In 1912 visionary Issei women founded an independent Japanese YWCA to provide social services for the women and girls of their community, and sought to establish a permanent home for the organization in the early 1920s. Barred from acquiring property due to the 1913 Alien Land Law, the Issei women received assistance from the San Francisco YWCA, which agreed to purchase the property in trust for the Japanese YWCA, with additional funds from the Japanese community. In 1932, architect Julia Morgan was commissioned to design the present building when the property’s original structure was destroyed.
The San Francisco YWCA attempted to sell the property in 1996, but academic researchers and community activists were able to piece together documents of the original trust agreement. The Soko Bukai (an organization of Japanese Christian Churches whose members formed the original Japanese YWCA) and activists within the Japanese American community fought for the enforcement of the trust and to secure the property for the Japanese American community. The Soko Bukai settled the lawsuit against the YWCA in 2002, which enabled Nihonmachi Little Friends (NLF) to purchase the property.
Founded in 1975, NLF is a private, nonprofit, childcare organization with a mission to provide Japanese/English bilingual, multicultural, and educational childcare for preschoolers through elementary school-age children.