SF's Japantown
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Nichi Bei Times
Thursday, November 3, 2005


New Book on San Francisco's Japantown Released

A new book produced by the Japantown Task Force, Inc. and published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Images of America Series tells the story of San Francisco’s storied Japantown in pictures.

Many people driving by Japantown appreciate the architecture of the pagoda and fountains but do not know much about the Japanese community that has long been a vibrant part of San Francisco's Japantown - one of only three left in this country. The ethnic enclave began as Nihonjinmachi, or "Japanese People's Town," after the first Japanese arrived in 1869.

As their numbers increased, institutions arose to serve them, including churches, schools, and various organizations. The population drifted through various parts of the city and finally settled in the Western Addition after the 1906 earthquake.

In this new 128-page retrospective, the Japantown Task Force, Inc. (JTF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the historical and cultural resources of the Japantown community, presents a collection of vintage photographs 00 many which have never been seen by the general public 0 from the archives of the National Japanese American Historical Society, the Japanese American National Library and the Japanese American Historical Archives/Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, as well as from local and private sources.

More than 200 images illustrate such things as the early struggles of new immigrants, the populous prewar neighborhood, the dark times of the community's forced relocation during World War II, the community's rebirth in the late 1940s as its members overcame lingering mistrust and hostility, and the efforts underway to preserve Japantowns legacy.

"This book is a visual depiction of how a community, a neighborhood emerges out of destruction (earthquake), returns after incarceration in America's concentration camps to rebuild their lives only to have their businesses and homes destroyed/bulldozed by 'urban renewal' of the 1960s and 70s … and yet survive again to rebuild their lives, businesses and community that we today call 'Japantown,'" stated Linda Jofuku, executive director of the Japantown Task Force, Inc. "It is about survival and rebirth."

"The Japantown Task Force Book Committee who helped put this book together infused each and every photo," said book committee member Hats Aizawa. "The process of making this book brought old and new friends together. This book reminds us of that …

"Next year, 2006, marks 100 years of where San Francisco's Japantown is now," Aizawa added. This book celebrates 100 years of San Francisco's Japantown."

Another book committee member, Sumi Honnami, stated, "In this book you will see the everyday people who make up the many layers of Japantown's culture and history that have not been included in previous publications. 'San Francisco's Japantown' includes the common person that built and sustained the community not ordinarily acknowledged."

A portion of the proceeds is being donated to three nonprofit organizations: The Japantown Task Force, Inc., the National Japanese American Historical Society and the Japanese American National Library. This book was made possible by the guidance and participation of the Japanwotnw Task Force Book Review Committee: Hatsuro Aizawa; Seiko Fujimoto, Japanese Benevolent Society of California, Sumi Honnami; Greg Marutani, San Francisco Japanese American Citizens League; Karl Matsushita, National Japanese American National Library; Judith Nihei; Katherine Reyes; Rosalyn Tonia, National Japanese American Historical Society; Dr. Himeo Tsumori; Bill Wong, editor and journalist; and Ken Yamada.

Special appreciation goes to Ben Pease, cartographer and researcher; Linda Jofuku, executive director, Japantown Task Force, Inc.,; John Poultney, editor, Arcadia Publishing; and the long hours of Darryl Abantao, JTF inter; Misako Mori, JTF intern; Lucy Kishiue, consultant and project manager; Clyde Izumi, technical support, San Francisco Foundation; Haas, Jr. Fun; and Union Bank of California.


Evacuation Sale -
David Tatsuno (above) posts a sign of a front of their store. Many residents and business had only days to sell and pack their belongings, April 1942 (courtesy of National Japanese American Historical Society)



Forced Relocation -
(Above) Residents wearing tags at the Kinmon Gakuen building await incarceration to an assembly center at the Tanforan Race Track in San Bruno while the 10 permanent wartime concentration camps were being built. Two-thirds of internees were U.S. citizens, April 1942.



Cover Photo -
(above) The dedication for the Japanese church of Christ (now Christ United Presbyterian Church) building was held on Oct. 15, 1916.



Nihonmachi Little Friends

- In 1996, the San Francisco YWCA, decided to sell the historical building designed in 1932 by world-renowned architect Julia Morgan, at commercial rates beyond the reach of community organizations. The Soko Bukai, the organization of Japanese Christian Churches filed suit to enforced the documented trust agreement. In 2002, Nihonmachi Little Friends was able to purchase the property and become the owner of the building. (Courtesy Nihonmachi Little Friends)
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