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Japantown, San Jose, California facts for kids

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Quick facts for kids
Neighborhood of San Jose
The intersection of Jackson and North Fifth Street
The intersection of Jackson and North Fifth Street
Country  United States
State California
County Santa Clara
City San Jose
ZIP Code
Area code(s) Area code 408

Japantown (also known as "Nihonmachi" (ja: 日本町) or "J Town") is the portion of San Jose, California, United States bounded by First Street to the west, 8th Street to the east, Empire Street to the south and Taylor Street to the north; it is just north of Downtown San Jose. Japantown originally formed as a site for boardinghouses for Japanese men, just west of the 1887 "Heinlenville" Chinatown settlement, which was the block bounded by Sixth, Seventh, Taylor, and Jackson Streets.


Initially the residents of Japantown were mostly male, attracted by farming or general labor jobs. In the early 20th century, more women began to arrive as picture brides. As families began, local businesses were started to serve everyday needs for food and clothing. The local Japantown Asahi baseball club improbably defeated the visiting Tokyo Giants in 1935.

By 1941, there were 53 businesses in Japantown. During World War II, the Japanese American population was forcibly removed from Japantown and unjustly incarcerated in camps. On their return after the war, many resettled in the area. The upward mobility of the children and grandchildren of the original immigrants to San Jose, along with the expansion and growth of Silicon Valley caused many Japanese-Americans to leave the area for the suburbs, but the culture and vitality of this community remains in the businesses and festivals serving locals and tourists. Japantown is designated as an authentic ethnic neighborhood and is home to many traditional Japanese restaurants as well. The California State Legislature designated this area as one of the last three remaining historical Japantowns in the United States. The other two historical Japantowns are within California, in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In 2004, nearly 227,000 people resided within a 3-mile (4.8 km) radius of Japantown, of which 25% were of Asian descent.

The area has embarked upon capital improvement projects that have engaged the neighborhood and community in discussion and planning for the future of the area.

Current attractions and businesses

Japantown is the site of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, which moved into a new building in 2010; San Jose Taiko, Shuei-do Manju Shop, whose manjū were specifically requested during the 1994 visit of the Emperor of Japan; Nichi Bei Bussan, founded in San Francisco in 1902 and relocated to San Jose after the owners were interned, transformed from a general merchant to an Asian goods gift shop; hand-made tofu at Fuji Fresh Tofu; and a variety of restaurants, professional services, community organizations (for example Yu-Ai Kai Senior Center, and the Japanese American Citizens League) and small retail shops. Having been written up in the New York Times, the 7 Bamboo Lounge is one of the most popular karaoke bars in the Bay Area. Two churches founded by Japanese over 100 years ago, Wesley United Methodist Church thrive on the same street, Fifth Street.

Fifth Street now also leads to the new San Jose City Hall.

Japantown is also home to a number of non-Japanese businesses, including Mexican, Hawaiian and Korean restaurants.

A number of organizations, including the Japantown Neighborhood Association, have joined together to form the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose, which is a community partner to the City of San Jose (represented by the San Jose Redevelopment Agency) that looks after cultural preservation of the area (begun with CA SB 307).

Major festivals include Obon (every July), Nikkei Matsuri (every spring) and Aki Matsuri (every fall) and a newer festival, The Spirit of Japantown Festival (also in the fall). In addition there are events that are open to the public at Art Object Gallery and various street venues, including a year-round Certified Farmers Market run by the Japantown Business Association.

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