San Jose Japantown Building Made Historic Landmark

The historic Ken Ying Low building courtesy Preserving California’s Japantowns

SAN JOSE — The San Jose City Council on Jan. 12 voted unanimously to designate a restaurant building a historic landmark in the city’s Japantown District.

The Historic Landmarks Commission recommended the designation of the Ken Ying Low building at 625 N. Sixth St., as Historic Landmark No. 180. The city’s Japantown, located just north of the city center, evolved from one of San Jose’s six Chinatown settlements in the late 19th century.

The approval of the resolution makes the Ken Ying Low building eligible for a property tax reduction and exemption from a construction and building tax for future improvements. The designation will also give property owner Natalia Davidenko a tax break for renovating the building.

The commission believes the building contributes to the city’s Japantown historic district because it dates to a time when Japanese immigrants who came to Santa Clara County for agricultural work were establishing a community in San Jose.

The building is also reminiscent of the interconnectedness of Japanese and Chinese Americans who settled in close proximity to each other for security and tolerance, the commission said.

The Ken Ying Low restaurant building was built as a Japanese boarding house in 1887, but it has since undergone numerous alterations. The area in which the rectangular, two-story building is located became known as the city’s Chinatown, also known as Heinlenville.

In 1915, a Chinese man purchased the building as the new site for the Ken Ying Low restaurant. When the area was razed in the 1930s, Ken Ying Low was one of the few Chinese establishments that survived, according to the city landmarks report.

According to Preserving California’s Japantowns, Ken Ying Low was a popular Japantown restaurant for many years, operated by the Ng family into the late 1970s. “It was a favorite choice for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and graduations among both the Japanese and Chinese communities,” said the Preserving California’s Japantowns Website. “After Ken Ying Low closed its doors, the building housed a Filipino restaurant for a short time. In 1981, it became the Cuban Restaurant, specializing in Cuban, Brazilian, Puerto Rican and Mexican dishes.”

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