Historic Context


It is for the contemporary and future generations not to replicate history but to understand their community historically and to use this knowledge in the creation of their own communities in terms of their future contexts.  So when we are talking of preservation, it is to preserve not only the icon, but also to preserve the context within which these symbols operated and how they represent the cultural process of community development and to make this information available for the benefit of the community.

- Dr. James Hirabayashi, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor

Anthropology and Ethnic Studies,

San Francisco State University



The following historic context statement for San Francisco’s Japantown describes the neighborhood, its genesis, development, modifications, and continuing significance.  This context statement concerns itself with Japantown essentially from extrinsic points of view, i.e., it asks how Japantown was significant to San Francisco history, and to regional and national history.  [Note: recognition of Japantown as a Nikkei neighborhood does not deny the dynamic flow of peoples within the community which is an invaluable part of its urban complexity.]. [1]  


From Nihonjinmachi to Japantown

San Francisco’s Japantown, 1906-1986


The time period is 1906, the approximate beginning of Japanese occupancy of the area, to 1986, through Urban Renewal and A-2 Redevelopment, which resulted in the demolition of most of the existing historic Japantown.  The unifying theme is the cultural significance of Japantown. Any evaluation of the significance of Japantown necessarily extends beyond the architectural merit of individual resources.  Japantown’s cultural and social themes are vital in understanding the value and importance of the neighborhood. These include:

·        historical events that shaped Japantown, including pre-Japanese-American settlement, the earthquake and fire of 1906, the California Alien Land Law restrictions on property ownership by Japanese, World War II internment and return, and impacts of the Redevelopment Agency and urban renewal;

·        social and cultural identity of the area;

·        buildings and sites built during the period of significance that represent the community;

·        associations with other neighborhoods of San Francisco which include Chinatown, South of Market, Pacific Heights, Fillmore[2],  as well as Japantowns outside of San Francisco in the East Bay, San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and the Pacific Northwest, among many others.[3].


Japantown remains a distinct and coherent place despite significant demographic and even more extensive physical changes during the course of its history. The area has been, and is, defined by its cultural significance more than its architectural identity. However, the built environment does reflect the history of the Nikkei (individuals of Japanese ancestry) from initial occupancy of existing infrastructure by predominantly Japanese and Japanese Americans to the eventual construction of purpose-built community institutions and other structures. These events are also followed sequentially by dramatic contraction due to World War II wartime internment, and the specific impact of post-war redevelopment policies and urban decentralization.



General Background.


Urban neighborhoods commonly experience demographic shifts as a continuous process that may accelerate or decelerate at times due to various factors, both economic and social. In this country, race and immigration have historically been two of the most powerful of these factors.


As the concentration of a particular racial or ethnic group increases in an area, the commercial and institutional makeup of the neighborhood can be expected to shift in order to serve the expanding population group. Distinctive changes may include the early emergence of ethnic food suppliers offering foodstuffs required for the traditional cuisine, as well as sources for other culturally significant goods, e.g. wedding or funeral needs. Culturally supportive social institutions may be commercial, such as hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, etc., or non-commercial, such as churches, specifically cultural organizations, or language schools. In addition, businesses serving a broader clientele, e.g. restaurants, drug stores, hardware stores, tobacconists, clothing stores, etc., may come under ownership by members of the group, and by virtue of linguistic and cultural affinities may develop a specialized ethnic patronage.


At some point in this process, the neighborhood comes to be experienced as the home of and by the cultural group—the place where members of the group can most fully experience their cultural identity. This perception may or may not be shared by other groups, either from outside the enclave, or even within. In many cases, the true ethnic makeup of a perceived racially uniform area is actually diverse.


In dense urban environments, the granular structure of cultural neighborhoods may be very small —certainly block-by-block, often even smaller. Given this structure, it is difficult to determine historic boundaries from standard sources. Census tabulations are often based on much broader areas. Cross directories are more helpful, but are generally not available for San Francisco until 1953. However, pre-war and post-war annual directories published by the Japanese immigrant newspapers in San Francisco provide useful data for reconstructing areas of concentration of the ethnic community by street and block on the basis of addresses of Japanese residents, businesses, and institutions[4].

Occupancy by the new cultural group may involve few outward changes to the existing built environment of an urban neighborhood. In many cases, the most prominent will be the addition of signage appropriate to the group. More extensive alterations may take place inside, with reconfiguration of spaces to suit new requirements or expectations. Eventually, purpose-built institutional and other structures may be designed or altered to reflect architectural or ceremonial traditions of the cultural heritage, but local building codes often restrict such expressions.


