Four S.F. J-Town establishments approved for Legacy Business Registry

Four San Francisco Japantown establishments — Kinmon Gakuen, Nichi Bei Foundation, National Japanese American Historical Society and Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop — were among eight businesses and nonprofit organizations unanimously approved by the San Francisco Small Business Commission for the city’s Legacy Business Registry at the Commission’s meeting Aug. 12.

The Registry recognizes longstanding, community-serving businesses as valuable cultural assets to the city. The Aug. 12 cohort brings the total count to 208 businesses added to the Legacy Business Registry.

All four Japantown businesses were nominated by San Francisco Supervisor Vallie Brown, whose District 5 is home to Japantown.

Kinmon Gakuen: 2031 Bush St.
Established in 1911, Kinmon Gakuen is a language school “dedicated to enriching the lives of children, Japanese immigrants and community members.” In the early 20th century, a core group of activists gathered to establish the organization to support educational opportunities for Japanese youth who were excluded from attending public schools. Kinmon Gakuen secured historical Landmark Designation approved by the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission, and its building is one of the oldest structures in Japantown.

“For the past 109 years, we have strived to educate our students and the community on the importance of our heritage, and how we can contribute to be better citizens of this great city of San Francisco,” said Shinichi Seino, past president of Kinmon Gakuen.

Nichi Bei Foundation: 1832 Buchanan St. Suite 207.
The Nichi Bei Foundation and its publication the Nichi Bei Weekly (2009 to present) is part of the Nichi Bei Shimbun (1899-1942) and Nichi Bei Times (1946-2009) legacy of community media. The organization helps to preserve Japanese culture while shedding light on community issues. Through the Nichi Bei Weekly, it launched numerous publications such as the Japanese Culture and Cherry Blossom Festivals Guide, the Obon and Summer Festivals Guide, and a comprehensive map and bilingual directory of Japantown. It also presents meaningful community educational events like Films of Remembrance, and pilgrimages to historic sites like the Angel Island Immigration Station and the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony. It also presents the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival.

“The Nichi Bei legacy has always been about building community — whether it be an emerging immigrant community, rebuilding community after wartime incarceration in American concentration camps, or keeping a vastly dispersed community connected, informed and empowered in the present-day,” said Nichi Bei Foundation President Kenji G. Taguma.

National Japanese American Historical Society: 1684 Post St. and 640 Mason St.
The National Japanese American Historical Society is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving Japanese American history and culture through exhibitions, publications and public programming. NJAHS strives to be a catalyst for change through cross-cultural awareness — by learning from the past and influencing the future. Its Post Street headquarters has a gallery, book store, gift shop, archives, research library and visitor kiosk.

“The organization was founded upon the principles from which Japanese Americans of World War II fought, sacrificed, and struggled,” said Rosalyn Tonai, executive director of the NJAHS. “We love to share two special places for everyone to discover ethnic history in a new way — our Post Street Peace Gallery in Japantown and the Military Service Historic Learning Center at Presidio ….”

Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop: 1790 Sutter St.
Since 1974, locals and tourists have flocked to Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop, a bakery inside Japantown’s Super Mira Market, for delicious freshly baked cakes before they sell out, usually by noon daily. Its signature, world-famous Coffee Crunch Cake has garnered its own loyal following and is often placed on “best of” dessert and sweets lists. It’s an exact replica of the “koffee krunch kake” from Blum’s, a defunct Bay Area soda fountain and bakery that experienced its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. Founded by San Francisco native husband-and-wife team “Moses” and “Hatsy” Yasukochi, Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop is a family-owned business and now in its third generation of owners.

“Yasukochi’s … has been privileged to serve Japantown and the greater San Francisco community for 45 years,” said Wendy Prigge, daughter of the Yasukochis.

Anco Iron & Construction Inc., The Hobby Company of San Francisco, Just For Fun and Tin Wah Noodle Co. were also accepted into the Legacy Business Registry.

A Legacy Business is a for-profit or nonprofit business that has operated in San Francisco for 30 or more years. The business must contribute to the neighborhood’s history and/or the identity of a particular neighborhood or community, and it must commit to maintaining the physical features or traditions that define the business, including craft, culinary or art forms.

For more information about the Legacy Business Program, visit http://sfosb.org/legacy-business.

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