was available had previously been owned by, still was owned.but wasn’t occupied by Kogura corner of Sixth and Jackson Street. Somebody else was in there. The best I can do to describe what the business was was probably just a combination hardware store, handy store, general store. Same location. And I believe Kogura, this is 2004, is still there.

    Mits was there, he’s a brother-in-law, Jimmy Kogura and interestingly. I don’t remember who…Jimmy is married to a woman whose name is Shigemoto. I can’t remember whether it was T or who, too many different sisters and brothers. And the yojnger brother, almost youngest brother Dick, Shiromi, and I are about the same age, born in 1943-44.

    Okay, so my father comes to town and buys the business or acquires the business or the lease or the rent on the businesses and whatever it had. I’ve got pictures. He opens up a business at that point called ‘Cook’s Trading Post.’ I believe pictures that I have called it. That’s the Kogura building. My father keeps that location and grows the business until the end of the war, the Japanese Americans come back and obviously want the building back. My father leaves the building. He then goes down to Fourth and Jackson Street where he still owns the property and there’s a building on it that is now presently called the Higashi building. It’s a Fourth and Jackson Street. We own that property.

    Next to Kogura or near next to Kogura if I can recite names. There was a building called Soko hardware either at the time or shortly thereafter. I can remember it as a kid. We are right now upstairs form the new location of Soko Hardware building. But it was if not exactly next to, near the Kogura business.

    There was another guy if not next to around the corner on Sixth Street from Kogura, Jimmy Sakamoto, obviously not related to Kathy Sakamoto. He was a barber! Good fun guy. He bowled three hundred. He was a good bowler! And um

    As we head on down Jackson Street to Fifth from Sixth. I can’t remember the exact location there was a cobbler. His name was Terada. Terada was his last name. His wife, or it was either his wife or his daughter’s name Marilyn. And so pardon me for not remembering that. Also was active in running a cleaners. It was in an adjacent building. I can’t quite remember. It was in one of the cubicles or buildings. But, uh, old man Terada used to put taps on the shoes and fix the scuffs. Was a very interesting guy, nice guy to talk to.

    So you head on down and there was a place now where Hank’s is, who has a little snack shop. Hanks still alive – he’s an old guy now. He took the place of somebody else that I can’t remember. I’m embarrassed but I just can’t stretch it out. Hank makes custom flies and fishing poles as well as running a little shop so, he’s been a fun guy over the years.

    Next to him, if not exactly, used to be Clark’s pool hall, that’s at the corner of Fifth and Jackson, Clark Takeda. Clark ran a barbershop and next to it was a pool hall. It eventually got bought by Shiseido and remodeled. It was remodeled by a contractor also in town who’s name was Hank. And I’m trying to get to Hank’s last name. Hank was a guy who fought in WWII probably with the Japanese American number was the 143…(442nd) 442nd okay and he hurt his leg in the war. He came back, he was a contractor. I hope I’ve got his name right. Apologies if I don’t.

    Across the street then at the gas station, a Mobil gas station. I don’ tknow what it is anymore. The property was owned by Murotsune. Oh golly, the oldest Murotsune was Mike, I think he’s gone, then Joe, then Tom or Tomo, the youngest - no I’ve misspoken. The oldest is Mike, then Roy, then Tomo, then Joe. Joe is alive I saw Joe less than a year ago. He plays golf, I do every once in awhile. Two sisters, Lily and Mary. I know Mary married Jimi Ichikawa whose family ran the dry goods store across the street on Jackson Street between Fourth and Fifths, Ichikawa Dry Goods.

    Okay, but let’s stay on the Murotsune side. Next to Ichikawa was a tofu shop which might still be there by name. Ohhh.. let’s see. I’ll get back to you. When I’m not thinking about it I"ll know who it was (Not it Nozaki?) Nozaki, yes, thank you, that’s him. Thank you thank you, thank you.

    Next to that was, a grocery store, an old grocery store. Fukumura. Roy Fukumura Senior, the old guy, his wife. They had at least four children The youngest boy is Roy, as in Roy Jr, there’s an older brother I’m guessing is Fred.and there’s two sisters. Katherine is one, I think, yes, Katherine and one more sister at least if not two and I can’t remember their names. They were right next to the series of buildings that my father owned that made up Cook’s or Cook & Sons Appliances. It was a whole series of little buildings that he sort of knocked out the walls and made into one. So I can’t tell you who they were owned by before only that he got them at about 1945. That’s about right,

    Across the street, there was a series of people as I said, Upstairs, maybe at about Fourth and Jackson the southeast side I guess, Upstairs was a Filipino association that was run by a guy named Severino, Rusty. Like I said, talk to Reppie. She ran a florist shop as well as a travel agency. She’s been around for years.

    Downstairs were a series of businesses, and when I began sort of remembering it, there was one called either the ‘Chinese Chef’ or the China Chef and it was run by a guy named Herbie Yep. I think it’s Y E P. He also built a business up next door called Bamboo Seven it’s a bar. There was something there before but, at the time this was when I was about 10 so this was about 1954-55 he was there.

    . Then, a beauty shop came in probably in the 1960’s next door to the Bamboo Seven called House of Mai Lai as in the Vietnamese word Mai Lai. Then marching along there was a vacant lot and nexsst to that on Jackson between Fourth and Fifth was Ichikawa Dry Goods. Jimmy Ichikawa married Mary Murostune. Fred, and I’m reaching for his last name, married Lily the sister, I’m guessing Miyahara, but don’t hold me to that one.

    Next door to that was a barbershop and that was run by Johnny Fukuda. His brother, tomoi.., I don’t know the spelling, was with him for a while and then he went off and Johnny remained there. The corner beyond that was Lincoln Tokunaga’s drug store. Lincoln Tokunaga ran a drug store. And that’s where I sat and read his comic books for free as a kid at four, five or six years old. I’ll segue, wait, just I’ll finish it up. Right around the corner at the very end of Lincoln’s drug store actually on Fifth Street, there almost the is or was a little watch maker repair guy. Little guy. Been there forever. Right across the street was another drugstore, but even before that, what I can remember was Hashimoto drug store. And that would be at the southeastern corner of Fifth and Jackson

    Across the street, I forgot about one guy. Above Hanks, was a dentist. And his name was. I’m going to say Fukumoto to begin with. His son and I, Johnny. Johnny Fukumoto. Johnny Furukawa. (Kawakami?) No that’s Wright Kawakami and he’s an optometrist. (Yea) Okay. I’m trying to remember the name of the dentist cause I went to Johnny, we’re going to say ‘Fukukawa’ or "Fukumoto’. Anyway Johnny and used to read comic books together, we fooled around as kids. I’ve got pictures of us together 8, 9 10 years old. So that sort of wraps up.

    Oh, and then of course, across the street, at Fourth Street Pharmacy, it’s gone now it’s a little Mexican restaurant. Tomo Inouye was there forever. And that’s the Northwestern side I guess of Fourth and Jackson. Upstairs was a dentist, Dr. Chan. He may still be alive and being a dentist, still being a dentist. His son, Robert Chan, I saw two or three years ago and is sometimes upstairs there. He’s too a dentist. Next door to that, upstairs I think is the restaurant I think Ken Ying Low. No, I’m sorry, it’s Wing’s, Wing’s Restaurant. The last name of the owner Wong, is Wong, and actually the grandfather’s first name was Wing and that’s why it’s Wing’s Restaurant. I presume his last name is Wong. But his first name is Wing. And it became Wing’s restaurant but the actual the last name of the family is Wong, there were a number of brothers.