If the ethnic neighborhood becomes attractive to others in the larger society, whether for cuisine, special goods, entertainment, or general ambiance, more extensive changes or additions may be made to the built environment in order to enhance its marketability. Often departing from actual ethnic traditions, these changes may signal a shift from the construction of an ethnic enclave, whose purpose is to provide shelter and other necessities for the group, to the creation of a marketplace that trades commercially on the notion of exoticism, in response to the forces of assimilation and cultural evolution. Alternately, or perhaps in addition, the cultural makeup of the neighborhood can shift once again, with a new group displacing the first, or the old group simply dispersing, or becoming culturally assimilated.


Nihonjinmachi: Historical Background.


San Francisco’s Japantown was originally known as “Nihonjinmachi,” “Japanese people’s town.”  It is the oldest of its kind in the continental United States[5] and one of only three remaining Japantowns in the U.S.  Until 1906, San Francisco, chief U.S. port of entry for Asian immigration, had the largest Nikkei population of any mainland American city.  Numerous social, economic, and political organizations originated in the city, including several churches, such as the Japanese Reform & Evangelical churches, the Buddhist Churches of America, the Presbyterian Church, the Japanese Young Women’s Christian Association and Young Men’s Christian Association, the Japanese Salvation Army, and civic organizations such as Japanese Benevolent Society, Japanese Association of America, and the Japanese American Citizens League.


The first Japanese immigrants arrived in San Francisco in 1869.  This first generation – the Issei – was small in number and consisted mainly of young men. As their ranks gradually increased, social institutions arose to serve them.  In 1877, the Fukuin Kai (Japanese Gospel Society) believed to be the first Japanese organization in the U.S., began meeting at the Chinese Methodist Mission, in Chinatown.  In the late 19th century, several more Japanese Christian organizations were founded and grew here; these spread to a growing number of other Japanese communities along the West Coast, through the Central Valley, to the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, South, and eventually the entire U.S.  By 1898, San Francisco was also the headquarters for Buddhist churches and social organizations located throughout the West.  . Other important institutions included prefectural associations, or kenjin-kai, and newspapers.


By the turn of the 20th century, as the size of the community continued to increase, racist opposition to Japanese immigration began to coalesce, led by San Francisco Mayor and later California Senator James D. Phelan, and involving existing labor unions. Hostility worsened after the Japanese victory in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War raised fears of Japanese military power.  However, much of the animosity was still couched in terms of economic rivalry between Japanese immigrants and surrounding communities.


San Francisco was a center of this antipathy.  Following the 1906 earthquake, the San Francisco Board of Education adopted a policy intended, for the first time, to restrict Japanese students to the segregated school previously established for Chinese American students. When the Japanese government protested, an international dispute arose. President Theodore Roosevelt intervened to urge that the policy be rescinded, and the school board agreed in return for a promise by Roosevelt to stem Japanese immigration. In response, Roosevelt negotiated the 1908 “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the United States and Japan, by which further immigration of Japanese laborers was drastically reduced.  Some immigration, most importantly of Japanese women, continued until the passing of the Immigration Act of 1924, which completely curtailed immigration from Japan until 1952.[6]


In 1913, California law, in the form of the Heney-Webb Alien Land Act, forbade property ownership by “aliens ineligible for citizenship”[7]  (at the time, immigrants from Asia were not permitted to become naturalized citizens).  Given the population of California at the time, this restriction applied almost exclusively to Japanese immigrants, and remained in effect until 1952.  Anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting interracial marriages prevailed through the 1960’s.


The Gentlemen’s Agreement, however, did permit immigration of wives whose husbands were already living in the U.S., including “picture brides,” who may never have met their husbands prior to immigrating.  This provision marked an important shift in the nature of the Japanese community in San Francisco, by facilitating the establishment of families, and of a second generation – the Nisei -- who were citizens by birth and therefore legally able to own property.  Institutions to serve the changing community quickly grew, including Japanese language schools and pre-schools for the rapidly Americanizing Nisei as a means of preserving the community’s Japanese culture.


Changing Locations of Japantown.


The early Japanese immigrants to San Francisco had settled in Chinatown.  By 1900, there was also a concentration of Japanese people and commercial establishments South of Market, along Jessie and Stevenson streets, between 5th and 7th.  When both these areas were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906, the majority of the Japanese American community relocated to the present Japantown area in the Western Addition, with another smaller concentration in South Park (south of Market, bounded by Second and Third Streets, Brannan and Townsend).  The latter location was convenient to piers then in use by Japanese shipping companies, as well as to the railroad station, the point of entry for the large rural Japanese population in the region, for whom San Francisco Japantown was their only access to the goods, services and culture available there.  While a collection of hotels, baths, and other establishments came into being in South Park to serve travelers, the 1924 Immigration Act, which blocked further immigration from Japan, and the 1933 relocation of the Japanese shipping companies to the northern waterfront, meant the end of the South Park Japanese neighborhood.


