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2019 Best San Jose Japantown Guide and Things To Do & See
Japantown San Jose, California
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San Jose Japantown
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San Jose Japantown Things To Do & See

Explore Historic San Jose Japantown

Japantown San Jose has been alive for more than 126 years now. It has been serving not only as the cultural center for the Japanese American people but also as a business hub. The town is located north of Downtown, and it is of the most prominent Japanese landmarks in the US. The development of the town is associated with what was then Chinatown that was developed by John Heinlen, but which faded away due to the great depression.

Japantown grew from an area where Japanese immigrants and laborers settled begin from the 1800s. The Japanese farmers lived in commercial centers until the time they were taken out in 1941. During the World War II, the Japanese were pulled out and put into internment camps. This was the most painful period the Japanese Americans as written in history. The Japanese American Museum of San Jose holds the history of the Japanese in this area.

Today, the Japantown Business Association is in charge is this historical period. It remains as an essential landmark among the three only Japantowns in the US. All these towns are in located in California.

Many homes, restaurants, retail shops, professional services, and churches make up the community in San Jose. It supports a rich mix of culture and modern businesses. One of the oldest businesses in Japantown is the Kogura Company. The company was started by Kohei Kogura in 1934 and continues to be run by the family.

Where Are the Four Official Japantowns in the United States?

There are four official Japantowns in the United Sates.

 •  Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California
 •  San Francisco, California
 •  San Jose, California
 •  Sawtelle, West Los Angeles, California

Other Japantowns (Japanese Areas) to Visit in the United Sates.

 •  Seattle, California
 •  Seattle Japantown (Not Designated)
 •  Bainbridge Island, Seattle

Where is San Jose, California Japantown Located on a Map?

Map of San Jose, California, Japantown

Before You Visit Japantown - Don't Forget To Bring the Following

 •  Metro FastTrak Transponder for Car - Access to Freeway Lanes (Los Angeles, San Francisco)
 •  Phone Holder for your car
 •  Phone Charger, extra phone cables
 •  Camera, batteries, video camera
 •  Clothing: Jacket & pants (Fall Weather), walking shoes
 •  Cash: some places only accept cash
 •  Coins: street parking meters

History of San Jose Japantown

San Jose is more than just a neighborhood from an outside look. Rooted deep in the community are rich culture and a strong history. Only three Japantowns are existing in the US with San Jose as the only one still standing at its original locations.

The first generation of Japanese known as Issei started arriving in the Santa Clara valley towards the end of the 1800s. They were attracted by agriculture after which they found Japantown which is also called Nihonmachi. Next to it is the San Jose's second Chinatown; Rainville (no longer exists).

During this period, the hostile anti-immigrant attitude was still fresh and hot in the air. San Jose stood because it had become a cultural center and refuge for the Japanese American. Familiar products including restaurants, boarding houses, social clubs and sports sold familiar items.

The first immigrants from Japan to America were mostly male. That is why the "bachelor society" could not go on well without gambling houses and brothels.

The original purpose of Japantown was mainly to provide boarding houses for Japanese men. This was established in 1887, just west of "Helensville", a Chinatown settlement. As discussed above, the initial settlers in Japantown were male who came for farming jobs and general labor. But as a Japanese custom, there were supposed to marry from their home country. They received pictures of the prides to be and let them come to join them. During the early 20th century, these women started arriving in large numbers.

And thus, families began establishing. And because of this, the need for restaurants, shops, and other things arose. Businesses started coming up to serve the daily needs of the residents. For instance, the local Japantown Asahi baseball club went up against visiting Tokyo giants in 1935 and emerged winners.

And by 1941, there were three primary businesses operating in Japantown. They served the whole community, providing all the necessities for the families that had to keep growing. This is a region that was friendly and welcoming to the Japanese, the opposite of other regions in California.

But this was not to last as World War II broke, leading to the forcible removal of the Japanese from the area. Many Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in camps. They later came back after the war, when they were released.