    The mother, was a Eurasian woman, really beautiful. I didn’t know her actual mix, but boy did she make a beautiful woman and great lookin’ kids. Kenny, the youngest, would right now be around 55, 56, 57. He’s a hairdresser and runs a shop sort of out around Almaden, or used to when I last was in touch with him. Another good lookin’ kid.

    Across the street at the corner at the gas station. And that was run by originally, oh, let me stretch this out. The service station was run by Bill and George Yasukawa. I don’t know if either is around anymore. George went off and did something else and Bill You know in the 1990’s. The gas station was run by somebody else. I don’t know. George…(Hanada) Thanks! George Hanada and I think Tomo is there now. I don’t know if George is there anymore. (Fred) Is it Fred? Yes! Fred’s there. I’m sorry.

    And next to that is Dave Tatsuno’s NB Department Store. His daughter Arlene and I went to Junior High and High school together. Um….I can’t remember. Sheridan, the younger brother is Sheridan. Rod. Yes, Rod’s the older brother. It’s Rod, Arlene then I guess Sheridan. And you’re helping me there, so I’ll accept that. Back just a moment, Dr. Chan, the dentist, older brother is Donald, a jazz piano player. He’d be now about 62, that’s close enough in age for Don.

    An interesting bit of trivia about Dave from NB is that he was a very early advocate of scuba diving. He really got into it early when Lloyd Bridges made that television program popular, Dave was right there. I remember him talking about going to the YMCA, maybe even with Rod, his son, and doing some scuba diving. This when it was just in it’s infancy. That was kind of cool.

    Next door to that almost at Third was Harry Slonaker opened up a place called Boy’s City. That’s been a landmark there. It sort of wraps around the gas station and Tatsuno’s NB Department store, Nichi Bei Bussan or National Brands, depending upon what the era is. Yeah, I think Dave used the play on words when it politically appropriate to be very, very American it was NB and it was Naitonal Brands and when it became appropriate to be ethnic then it was Nichi Bei Bussan. So, he was a smart guy. He didn’t have to change the sign. He covered it at all bases.

    So, I think, I’ve wracked my brain to give you as many names, if I’ve helped you a little bit. There’s probably other stories that I’ve got that I can’t think of at the moment, But, they’re there. If I think about ‘em, I’ll try to give you some more info. Did it help a little?

    …Shigemoto, married Jimmy Kogura. Hiromi, is the second youngest, so he told me, is the only one who doesn’t have a hakujin name because of the indignity of being born in camp. He was born in ‘43 in camp. I‘m guessing, He was born down south in California, in Santa Anita. I’m guessing it’s Santa Anita. He’s Hiromi, he gave himself the name Dick Shisgemoto because it was way easier when he went back to school. He’s a big guy. So that’s a little bit of trivia about Dick and me. And a great observation about how diet changes the stature of people. Dick’s parents were little tiny people, probably about 5’1", 5’ 2" , 105, 110 lbs, working their way, their oldest son is John, might be 5’3" all the way down, there’s John and I think Margaret, there’s T , there’s Hiromi, there’s Ray the youngest. The part I’m getting to is by the time we get to Hiromi, he weighs in at 240, he’s about 5’10". Ray, the younger brother is about 190 and about 6’1". Just shows you what a diet change will do for you. From the youngest to the oldest, you know. But they’re all raised in the same house. But just to give you an idea of - they all got really big. Hiromi, is now at least a yo-dan in judo now. He was an instructor. He married Corrine Kennison (sp?) a half Samoan girl who was an Olympic judo gymnast. Oh, you know, just for giggles throw some names out here. There Buddhist dojo, probably on 6th Street. There used to be one adjacent tot he Buddhist Temple, used to be a quanset hut slapped together. Then they renovated it. Well, the early masters, the senseis included George Uchida who went on to UCLA I think, Yosh Uchida who was at San Jose State, Moon Kikuchi, who was a landscaper in the area, died about 10 or so years ago. There was an old guy named Abe, can’t remember his last name as well as a lot of hakujin instructors who grew up around the area probably with these names I’m referring to as their senseis. Um, and Hiromi and I were there together as kids, I’m a nigyo second degree brown belt and he’s a fourth degree black belt, yo-dan. For a while there was a guy who came in the 60’s who ran a business where Fukumura’s building is or was between Fourth and Fifth Street where the grocery store was. And I’m trying to get to his name, Yuzo Koga, a fourth degree Olympiad in Judo. Another guy that I met, we sort of fooled around together years ago in the 60’s. Another Olympiad (Olympian) was a guy named Mako Kobayashi. I think he went back to Japan. Maybe even Yuzo did, but Yuzo made an effort of being here as a businessman for a while. He might have, he might have moved on. I lost track of him though, near the 70’s I’m sure. All these guys were out of San Jose State, brought over probably primarily under the tutelage and efforts of Yosh Uchida. Anyway, I wanted to mention that I remembered from judo. And there are probably more.

    That’s great. Do you remember where Banana Crepe is now. It used to be Fuji Tofu before that?

    Sure sure,

    Do you remember when that was/ Mr. Kake still owns the building, but fuji tofu, but what was on the corner.

    Help me out, where is Fuji Tofu?

    It was, it was, now Banana Crepe is there, Kazoo restaurant now? Across from Kogura’s?

    It was across? You know what, I don’t think I ever went in there. He could’ve been there, it ‘s just another place. So I don’t remember it. That’s sort of what I was saying. I wish I could help you.

    Do you know what was down this way? Was it all residential?

    Well, its’ a cannery that was sort of down this way. Oh, you know what? Here’s another story. Now, I can’t give you names, I can only give you circumstance. The result of Japanese Amerians having to leave the area unfortunate, and go to the camps, bad word, prison as far as I’m concerned, don’t need to whitewash it. They had to abandon a lot of business opportunities. And one was a sake factory I think. The important thing was that in a building there was a sake still. And the value of the sake still was that it had a lot of zinc a lot of copper. War munitions stuff. That’s important. So there’s a sake factory. My dad, if I remember this correctly, found out about it. And I don’t even know how he found out about it. And that there was a interest in, I’m guessing, selling off the stuff that was old for war munition, so he had to locate the owner, and I believe he did, wish I could give you the name. Somebody owned the sake factory. Okay. My father got hold of him, And somebody else wanted to buy it for the salvage. That’s the important part. My dad negotiated that deal. My dad bought it and then sold it. So there was a sake factory in the area, in case you didn’t know. And my dad happened to have sold it. Again this is something that happened between 1944-45. (phone rings)

    That’s one story, I’m trying to think. Oh, some other names, as I’m thinking about them. A woman who worked for my father, early on, 1944,45,46. I remember her when I was about 4 years old that’d be 48 but she was probably there ahead of time. Mary Muramoto. Mary Muramoto was an important broadcaster. Who would broadcast the morning news in Japanese. And my first grasp of Japanese came from her saying ‘Ohayogosarimasu." Which was a greeting obviously So I’m remembering Mary Muramoto, who worked for my dad oh, at least 10 or 15 years.Her daughter Jane, I think became a teacher. Jane today, would be 64- 65 and obviously got married, so I don’t remember her last name., but that’s Jane.

