Japantown is more than 122 years old and is one of only three authentic Japantowns in the United States.
The Community was developed when immigrant Japanese first settled in Santa Clara Valley in the late 1800‘s because of the abundant farm work but it wasn't until the early 20th century, that the Japanese had established their own community. Japantown was a place where they could find cultural support, employment, goods, shelter and a social life that were uniquely Japanese.
Initially Japantown served the bachelor migrant workers and Japanese farmers who came into town for supplies. But as more Japanese women settled in the area there was an emergence of family life in the community. It was during this time that some of the most famousneighborhood buildings, such as the Issei Memorial Building, the Taihei Hotel and Okida Hall, were constructed.
Through the 1920s and the Great Depression, Japantown experienced a slow but steady development. The neighborhood transformed from wooden walkways and dirt roads to sidewalks and paved streets with automobile traffic. It was during this time that the San Jose Buddhist Church had a magnificent new temple constructed.In 1942 Japantown’s development came to an abrupt halt when war hysteria prompted a national order that all people of Japanese ancestry, even U.S. citizens, be forced to leave the Valley. The Japanese either relocated to internment camps or resettled in areas far from the West Coast. During these years the community became a ghost town.
In 1945 the residents were allowed to return but the neighborhood suffered a steady decline. It was not until the 1980’s when the Sansei or 3rd generation children sparked a cultural awareness that bolstered efforts to renew Japantown.Since that time Japantown has gone through a series of redevelopments. Building facades have been upgraded and the area has seen constructing of new housing complexes. One such complex was Mariani Square built by Pulte Homes. It turned the historic Mariani pickle factory into contemporary lofts and townhomes while retaining the integrity of the original structure.
Today, Japantown hosts many community events. One of the most visible is the Farmers Market hosted every Sunday from 8-noon, rain or shine. The market features many varieties of Asian greens and fresh organic vegetables and fruits There are also numerous non-agricultural vendors with Japanese influenced wares. Other events include the Japantown Art Walk and Children's Day where you will see brightly dyed carp streamers fluttering above homes.
Japantown is the host to many restaurants, Asian influenced boutiques and bars, 7 Bamboo is a place where people can go nightly to enjoy the tradition of singing Karioke and Roy's has become a new iconic coffee house that was restored from one of 2 gas stations original gas stations in the community. In the last few years they even opened a small grocery store on Jackson Street. In the urban setting of San Jose it is such a pleasure to see a community that has held tight to its cultural roots. It is a fun place to come enjoy a simple cup of coffee, shop for unique on of a kind items or have a sushi lunch.