Another problem arose when children and grandchildren of the original immigrants started increasing the population. This upward mobility rendered the place too small for everyone, forcing many to leave the Silicon Valley in search of expansion. However, the area was not completed deserted as there remain the community, businesses, and festivals for the locals as well as the tourists. The Obon week that takes place in July is among the most significant cultural activities.

San Jose has been identified as an authentic neighborhood and a home for many traditional Japanese restaurants. Recently, the California State Legislature marked this pace as the last of the three remaining Japantowns in the USA.

By 2004, over 227,000 people were living in the 3-mile radius of the Japantown. 25% of those who lived here were or Asian origin.

The Japanese Community in San Jose

The Japanese American Museum of San Jose is the most important reminder of where the community has come from. This museum moved into a new building in 2010 and has since served the community and different visitors.

San Jose has become a home for many businesses today. There are many which are non-Japanese. They include Mexican, Hawaiian and Korean restaurants and other different business.

Another of the organizations have also come up to make the community stronger. The Japan Town Neighborhood Association, for instance, makes the area homely for all people. They are all part of the Japan Community Congress of San Jose, which partners with the City of San Jose to look after the preservation of culture.

Obon festival that takes place every July is among the major events in San Jose. Nikkei Mitsuri-spring festival and the Aki Mitsuri-every fall are always observed. Even though modernity has come in, these festivals and different organizations come in to make sure the culture is not forgotten. There are other events, including the spirit of Japantown festival and Art and Object Gallery that open doors for visitors.

When Did the Japanese Arrive in San Jose?

The first Japanese to enter the USA came around 1884. That was the time when the Chinese were no longer allowed to work in farms. For this reason, they started occupying the areas which were originally marked for the Chinese. They were mostly men who came looking for jobs in the area.

As the number of immigrants increased in other parts of California, there was no more extended accommodation for them.

In 1907, the Gentlemen's Agreement was signed, holding the immigration of more Japanese men into the country. But there were allowed to take up wives of the American citizenship. The second generation of Japanese (Nisei) began increasing in number. That is when the Nisei festivals were born to remind them of the culture and roots. This is the same period during which the construction of the Kuwabara Hospital, the Taihei Hotel, and Okida Hall was complete.

In the 1920s and 1921, the immigration of women was also halted. This move brought up a slow growth for the Japantown. There was a Great Depression after the construction of a temple for the San Jose Buddhist church. But this area remained the welcoming area for many Asians including the Filipino who continues streaming in.

The worst period came in 1942 with the breaking of World War II that created the anti-Japanese hysteria. The period came with the forcible internment if the Japanese people who have been recorded as the worst period in American history.

Things started coming back after the war. By the year 1947, more than 100 Japanese families had come back to establish new homes. There were over 40 businesses as well, ensuring Nimhochi was thriving again.

By 1950, the population had doubled with second-generation Japanese almost leading in number. Three generations had already been achieved by 1960s. Sports remained a key factor in the development of the Japantown. Until today, the community has continued to witness high growth.

Future Changes in San Jose Japantown

With the aging Issei generation, there was always need for greater acceptance of the other communities in the area. The acceptance of the Japanese Americans into the American mainstream has always been a major factor contributing to the integrity of Japantown.

Even though the old buildings still stand, there are other modern buildings in the area. In the 1980s, upgrades and redevelopments started coming up vigorously. These new developments that saw the updating of old building have been a keep contributing to the growth of the town.

Despite all these, historical plaques and markers were installed to preserve the culture of the Japantown. Even though the face of Japantown has and continues to change drastically, these markers will still hold the culture in place.

Different cultures and people have come into the town. These have made the town to look new and different. It will be a shame, however, if these cultural towns face extinction due to negligence. But thanks to the organizations mentioned above, such a thing might never happen.

San Jose - Where Did All the Japanese Go?

In every society, there is always a change in culture. San Jose is no different. Even though it is a Japantown, only about the 25% of the population is Asian.

Most of the Japanese who came first to San Jose left when the war broke in 1942. The other who remained, Issei, are long gone. The remaining population has been integrated into Everyday America. They are now part of the larger American community, seeking greener pastures in different places.

San Jose Travel Tips?