    A guy who came to work for my Dad, who worked easily that long, 15 or 20 years for my father would be, Bill Hidaka. Another guy who came to work who was part of the 442nd. Returned uninjured as far as I could see, was a healthy guy, was from Hawaii, and that’s Bobby Matsunaga. I saw Billy about 2 years ago and he was in good health, but he’d be, oh golly, 75 to 80. Bobby would be same age too. Let’s see, there were some names I was going to give you, but I’m stretching here….I can’t remember. I’ll come back with names afterward. There are these people who’s sons and daughters I remember who worked for my dAd. Here’s an embarrassment. No, I can’t remember, I’ll come back with names.

    So when did it change? There was a soda fountain or something ther eon the corner?

    Which corner?

    at Fourth and Jackson?

    Oh yeah, but for the longest time that soda fountain existed as the Fourth Street Pharmacy, that was Tomo Inouye. There may have been a soda fountain there before Tomo took it over, but Tomo was there , I would venture a guess, from the middle 50’s anyway. Okay. There was probably something else there, but He ran that business there he just left there, two or three years ago. There’s a Japanese lady I knew forever if I could just get her last name. Her first name is Lucy. She’s probably still alive. She worked doe Tomo Inouye. She’d have lots of stories too.

    So your dad, the appliance store?

    Yeah, the Cook and Son’s Applicance where the Higashi building is now,

    Was there.



    If you can imagine this stuff. That whole building burned down.


    That building burned down in around 1975.


    My dad had retired in about 1967. So, he had leased the building to other people. Whole building burned down. Big fire.


    To the ground.


    So that’s why the Higashi Building is built up there.


    And if you care, these are non-Japanese names, but if you care for a little spread out on Fourth street a little bit, immediately next door to our property or the Higashi Building is a house occupied, it isn’t occupied any more, but the name was De Luna, Luna, yeah, De Luna. Next to that was Lecittinola. Spell that as best you can! Yeah, I don’t think I can go any further down and be accurate.

    So, why is it called the Higashi Building?

    Oh, the people who developed it, we didn’t develop that building. The people who developed it, it eventually became that name. The building was built by Barry Swensen..

    It was?

    Yeah, the building was built by Barry Swensen.

    The current building?

    Yeah, this Barry Swensen. And uh, I can’t tell you why. Because it had to do with the business or the – they commemorate the way they want to, which is okay…There’s some other bit of information.

    But your family, or you, still owns the property.

    The property, yeah, and then the Swensen’s built a building on it. And then how it became Higashi’s that’s another question. You could ask Barry.

    Okay. Yeah, that sounds very good. So when you were little you used to run around the street…

    Oh sure, exactly.

    Was it pretty free, as a community…was it…

    Oh yeah! A young kid. People knew me by name, cuz I was everywhere, the same way I knew them they knew me. For example, here’s a little bit of trivia. Nozaki made tofu. And it’s very much a spin rendering of soybean. He bought machines from my father that my father customized to be able to spin the soy.

    So your dad used to manufacture machines?

    Well, it’s a custom thing he did for Nozaki, he didn’t do it big time. It’s because he had a certain type of washing machine that could be accommodated, I won’t bore you with why…

    No, please, bore me…that’s good!

    The brand name Hot Point at the time was a different washing machine in that it had a solid tub rather than a tub, if you look at it today, with holes in it. Okay. Because it had a solid tub, it used to get rid of the water by centrifugally spinning it and the water would have to go up and over the top like spinning water out of a glass. So because of that it had to have a contained outer tub so the water didn’t spill out all over the floor. This whole thing is different than the way most machines are made. By putting holes into this tub, you could then use the same spinning mechanism to render or get the soy milk out of the curd and save the milk. So you couldn’t do this with any other machine but this certain brand name was built in a manner that with a small amount of modification you could do this and it cost half the price of a standard custom soy rendering machine or tofu manufacturing machine. So, because of that, he sold to Nozaki probably half a dozen of

    ‘em. And I can’t tell you more than, it was a Hot Point by brand name.and it was because of the type of construction at that time that you could do this. You couldn’t do it with a Whirlpool or a Westinghouse or something else.

    Was this in the late 40’s or the 50’s?

    Well, I know that – it’d be in the 50’s. Sure.


    Sure, I’ll try to come back and you can wrack my brain some more.

    Thank you!

    3. Martha Onishi, February 1, 2004

    Interviewee: Martha Onishi

    Interviewer: Kathy Sakamoto

    Date: February 1, 2004

    Interviewed at San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin.

    Martha’s name was referred to me as a person who grew up in Japantown. However, as you will see in the interview, Martha herself says that she wasn’t really in ‘Japantown’ but rather grew up outside of Japantown and came into town for church mainly.

    Transcription of tape.

    This is Martha Onishi and the date is February 1, 2004 and we’re at San Jose Betsuin.

    Martha: Our family moved to Seventh and Hedding let’s see in, 19…around 1947-48. I started Peter Burnett Jr. High School, attended San Jose High School and San Jose State College.

    So you’re a SJSU grad.


    What did you graduate in?

    I graduated in Education.

    And then did you go directly to become a teacher?

    Yes. I taught in Cambrian for seven years, was married, and had children, so I was home for twenty years and I returned to teaching Kindergarten in 1987, taught for fifteen years and then just retired in June of 2003.

    Okay, so what I want to find out was – You moved here in 1947?


    From where?

    Well we were …I was born in Santa Clara in 37, and then we were relocated to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, in what is it? 1942? And then returned in 1945 to Los Gatos.

    In Los Gatos were there uh…How did you go to Los Gatos?

    I guess my father had friends who owned property there, the Oka family. Sam Oka still lives in Los Gatos, the son, So we rented for a few years there. And then my father built his house on Seventh Street which is still there.

    So father built the house.

    Well, he didn’t physically build it,, he had it built.

    What did you father do?

    He was an insurance agent. Life insurance. He was also a Japanese language teacher before the war.

    Oh, did they take him away from the family?

    Yes, so he was separated from the family for just a few months. But he was at risk, I guess you would say.

    Right. Did you learn that later? Or do you remember?

    No, I was just told.

    You were, five? Six?

    I was five, yes

    Do you remember being in camp?

    No, Well - Not really. If we didn’t have weren’t pictures, I wouldn’t remember. And I see pictures. But well, we went to school. It was cold. We played in the snow. We took piano lessons.

    You did?

    Yeah – somehow…We couldn’t practice because we didn’t have a piano, but we took lessons. Laughter…

    And you keep that up even today!

    Yes, yes…laughter

    Wow. So did you continue those lessons after you came back?

    Yea, so after we came back… So when we moved back to San Jose on Hedding Street we had lessons again in Junior High School and that was it.

    And that’s all?

