Mark Izu’s ‘Songs for J-Town’ evokes memories and hopes

Mark Izu assembled performers from across the United States and spent years putting together “Songs for J-Town,” but he only expected around 60 people to attend the April 23 world premiere at the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco when he scheduled the show during the height of the omicron surge. Instead, more than 400 people […]

Benkyodo: The bittersweet end of an era at S.F. Japantown’s oldest business

Ricky Okamura clocks in to work at 3 a.m., typically hours before the first customer walks in to his store, but on March 26, his first customer beat him there by three hours, pitching a tent and lining up for manju outside Benkyodo Company in San Francisco’s Japantown.  Lines have wrapped around the block, starting […]

S.F. Supe proposes naming Japantown pedestrian mall after late artist Ruth Asawa

San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston this week proposed naming Japantown’s Buchanan Mall after the famed and late artist Ruth Asawa. Asawa, who was of Japanese descent, is known for her bold metal and wire sculptures — located in public spaces throughout the city and various other cities like Oakland, San Jose, and St. Helena. Some […]

Statement from former CANE members on the sale of the Buchanan Hotel in S.F. Japantown

The Committee Against Nihonmachi Eviction (CANE) 50th Anniversary Committee formed ten months ago to commemorate CANE’s fight to preserve San Francisco’s Japantown and to share this history with future generations. Coincidentally our committee’s work is taking place during intense community discussions about the future of the Buchanan Hotel site and Japantown as a whole. Even […]

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, […]

JA community responds to anti-Asian hate

Though the Japanese American community has so far been spared from the brunt of the rise of anti-Asian hate currently making headlines across the United States, many Nikkei are nevertheless concerned. “There are a lot of people who are very worried about it. They’re scared,” retired San Jose Police Department Lt. Rich Saito, told 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 […]

Efforts to support S.F.’s Japantown underway

San Francisco Japantown community leaders gathered May 27 for an online town hall meeting via the Zoom video chat application. Several organizations outlined their efforts to help Japantown through grants and programs designed to either aid small businesses and nonprofits, or attract customers to the ethnic enclave once shelter-in-place restrictions are relaxed. “A lot of […]

Japantown’s Peace Plaza — A chance to heal

Shattered tiles, forced removal and broken promises. To those unfamiliar with San Francisco Japantown, some might think that the Peace Plaza is just another open space in the city. But the cold, hardscape of the current design, is an unremarkable feature of a neighborhood that has never truly healed from the tragic history surrounding the […]

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