Japantown is a beautiful place to visit and have fun. However, your tour will only be enjoyable if you have planned well for it. Consider the following travel tips.

Prepare for the Weather in San Jose

Whether you are coming here for only a short period, or a longer vacation, prepare for well for the weather. Understand how cold the summer can be.

Choose the Right Accommodation

Make early reservations at least two weeks before the travel. Last minute rush will only make your overspend on things you could have easily avoided. Hotels fill up so fast you may not find a nice spot.

Walking Guide for San Jose Japantown

We have a list of recommendations and things to see and do as you walk down Jackson Street.

Top Places to Visit in San Jose Japantown

This area is home to the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. This museum moved to a new building in 2010 and holds the most important historical data of the Japanese American. You cannot leave without coming here.

From here, you may want to check out Shueido Manju shop.

Go to Nichi Bei Bussan founded in San Francisco in 1902 by Dave Tatsumo and moved its location to San Jose. They have a wide selection of gifts and craft supplies.

Visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph if you love architecture. It stands in the center of the city as a unique structure among the five churched built in this same region. It marks an important time in the history of Japantown. Other sceneries to enjoy include:

 •  The San Jose Museum of Art
 •  Winchester Mystery House
 •  Santana Row
 •  The Mountain Winery

Where to Shop and Eat in San Jose Japantown?

Are you planning on visiting San Jose Japantown? We have the ultimate tips and secrets to save you time in what to eat and where to go. We have selected the top San Jose Japantown tips to help you enjoy your time to the fullest.

San Jose Japantown isn't as large as Little Tokyo's Japantown. There is one main street called Jackson Street, from 4th to 7th street has all the business and history. Along the street you will find Japanese history along the streets stone benches.

Jackson Street San Jose Tips with History

 •  Nichi Bei Bussan - Learn about past history, ask for Arlene (Authentic)
 •  Shuei-Do Manju - Sells out quickly, so don't wait (Authentic)
 •  Gombei Japanese Restaurant - Japanese Food (Authentic)
 •  Kaita Japanese Restaurant - Family owned (Authentic)
 •  Kubota Sushi - Upscale Japanese Food (Authentic)
 •  Kogura Company (Est 1934) - Japanese pottery, plates.. (Authentic)
 •  Nijiya Market - Japanese Market - Japanese Snacks, bento (Authentic)
 •  Roy's Station Coffee and Tea

Also note in San Jose, Japanese Restaurants closed between 2pm & 5pm.

Jackson Street & 5th Street

 •  Japanese American Museum of San Jose (Authentic)

 •  San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin - Summer Obon Festivals (Authentic)

Car Drive from Jackson Street

 •  Japanese Friendship Garden - Japanese Garden (Authentic)
 •  Mitsuwa Japanese Market & Restaurants (Authentic)

Top Things to Do in San Jose Japantown

Start your day with great hiking at the Alum Rock Park. This place is great for biking or just strolling. The in the afternoon, you can find great comfort at the Happy Hollow Park Zoo. This is the right sport for those looking to spend their afternoon watching different types of animals.

For your shopping needs, get a bargaining chance at the San Jose Flea market. This place has been a top shopping destination since 1950. It is filled with antiques, fashion, food and many other things.

Visit the San Jose Museum of Art to witness the world art in San Jose. The architecture of the museum alone is something to capture your eyes.

Transportation Tips for San Jose Japantown

Driving into San Jose Japantown is real easy. There is basically one street with all of the businesses. You don't need a tour guide, please read through our information for the best tips.

What Other Japanesetowns Can You Visit

Apart from San Jose Japantown, there are three other Japanese Towns in the US. They are San Francisco, San Jose and in Southern California are Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and Sawtelle in West Los Angeles. Check our our Ultimate Japantown Guides to help you.

Top Things to Do in Little Tokyo

There is a lot to do in San Jose Japantown. But we have picked top things to do in San Jose to give you an easier time of selecting where to begin and end.

Check out our growing list below, we will keep adding to it. There are a lot of other places but we are thinking about your time. If you want to explore you can, we are also focused on authentic Japanese restaurants.


Historic San Jose, California - Top Things To See and Do

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