    Yea…and then when the church started, had the organ, somehow I just started, learning to play the organ to help the church. And here I am.

    Did you always belong to the church the Betsuin?

    Um Hmmm – and it’s unusual because my father’s family are Christian and so I don’t know how he became a Buddhist. My mother’s family were Buddhist, but my father’s were Christian, but they were married in a Buddhist church – here! Uh huh – before this hondo was built. Before this temple was built.

    Did they? Would you like to say your Mom and Dad’s name?

    Oh. Morey and Jane Asanuma. He passed away in 1976.

    (Martha had to play the organ for a service during the interview, so the questions and answers are broken up with other activities. The tape is turned on and off.)

    Okay. So you always came to the temple.


    Do you remember what was here? You came back in 1947. The house was built. Your father had the house built. You moved there, and then you went to Peter Burnett. And then, you must have just come to Japantown a lot? Or did you…

    We came to Dharma School – It was called Sunday School at the time, Sunday School…and then…YBA and taught Dharma School for a while. And then once I went into teaching I didn’t teach anymore, because it was just six days of children…too much. And then..and then, after we were married, then we had children and we brought them to Dharma School, YBA, Scouts.

    So, did you go to the other places, do you remember what this area looked like then?

    Um hmmm

    Would you care to elucidate?

    Oh well, there was the Fukumura Market which is now the clothing, Christine’s? And I grew up with the daughter there, we went to junior high school, high school, college together. She now lives in New York. But that was a market like Dobashi’s and Santo’s. But they closed, but Dobashi’s and Santo’s are still operating. And let’s see what else? There was a pool hall. Laughter – on the corner of where, Shiseido is it? And a barber shop, Clark’s barber shop. And another friend, her father had a uh - I think where Bento Express is now. There was a , it was like a soda fountain type place and her father ran that. It was the Taketa’s. I can’t remember. The daughter’s name was Deanna, Deanna Kumagai. But I can’t remember the father’s name. Could’ve been Toshi….And there were two drug stores. Jim Hashimoto’s at the corner of Fifth and Jackson where the golf shop is now. And across the street on Fifth and Jackson next door to Bill Furukawa, is he still there? The watch repair shop, where the Uchida Travel is now was the Tokunaga’s drug store, but it was called something else…I can’t remember. And then there was another drug store, across from, where there’s a Mexican Restaurant on Fourth and Jackson was another drug store. That, can’t remember his name. I think that was the last one to close. But can you imagine? There were three drug stores.

    And they all survived….until they retired?

    Uh huh uh huh. Inouye! Hashimoto, Tokunaga, Inouye. Oh I worked at NB department store, through high school and college. So I worked six years! Dave Tatsuno and now his daughters took it over.



    TOWN HALL Transcripts Cultural Preservation

    January 24, 2004

    Session 1


    January 24, 2004 Cultural Preservation workshop 1

    Session One of Two - transcription from tape

    Handouts were given to each participant. The first 10-15 minutes of the workshop session was spent in writing responses to the questions on the handouts.


    Start – Kathy Sakamoto, Roy Hirabayashi workshop session leaders..

    Transcription begins

    (K) Incidentally, I hate to hear my own voice on tape so I’m hoping you guys talk a lot! Um, okay, now I’m going to go to Roy Hirabayashi to star

    (R) .Okay. Well,today, um, this morning it is kinda, as Kathy mentioned, a discussion, we wanted to hear as much input and information uh, and ideas from everybody about um, what you feel is Japanese culture specifically how that relates to San Jose Japantown and what’s important for cultural preservation for the San Jose Japantown. Now, that I know for everyone, is a, probably has a really different meaning and a different perspective on what that is um, but and to talk about cultural preservation is such a large issue, um in different ways, we’re trying to just incorporate all of it, unfortunately within like less than 30 minutes here! (murmurs of laughter) Um, so but in this process, you know, there’s a lot of great people in this room and unfortunately we can’t get around to introduce ourselves and let us know who and what we do, but when you do speak, if you could do that before you speak, so we can have an idea of who you are and maybe why you’re here or what you belong to if you’re representing an organization or with a group or whatever, or business maybe…Um, basically, you know, we’re just trying to go through this questionnaire and just to get feedback on ideas or what is important for everybody as far as cultural preservation and specifically, how that will help to preserve our San Jose Japantown and what’s going on here. Um, so, I know it’s very general, kind of a big question to ask, but we’re asking, ‘Why Japantown?’ ‘Why do we need Japantown?’ and what does that mean for everybody? ‘What do you want to see here?’ ‘What’s missing?’ ‘
    What was here before that you can remember from the past that you would like to see back?’ or what isn’t here that you have seen in other places um that you would like to see here and maybe, if you would like to be so bold, what’s here now that you don’t like here? Um, you know, we’d just like to have that kind of feedback. How do you feel about the environment of this neighborhood changing with all this new housing? Parking limited or no parking or um what are the activities or the festivals? Are there enough of them? Or not enough of them Or what’s your reaction to all of this? Um with new organizations being built or new things being built in Japantown, how’s that all important to us? Are things going in the direction you’d like to see it going or not? Um – that’s what we want to hear, folks. So – I’m gonna stop talking. It’s your turn.

    (Ken Iwagaki) Well, you know, culture is …is a little hard to define. You know, to me – why have Japantown? It’s it’s an identity. And we need to identify ourselves in some way or another. But to identify ourselves as a culture, that’s really difficult. I …I think maybe that’s why we’re here = to narrow down, maybe in a few words, what is Japanese culture? Cuz I can’t…I can’t…yet , yet I feel it’s important that we have this identity that we are different from the Chinese community, the Korean community and so forth, so I think we have this pretty big task ahead of us here, to define ourselves as a Japanese American community.

    (woman) –Yeah, and I think also, we have to define ourselves as a separate community. We’re not in Japan, we’re not Japanese nationals, we’re not --- it’s a Japanese American culture. So, so often we get asked, ‘Are you Japanese?’ My only reply to that is ‘I’m Japanese American.’

    (Tom Izu) – Yea, you know, I’m – my name’s Tom Izu. I’ve been really fascinated by this issue for years and years and years. I think that there’s no way to define Japanese American culture, academically or scientifically, it will be an ongoing debate that we can have pretty much forever. But I really do feel strongly that now, especially now, is the time that we can pretty much assert what we think are the most important values that this community, that we want to represent…to represent this community. And now is kind of the time to really do that. And not to get bogged down too much in well, it‘s only this kind of food, or it’s only this kind of …because there’s so many different factors, like you talked about Kathy, that have affected us and that we’ve in turn affected. But I think it’s time we decide what’s the most positive aspects of our heritage and culture we want to promote to the future generations and to the society as a whole kind of as our gift to society and I think that’s kind of how we have to see it cause there’s a lot of things we will not have control over how this community will change. I’m saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about it, or shouldn’t have opinions about it, but for projects like this it seems like a good thing to say, ‘Well, we really believe that these are our values, and they’re really good ones.’ I mean, the thing that I really want to do is let’s not promote the most negative values of this community cuz there’s a lot of that is devisive, but pick the best ones, the most positive ones, that really resonate between Japanese Americans, but also within other communities so we can all say that ‘This is our gift to our society,’ long term. I know that’s pretty vague, but…but I ..I think, rather than – cuz I know I’ve been in discussions where you debate ‘Oh this kind of food, or not this kind of food, (other participants laughter) but there are other things that we can abstract out of that, just from our experience, of…of surviving in this country you know, the different things that we’ve gone through that we have used, that’s been used as examples for other people, like the Redress movement and Japanese Americans standing up for our Constitutional rights has already become….I work in education now, at a Community College, and I’m just amazed at how that gets referred to constantly in years before it was totally unknown but now, it’s referred to all the time and I think that’s something we should be proud of that, in terms of our gift to this country, it’s an example of standing up for our Constitutional rights, sort of what it means to be an American that’s very particular to our experience in our culture.

