Hokubei Mainichi

Thursday, November 3, 2005




Many People driving by San Francisco Japantown appreciate the architecture of the pagoda and fountains, but do not know that has long been a vibrant part of the neighborhood.

      Now one of only three Japantowns left in the country, it began as Nihonjinmachi or “Japanese People’s Town” after the first Japanese arrived here in 1869. As their numbers increased, institutions arose to serve them, including churches, schools and various civic and social organizations.

      The population drifted through various parts of the city and finally settled in the Western Addition after the 1906 earthquake.

      In San Francisco’s Japantown (Arcadia Publishing), the Japantown Task Force Inc. – a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and revitalizing the historical and cultural resources of the Japantown community – presents a collection of vintage photographs, many of which have never been seen by the public.

      They come from the collections of the National Japanese American Historical Society, Japanese American Historical Archives/Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, as well as from local, private sources.

      More than 200 images illustrate the early struggles of new immigrants, the populous prewar neighborhood, the dark days of 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 Japantown’s legacy.

      The book was made possible by the guidance and participation of the Japantown Task Force Book Review Committee: Hatsuro Aizawa; Seiko Fujimoto, Japanese Benevolent Society of California; Sumi Honnami; Greg Marutani, San Francisco JACL; Karl Matsushita, Japanese American National Library; Judith Nihei; Katherine Reyes; Rosalyn Tonai, 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, JTF executive director; John Poutney, editor at Arcadia Publishing; Darryl Abantao and Misako Mori, JTF interns; Lucy Kishiue, consultant and project manager; Clyde Izumi, technical support; San Francisco Foundation; Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund; and Union Bank of California.

      “This book is a visual depiction of how a community, a neighborhood emerges out of destruction [the 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 to again rebuild their lives, businesses and community that we today call Japantown,” said Jofuku. “It is about survival and rebirth.”

      Aizawa remarked, “The Japantown Task Force Book Committee, who helped put this book together, infused the power of memory and love in each and every photo. The process of making this book brought old and new friends together. It is the friendships we have developed that carry us through the hard times. It is the glue that keeps us together. This book reminds us of that.”

      “Next year, 2006, marks 100 years of where San Francisco’s Japantown is now. This book celebrates 100 years of San Francisco’s Japantown.”

      Honnami added,” 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 from sales of the book will be donated to JTF, NJAHS and JANL.

      To purchase the book, send a check for $23 (19.99 plus sales tax, shipping and handling) per copy to Japantown Task Force Inc., 1765 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94115, or call (415) 346-1239






Top to bottom:

1.        Dedication of Japanese Church of Christ (now Christ United Presbyterian Church) on Oct. 15, 1916.

2.        Residents gather at Kinmon Gakuen in April 1942 to be sent to Tanforan Assembly Center.

3.        Boy Scout Troop 12 Drum and Bugle Corps in the Cherry Blossom Grand Parade.

4.        Kids take part in protest of the YWCA’s 1996 attempt to sell the 1830 Sutter St. building.