The Bay Area’s Japantowns adjust to the new normal

With California’s June 15 economic reopening, businesses across the San Francisco Bay Area have gained a new sense of normalcy. The recovery process has varied according to individual businesses, even among the region’s two Japantowns. A Mixed Bag of Results in San Francisco’s Japantown When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced bars could reopen May 6 with […]

Owners of Benkyodo, S.F. J-Town’s oldest business, plan to retire at end of year

Japanese confections have been a San Francisco Japantown staple for more than a century, and while several similar businesses have come and gone, Benkyodo Company remains the last one standing, serving up fresh handmade mochi to customers since 1906. Community members, however, are learning that Bobby and Ricky Okamura, the brothers who run the shop, […]

Sawtelle’s Japantown businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic

Sawtelle’s Japanese American coommunity, which thrived in both the prewar and postwar periods as a majority-Nikkei West Los Angeles neighborhood, has now seen many of its businesses suffer financial losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The area was recognized by the city as “Sawtelle Japantown” in 2015. Sandy Toshiyuki, owner of a building on Sawtelle […]

Supe, Japantown leaders call for vandalized cherry blossom trees to be replaced

A week after cherry blossom trees in San Francisco’s Japantown were found vandalized, Supervisor Dean Preston and leaders from the city’s Japanese community on Jan. 12 called for the trees to be replaced. On Jan. 5, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California took to Facebook to report that two trees outside their […]

S.F. J-Town’s redevelopment-era transformation

THE GATEWAY TO THE PACIFIC: JAPANESE AMERICANS AND THE REMAKING OF SAN FRANCISCO By Meredith Oda (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019, 304 pp., $35, paperback) My first visit to San Francisco’s Japantown occurred in May 1974. It came about when I, along with two colleagues in the Japanese American Project of the Oral History […]

A life lesson from John Lennon, in Japantown

Sadness and sorrow. Dec. 8 was the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Here’s my story on meeting him: I was a young teen in the summer of 1973, hanging out at Paper Tree, when in walks John and Yoko. They smiled at my folks as they wandered through the store, bought some postcards, then […]

San Francisco Japantown businesses receive help, but are far from secure as pandemic ravages economy

San Francisco’s Japantown community has come together to support its retail and restaurants in light of the ongoing pandemic. Such aid has been essential to helping keep many businesses afloat, but a looming threat of evictions for tenants in the Japan Center Malls and the Kinokuniya Building, as well as the unpredictable outlook of the […]

San Francisco J-Town merchants fear end to eviction moratorium

Story update: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Sept. 23 to extend the commercial eviction moratorium through March 31, 2021. San Francisco Mayor London Breed said later that day in tweet that she would also extend the city’s moratorium. She also issued a statement Sept. 29. *** Tenants of two major Japantown property owners […]

San Jose names J-Town Park

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously Sept. 1 to name a new park in San Jose’s Japantown Heinlenville Park, after John Heinlen, a German immigrant who opposed the anti-Asian racism Chinese immigrants suffered in the late 19th century. Heinlen went on to become a key contributor in establishing the ethnic enclave’s Chinatown. Nicolle Burnham, […]

S.F.’s Japantown shows support for Black lives through art and education

A new Nikkei community group formed to support the Black Lives Matter movement held an event June 20 in San Francisco’s Japantown in celebration of Juneteenth. Organized by a group of young Japanese Americans and supporters calling themselves Japantown for Justice, the event focused on education and arts and proclaimed Nikkei allyship with the Black […]

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