    (K) Lani – this is Lani who will be our city scribe…and putting it all together. Okay I think that is a good starting point for everything, because everybody knows that I think - I mean there’s something in our Japanese American community that you know about in that at one time this Japantown was, empty of Japanese Americans and Japanese okay so, that is one – but I want to hear more – so anybody have um, you know – I..I don’t mean to be ageist, but older- but I was hoping for some, like, twenty year olds also, because what they find here in Japantown, what they think about Japanese and Japanese Americans seems to be different from somebody who’s fifty or somebody who’s eighty, so if I could hear from everybody, that would be helpful or I could point, or I could go around the table …(general laughter)

    (Pat Omori?) I’m Pat Omori – but anyway – I like the idea of trying to keep the culture alive, but when you say just strictly Japanese American, I always think that – you know, San Jose is such a diverse place- and I used to teach so, you know, you have to get everybody in, But you know, you want to present the Japanese American culture so that it will be inviting to everyone else. It’s not just what we really want to hold in place and be exclusive about. See this is you know I keep thinking, yeah, it’s great but, let’s be more inclusive also. And that’s about all I have to say.

    (K) and that is a great philosophical point. If, and, whether we find saying okay, this is what is important about our culture, this is what we want to put forward in the future, if we’re being exclusive – or are we really defining. So what is it that is defining? Is it the food, is it the buildings? What is it? What is it that is defining the culture? Is it all of the above? I kind of don’t really want to say that because we really need to say what those components are that create the culture? What are we talking about when we talk about ‘Japanese American culture?’ so by looking at those values and meanings, what we’re hoping is that we get to the point that we say okay ‘This is important because…’ and we don’t have to feel that we’re being exclusive at all, that this definition also works for Hispanic, for East Indian, for Muslims – for you know –a cross the board. What is it in that culture? And then we can put in the details. In Japanese American culture, this is what it is, for us. Okay - But then we want to say, what are those things? Is it religion? Because obviously – if we go to Israel – there’s a big religious – there is something there. In America, what do we have? It’s these freedoms, right? Sometimes those freedoms are taken away. We stand up for our Constitutional rights. ..okay, when those are endangered. So, we have all that in common with everybody else around us across the nation. But what in that.

    (Tom Izu) – I’m sorry, but I, I think that people should think about stories. Because I really think that stories are a real important part of conveying culture. And what I mean by that is stories that are very specific to our unique experiences no matter what generation or age we are and in this case coupled with a place here, San Jose Japantown. But stories also have a universal power to them so they could be a lot of different issues, they could be what you’re talking about in Japanese American internment because a lot of people outside of this community, like she was bringing up, strongly identify that people who are being persecuted now, they can …they immediately identify that and people are interested in us now because of that as well as other more basic kinds of stories about trying to assimilate and be part of this culture, all sorts of things. Or our sense of community, people, when you tell stories about that, that are very specific and unique about our specific food or experiences we went through, if you do it the right way, other people, others, outside of this society, can identify with parts of that and they learn from it and they actually become very interested. That, to me, that’s just a way to promote culture, cause you don’t have to be really specific about a list but, you’re taking something very universal but it also has very specific things in it and it’s, but it’s broad enough to involve anybody from somebody really young to somebody really old to somebody who just came here to somebody who’s been here since the beginning of time..as they would like to think…yeah as…

    Rob Davis: Um, I agree, um with several things that have been said here already. I really appreciate what you said about, everybody kind of has their place here. You can go to Tully and King and see the Vietnamese community, they have a place there where they have a sort of city there, there are other locations where the Chinese community have their place. This is Japantown where the Japanese American community is. You know, I’m trying to teach my daughter about the different cultures in San Jose. I like to come to a place, not just to experience the food, that’s one part, but to be able to learn about, um what has the Japanese American community been doing for the last 150 years? How did the people get here? What have they been doing, here, since say, 1900? Um, what happened during WWII? I want to hear what’s happened since then? You know, What about Norm Mineta? You know, he was a real leader. Who are these people? How have they contributed to San Jose and what has been your personal experience in the last few years? So when I bring my daughter to Japantown, it’s not just to come to eat food, it’s to come to learn about…of course, Japan, you know, your history is going to play into this, it’s part of it, you know you can’t escape it. I want to hear the stories. I want her to be able because if you have, like little kiosks around Japantown someplace, like when you’re in a museum, you push a button, you hear a little story maybe. The little kiosk talks about how in World War II, the internment camps took place. I want my daughter to be able to come to Japantown and learn what this particular piece of our community history is. I don’t see it as being ‘exclusive’ to celebrate what it is that you’ve done here. And I can see other places to see what they’ve done. I like the idea of stories and identify. I think. As an outsider, that’s what interests me, coming into Japantown.

    : I think a method for preserving, telling these stories is the museum. Because yesterday, we had a group of Girl Scouts come in after we were closed. And another docent and I took them around and told them. He actually was in internment camp and he told his story and I took them around the museum and showed them the different exhibits that we have. I think that’s a really important , integral part of Japantown as far as cultural preservation’s concerned.

    RD: For instance, when we came here, I just thought of this, but when we just came here. Rich doesn’t realize he did this, but he was talking to a woman I don’t remember who she is exactly she is and he said, I remember when we used to go to her farm which is located in such and such a location or maybe it was a farm or an orchard or something. But it’s storing those kinds of things. You know what used to be here. You know Japantown is what it is today because of the people who’ve lived here for the last hundred years. What’s that story, what happened to it? And why is it important to the rest of us. So, I mean, that little story is very interesting to me.

    : And I think another way of preserving that too, is having our resources, you know, the people that have those stories, go out to the schools and tell their stories there. You know, not just always have them come to us.

    Man: People have said a lot of different things. When I look at Japantown, I can’t relate it to anything. I’m saying, it’s going to evolve no matter what we’re going to do. So how do we keep the same feeling through that evolution? I can relate it to the restaurant that I always go to, Gombei’s. When I went to Gombei’s first everyone behind the counter was Japanese. Most of them from Japan. Now you go behind that counter and they’re not Japanese, but the food hasn’t changed the atmosphere hasn’t changed. So how do you preserve that in a place like this, where you know it’s going to change but you try to keep that center core? And that’s what I think we’re trying to do, is to keep that center core. The two churches, the JACL building, Yu-Ai Kai, the museum, holds the restaurants or the grocery stores. Dobashi’s is going to go away one of these days, or somebody else is going to take it over. The tofu shop the same thing. Somehow we’re going to evolve but these things are going to still be here or not be here.

    Kathy: So how many of you would still come to Japantown if there were no Japanese American businesses, basically businesses because we’re talking about restaurants or stores; restaurants, organizations or businesses knowing - even if there were landmarks.

    Leon Kimura: I personally don’t think I would. You know there’s a panel by City Hall, Ruth Asawa you know I keep saying I’m going to go, but you know, it’s out of my way and there’s no other reason to go there except to see the panel. I haven’t gone.

    Kathy: So art may not draw you, but so what does?

    Leon K: It’s the little bit of everything, you know, the restaurants, the stores, the two churches, the Yu-Ai Kai, the JACL and the museum. And I think, as long as you keep that core here, the evolution is not going to hurt us. You know somehow, you’ve got to keep that core here. I don’t know how to do that. And that’s why I was here to listen and find out. (laughter)

    Joyce Kumano: I’m Joyce Kumano and I think it’s nice that there’s other ethnic restaurants or shops that are in here you know like the Mexican restaurant or the Korean restaurant that just opened. To me, Blockbusters kind of takes the image of Japantown away, like the other ethnic groups. It’s nice to have them here, but eventually if all the other ethnic groups besides Japanese American type shops or restaurants, start being taken over by these other ethnic groups then it won’t be Japantown anymore. You know, it will be multi-cultural place or …I feel the same way, I don’t think I would come here either. I think it would start looking like, you know, not Japantown.

    : I think a good example of that is Seattle. There’s more of an International village type of place, in downtown Seattle, but there’s not real Japantown, and there’s a huge Japanese American community there.

    RD: I think of Starbucks. Starbucks, I mean it does take away from it there. You bring guest, When we bring guests, when guests come and visit us in San Jose we bring them to Japantown because you know, we get the culture of the Japanese Americans. You know, we want…

    Kathy: So what is that experience for you. You mentioned the stories. So if part of the Prop 40, you know our historic landmarks, the memorials and things like that. Of course there’re libraries, there’s websites. but what would bring you?

    RD: the festivals, You have your Japanese American culture, that’ s your center the core, that is the identity, that brings us here. Even things like that 10K run, you a festival every three months , it reminds us, that we are here that there’s something to experience here.– not that it’s just a Blockbuster’s trip off someplace, for lack of a better – you know I’ll get in trouble here. I like the festivals.

    Rich Saito: I like to say something. You know we all come down here at various times to access different services, businesses, events, it’s this community has that identity. So for each of us we value different things, but what we’re looking for that experience, that’s what draws us here. But if you’re talking about preserving the cultural identity, I think it would be important, like we talked about, to encourage that identity to be the dominant identity for this neighborhood. Which means most of the businesses, most of the residents, most of the social services that are available; seniors, youth, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the judo, we have the Aikido Hall, now it’s the Taiko Hall. That’s what I would like to think. You know like ‘Wow, I’m in someplace that’s special.’ I might want to go to the Hispanic place, the African American place, Vietnamese, any other culture, and this is our special place.

    RD: It’s interesting that he says that because, when I go into other segments of the community, when they’re talking about trying to create a place like this, they always refer to Japantown. So I don’t think you realized this, you might think that you have a long way to go, but you’ve already created something because when I go to other segments of the community they always say ‘Why can’t we get a five or ten block area here like they have over in Japantown?’ People do identify this as being a cultural area.

    : I would imagine that more of us have to come down to Japantown more regularly to keep the businesses going. Because economically, you know, if it’s not making a profit, it’s going to sink.

    Arlene Damron: Arlene Damron, Nichi Bei Bussan, so one of the businesses here. We’ve been here since 1948. Frankly, if we had to rely just on Japanese American business we would have been out of business a long time ago. Because, you know, the needs have changed. Originally, when ojichan started the business in 1902 in San Francisco, he started the company, he was outfitting Japanese in western clothes, he was showing them how to dress western. Okay. The original Valley Fair, as we came here, the original Valley Fair. Dad said, you know, they’re going to have Levi’s, shirts, Cinderella dresses, kid’s tennis. And surely they did. So he started to change. He started making more ethnic. So that, for us, was our saving grace. So what are we now? We’re still a department store, but we’re a diversified Japanese store. We still have fabrics, but they’re Japanese fabrics. We have books, martial arts books, cultural books, we have kimonos, giftware. So we are a niche market, and for us, it works. Our customers are anybody who is interested in Japanese culture and that’s what it has to be for all of Japantown. Anybody who’s interested in Japanese culture and Japanese history, Our store, because we’ve been there so long, we’re part museum. And you know, the museum sends groups of kids over and I talk to them and tell them these are kimono, these are tabi. You know, Yu-Ai Kai. During the summertime, kids come over from the school and one time they had the assignment ‘How many things come from bamboo?’ and I was shocked at how many things there were. They had the list. That’s the kind of thing. And it’s oral history too. We did have a social hall before. You know, you should go to San jose Taiko listen in. Go to the tofu shop watch how tofu is being made. Try manju. Just check out to museum, go see the temple. Years ago we used to go to De Anza to the cultural festival. Because, we wanted to promote Japantown. We took our little booth out there we sold T-shirts and things like that! And all that time, people didn’t realize there was a Japantown. ‘Really? I lived in San Jose all my life and I didn’t know there was a Japantown!’ And I also think it’s up to the city too. Because, when they had the torch run, they came by twice. Actually it came right down Third Street, right up Jackson, came right by our store, through Japantown. When they had it in the paper, there was a map, didn’t even designate Japantown. I thought that was - they missed out. I mean other places don’t have Japantown.

    Rich Saito: that’s a good point..

    Kathy: I’m going to interrupt because my job, Japanese American, Japantown Business Association, this is a Business Improvement District, a lot of what we’re talking about in keeping these stores. I’m kind of back to my normal job and so there’s a lot of issues there. It is important to bring the people in. It is important for the stores to have the business. And all of that is marketing, it’s awareness, you know, our partnership with the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, to get the premiere of the Last Samurai. All sort of things that we’re doing; brochures, ads and…Succession is a real important thing. All through the Silicon Valley boom, children didn’t want to come back, and ‘Oh boy, I get to work seven days a week ,’ and ‘How much do I get to earn Mom and Dad?’ Nobody wanted to do that. It was better to go get $80,000 straight out of college. You couldn’t live here, you couldn’t buy an apartment, naw I’m going to have to live with you.’ It’s still like that. Succession is something that’s really important too and I’m so glad that some of that is coming up in discussion. But what I really want to get to is also more of those intangibles. You know, it you were going to tell Governor Schwartzenneger, ‘This is what I believe, cultural preservation means. It means, our community.’ And that might be acceptable. And maybe that’s what it is. Our community in all its aspects. But …..are we saying – what is it in Japanese American? Japanese American is the ‘general’…the general, ‘our community; so what is it in Japanese American" Tofu? That’s the food, right? So are we saying food, religion, philosophy, (another voice: to be able to handle adversity , takes a common language)…be able to handle adversity.

    Tom Izu: I do feel there’s a very strong sense of community which is a very vague word to use, a very broad term to use. I think a lot of people identify with this place, and actually in the outer society really hunger for a sense of being part of a community. And they’re attracted to different churches here and organizations because they have a sense of being part of this group. And they know the history of it, that from my experience in watching these Nisei putting these festivals on, it’s just incredible, how organized they are. And being part of that is a really good feeling to have. I think that that’s why people stick it out in these different groups, even though they complain about it.is because they want to be part of this thing. And I think it’s attracting non-Japanese Americans just as well because of that, because they really miss that. Because, they don’t have that out there in the broader society. And somehow I think that should be put in this cultural preservation, because it’s not just an abstract thing, what makes it real is that it’s an actual physical place here that they’ve been invited to. Somehow I think that could be put in there because I do think that’s a unique thing that this community has to offer to the rest of society, he strong sense of community, that we’re in this together and we’re going to do these things together and our history shows that without, with very little we’re able to endure and do these things. So….

    Kathy: Yes, Dr. Yasutake is back there doing this….(waving arms, cut, cut…) (general laughter)

    Roy H: as you can tell, this topic is so broad, so big, it’s really difficult, so I think we got some great ideas, some good comments, …we do want to collect your comments.


    Town Hall Transcripts Cultural Preservation

    January 24, 2004

    Session 2


    January 24, 2004 Cultural Preservation Workshop

    2nd Session transcription from tape


    Kathy: to Roy – ‘do you want to start?…’(to group) Okay – so what we’re doing is..At first, SB307 when we began, we did not have, it was kind of begun to preserve the Japantowns. This is a pilot project. All the other Japantowns, the other two, rather, are also going through a process: What it is, Why it is and that last is maybe the most important, to find out why we’re doing this. Because, if we don’t know why we’re doing this then, all enthusiasm, all reason, is nullified. So, what we found as we were going through this, through this process is that there is no definition for cultural preservation at the state level. So, we have this opportunity to put down, in words, in writing, for the record, what it is to preserve culture in the state of California. And with that charge we come to this, you know, in our specific little part of the world, here, we want to say what it is that will preserve Japanese American culture, and we want to, with that, in the back of our minds, we want that to be a universal definition, so that any culture will be able to take this, the essence of this and establish their result, establish their neighborhoods as Japantown has over the last hundred years. To borrow from our first workshop, I didn’t realize it, that other places, other districts in the city look to Japantown saying, you know, we would like a space for our community, like Japantown has, 5 blocks or so. They’ve never said that when I’ve been in the room, so that’s something to keep in mind also. That we’re not talking about something that isn’t here. We’re talking about something that is here, or at least recognized outside of Japantown that is recognized as cultural preservation. But we, within ourselves, may not know, within this group, we may not know what that is. You know, what are we talking about? How do we define it? What are we identifying by this? And so now, I’d like you to talk really, with your own stories, your own thoughts, your own opinions about what this is. What is it? What does it mean? What components are there? Do we need the businesses? Do we need the festivals? Does it have to be all Japanese? Does it have to be all Japanese American? Can it be the diversity that is Silicon Valley? What all of those things are – I’d like you to address. And there will be a test. (chuckle) I like to say that because, there are so many teachers out there! Okay, so we can go around the table that way or would you like to just talk?

    Eiko Yamaichi: The first one, I said yes. The reason was, I think among the ethnic group we’re slowly getting smaller and smaller as compared to the other ethnic groups. And so we need to keep our culture, our Japanaese American culture and pass it down to our youngsters and then on down. So I think it’s very important to continue with that, preserving the culture of Japantown.

    Kathy: the implication of this means that if – right now, the stories are within the Japanese American people. Am I implying that? That’s the implication. That the stories are – what the Japanaese American culture is is within us, the people that find that they have something to say about Japanese American, being Japanese American or the experience or the history.

    Woman’s voice: I need the prompt again.

    Kathy: the prompt? Yeah, what do you want us to tell you? I basically want you to write my report for me and say what you believe is important. And really, what is important in cultural preservation. When we are talking about cultural preservation, what does it mean? What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? All of those things. We’re really talking about, if somebody comes to Japantown, or if you try to explain what Japantown is – You know – what is it that we’re talking about.

    Woman: Well is it something that static that you can put your finger on it?

    Kathy: Well it may not be.

    Woman: Because at the same time, culture is a spiritual, it has icons, its we take in things that are American, we take these things as Japanese Americans from our history, as Japanese Americans and our pioneers. It’s moving, it’s changing And yet we have our iconographic elements, yet at the same time when we say, can you put your finger on it? I mean to me it’s Yes and No. But it’s a spiritual moving – it’s got a soul. And how do you portray soul in your icons? Or your spirit?

    Man: Can I comment to that?

    Kathy: Sure!

    Man: I think that’s excellent. My name’s Gerry Takano, I’m from San Francisco and working with Kathy on some of this. Really I’m in Los Angeles and San Francisco. What you’re saying is really the essence of this particular task, it seems really evident, especially for agencies to understand a building. They understand that as preservation and so there is some protection to that. What’s difficult is to define the other things, the intangible things, and that’s what Kathy is asking. What is important to you here, and what exactly do you feel is important to transfer down in history. The real point is that this is all about integrity in terms of what the community is all about. And it’s also you have to look at it as if you’re reviewing this today, the year 2003, and you have to envision in 20 years, 10 years, 50 years, what is it that thing that will carry through. For our perspective, we’re looking at it, is it possible for government in this case, to really have some control to help maintain that or is it just going to disappear? I think that’s the hard difficult question all three Japantowns are faced with.

    Woman: If You’re talking about the government role it seems to me that something visible, which is what the the government could do poring some money, which will be Having some buildings or traditional, unique kind of cultural symbolic buildings or in the end, pouring some money into the museum or a library also anything that books and films and so forth or sort of daily life. That I think, the government main support would be financial instead of running things, and let the community run them.

    Another woman: Across the street we have an historical museum. And the art typifies what our culture is also. I’d love to see an art museum.

    Another man: My name is Leon Kimura and ……I think that the government involved here, and being able to fund some projects that help us and our future generations keep these memories. I have many memories of Japantown, and this is an opportunity for…. And we have the icons, we have the cultural icons, you’re going to have monuments, you’re going to have whatever, for people to come and see and sit. Sit and look at these things, maybe talk about something with grandpa whatever, maybe sit on the bench. Just strolling through Japantown maybe looking at the different types of Ikoi no Ba. Absorb that and soak it up.

    Woman: I would like to tell you about my experience through life. As I was growing up, you know when the majority was Nisei. We felt that there was not a prejudice, you know, and We never had the difficulty of we never got hurt or anything. So we thought the best thing to do was to make our little America, Americanize. Was the word we used. And so, we tried to forget Japanese things, although my father had a Japanese store, so that kind of contradicted, Anyway, our manners and everything, but we decided to try to be very American. And we were proud of it. And our church too, if we were very American we thought that that was great, You know. This was okay for a while, but then as we got older.and we were more accepted. And now the third, fourth generation, fifth generation they’re accepted in the business world, why, we don’t have to do that sort of thing. And but what we lost, well, we haven’t completely lost it, but we were kind of feeling that we want to hide our culture you know and just say that we were American. And I think that it’s very important that also at the same time that we realize that our Japanese upbringing with our Isseis was very precious, as we got older, mature we realize that there was a whole value, about integrity and all those things. And so, we realize that it’s important that we have pride in our background. And so this is the thing that we have at this church, every summer, we have little children come and learn Japanese songs. It’s just opposite of what I was raised with. I guess I’m trying to say is that the importance of having our culture and being aware of it, and that the Sansei and Yonsei they should be aware of it, you know. We’re losing it because there are so many uh, anyway, they’re so very American in their ways anyway. …And this is okay. It’s a natural process but to remember that there was this background way back is something to be proud of. And I don"t know. I’m talking a lot and I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Just I hope the younger folks, young parents have pride. And we can only do this through this cultural. That’s why it’s important.

    Kathy: thank you.

    Yoko K: I prove the number one question. Japanese American culture is important. And why you mentioned we should think about why. I put down, ‘because it’s diminishing’ population is getting smaller. For survival and for continuation of the unique good quality of our lives, culture. That’s the reason why we should make an extra effort to preserve the culture. If it’s growing and that’s the trend, we probably don’t have to do much, but because it’s declining, we should make an double effort.

    Yosh Uchida: You know, uh, you were saying, the other groups want a community like ours. Well, the other community didin’t get discriminated like this one. That’s why the community was formed. That’s why we have the Issei Memorial because they didn’t allow the Japanese downtown. The building there used to be a hospital.. The reason we have to take pride, is the Nisei, had to break through and get accepted into the community, they had to get an education although at the same time, they were isolated, they all worked hard to get out of it……(tape ends!)

    (tape is turned over – tape begins mid-stream)


    PJ Hirabayashi: …of San Jose’s Japantown, so of course It’s almost like having this social consciousness of putting my resources into a sort or socially responsible type of situation, giving my business to the local retailer, even though it costs more than the larger shopping centers, but knowing that that’s my way of contributing and to continue, but why? It’s like creating and helping educate that pride for other generations so that there will always be this traffic coming and going and also to being able to feel that warm and fuzzy.

    Kathy: Okay, Yes?

    Leon Kimura: I just wanted to say that I agree with PJ that somehow there’s sort of this kind of intangible sort of thing about input, knowing connections that sort of tie us together ..and (lost voice)….if we could somehow preserve the feeling, the way we relate to each other, the way the families the way that subsequently ties our families and us to each other. That’s the key thing. The businesses, I think, are really are not really the crucial thing or even discrimination maybe even though it’s having been interred (interned)… The family faction is really the social part of it.

    Kathy: …(unintelligible)

    Yosh Uchida: You know, the Japanese American culture is really unique. Because in 1924 the Oriental Exclution Act and after that time there was no Japanese that came to the United States. All of the Japanese American culture, we got from the Isseis. Well like mochitsuki today – well – we still have mochitsuki – okay well, in Japan, no place or hardly anyplace that do it – (laughter) they have machines they just run the machines, and then they go to the grocery store and they buy the rest for Oshogatsu. Okay, Here we still preserve that because the Japanese Americans got all this from the Isseis. Now, even today, if the Issei’s maybe of the 1900’s went back to Japan today they would never even be able to speak, because all the whole language in Japan has been Americanized. I was talking to somebody one day and he says, you look at That’s how things have changed. And so Japanese Americans have this unique place and I think that maybe we should work to preserve it, because then there could be a place here where they can come to and it would be preserved. Not only preserved as a Japanese American, but as a good citizen, because Japanese Americans are some of the top as far as citizenship goes. You don’t find hardly anybody that have been arrested for a felony or anything, gangs or anything like that. Education-wise – every Japanese American goes to college. Whether they like it or not they go to college. Okay. Also financially, most of them, I’d say almost every one of them, you don’t find hardly anyone I don’t know, maybe you can…any

    Man - jokingly: I’m on welfare right now…(laughter)

    Yosh Uchida resume: anybody on welfare or walking the street. How is that Well, it’s because of Japanese American pride.

    Woman’s voice: I have a question: a lot of them are intermarried, there’s fifth, sixth, seventh generation, They’re so different now, they don’t feel connected, and well, especially if they don’t live in the community here, a lot of them have moved away, completely with Caucasian and others and so I just wonder what will be the future of this? Will we just do the best we can and if we just phase out, we just phase out? That’s a natural process maybe. We shouldn’t worry about that, we’ll just continue. I mean, I’m just thinking about some of our people here and they have no connection. They come from New York, and this is the first time they’ve seen so many Japanese.


    Barbara Hiura: I’m not sure that it’s going to fade out, I mean they talk about the Tofuya and everything dying away and we’re all …It’s always on a sort of a negative feeling, but you have to look at the positive side, This is the place where its going to grow and change. Preservation is also change and you can see it in Roy and PJ’s Taiko.and the people that they bring in, the young people that they bring in and yes it’s taiko but it’s taiko Japanese American style. It changes. It’s not exactly the same as it was when it was created in Japan. So it’s the changes that will preserve this place. It will be that kind of change that attracts young people to the Nikkei Matsuri’s or whatever it is to learn the cultural dances, but it’s also that it’s gotta be – it’s got a different soul – a different kind of spirit, but it’s still part of this place. And what they’re going to contribute to that is part of that cultural preservation, it’s also seeing what we are now and where we’re going in our future. Because what they’re giving to these kids now is that warm, fuzzy or that spirit so that they want to come back here too. It’s not going to die out or fade. It will change, (agreement from others) It will change, definitely change, but it will not be dead.

    (thank you from others)

    Another woman’s voice Yoko Kaju…: I think that will require some what of an effort (‘here we go, you’re looking at ‘em’ from other voice) And then when I think of the Japanese American culture, I think of as an example, I think of sushi – makizushi. I come from Japan. I’m not a Japanese American. But what I noticed is that makizushi is um over here, you have Spam – (laughter) I never heard of that. So it sounded very strange. But when I ate it it was very good.

    So that’s the change. It has the form and substance (oh yeah, it…that’as Hawaiian style)…But it’s definitely delicious, but it’s not traditionally Japanese. So that’s how I see Japanese Americans – it’s evolving.but retaining some substance or form. That although it has Spam, but it has the shape of makizushi and then uses the essence which is nori, and so that is what I see as evolving process is how I see Japanese American culture. So if we can pull out the essence of Japanese traditional culture and see how it evolves. For instance, Yu-Ai Kai keeps the tradition of ‘keiro’ respect for the elders which is very unique which Japanese Americans have carried through, and now, if you look at the larger societal issues, being an aging society, becoming an increasingly aging society, the whole nation is globally even, that would struggle to find a way to deal with the aging society, and here we have the very good cultural theme that is ‘keiro’ and this could not only keep within ourselves, but also to educate the others for the larger society and I think that would be one of the contributions the Japanese Americans could make to the society at large. So if we could pull out some main themes like that, I think with some effort, I think we could do something.

    Roy Hirabayashi: We’re supposed to go back to the main party now, but we do want to collect your information.