The Western Addition site of the present Japantown was an established Victorian-era neighborhood, home to a mix of European immigrants and their native-born offspring. The 1900 Census shows an area concentration of persons born in German-speaking parts of Europe, the second most prevalent national group in San Francisco.  In the Western Addition, a large proportion of German Americans were Jewish, and a number of synagogues or former synagogues and other Jewish institutions may be found there today.  At the time of that census, there were no Japanese households in the area.[8]  However, immediately after the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco’s Japanese relocated there in significant numbers.  This process was recorded and encouraged by editorials in Shin-Sekai (The New World, originally a publication of the Japanese YMCA until it split off in 1897) which predicted that rents in the area would soon be forced down as ruined parts of the city were rebuilt.


By the time of the 1910 Census, the core area was home to more than 50 Japanese-owned commercial establishments, and to most of the 4,700 Japanese residents residing in the city[9].  The commercial infrastructure included ethnic mainstays such as Japanese grocery stores, importers, and restaurants.  Support for the still largely-single male population was visible in the number of Japanese pool halls, residence hotels, and employment agencies.  The growing presence of families was reflected by the presence of a Japanese kindergarten, a dressmaker, and several midwives.  Property records from the same time show no Japanese property owners in the area[10].  However, given the fairly common practice of recording property ownership in legal trust under the name of a cooperative white partner, these records may be suspect.  Cultural diversity of Japantown at that time included residents and religious and commercial establishments from Russian, Jewish, Chinese, Korean[11], and African American communities.


The community prospered through the 1920s and 30s.  By 1940, the Japanese population of Japantown, although by then second in size to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, numbered over 5,000—with more than 200 Japanese-owned businesses.[12]  Japanese names begin to appear as property owners in the area in the 1920s.  By 1930, at least 55 parcels were Japanese-owned.  Prior to American entry into World War II, this number had more than doubled to 122.[13]  While some Japanese purchased property and recorded it in the name of their American-born children, given the ongoing political agitation against the Japanese that included efforts to divest American born children of Japanese descent of their U.S. citizenship, many continued to use land trusts.


World War II and Internment.


The Japanese Navy attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 abruptly ended the prosperity established by Japanese immigrants.  In Japantown, prominent Japanese American businessmen, Japanese clergy, and school teachers tagged as “enemy aliens” were rounded up in FBI sweeps.  Temporarily jailed, they were eventually transferred to Department of Justice internment camps, separated from their families and community.


Anti-Japanese hysteria in San Francisco intensified with American entry into World War II, fanned by editorials in San Francisco newspapers and by nativist and agricultural interest groups.  Under the authority of Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in February 1942, General John L. DeWitt issued a series of military proclamations from the headquarters of the Western Defense Command at the Presidio of San Francisco.  The proclamations first established restricted military zones on the West Coast within which "all enemy aliens and all persons of Japanese ancestry" were subject to military regulation.  By late March 1942, DeWitt began issuing Civilian Exclusion Orders expelling "all persons of Japanese ancestry, including aliens and non-aliens" from the West Coast military zones.  In a little over four months more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese Ancestry were forced from their homes and interned by the government under the guise of national security.


The entire Japanese community of San Francisco, both citizens and foreign-born, was ordered to register and eventually report for processing to various sites throughout San Francisco including Kinmon Gakuen, the Japanese Language School building on Bush Street, and the YMCA Building on Buchanan Street.  By April, they were sent to various “assembly centers”, primarily Tanforan, in San Bruno, a racetrack hastily converted into a temporary detention camp, before being shipped out to one of 10 concentration camps located away from the coast.  Residents from the San Francisco Bay Area were primarily placed in Topaz, near the town of Delta, in the Utah desert.  Without charges, hearings or trial, many families languished behind barbed wire until 1945.


During the war, the Japanese Salvation Army and the Buddhist Church were used to store some family belongings and property items. The Devolet Brothers, proprietors of a furniture store on Geary Boulevard, also stored Japanese families’ items for the duration of the war. Unfortunately a number of storage sites that could not be secured were raided or vandalized by looters.  The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco also took responsibility for oversight of the real estate of some of those who were in the camps.   Thirteen properties in the core of Japantown passed from Japanese to non-Japanese ownership during the war, as well as three others taken over by the Alien Property Department of the federal government[14]


Despite such treatment and obstacles, Japanese Americans showed tremendous courage and fortitude. A few resisted the government’s restrictions, like Fred Korematsu, an East Bay resident who challenged the constitutionality of the internment to the Supreme Court.  His wartime conviction was not reversed until 1983.  Others resisted in the camps or resisted the draft – refusing to serve on the basis that the government had violated their constitutional rights and freedoms. Draft resisters served up to three years in the federal penitentiary.  At war’s end, President Truman granted them pardons.


Others complied with the draft, from which they had been excluded until 1944,[15] and agreed to fight for the United States Armed forces, or to support the American war effort in tangible ways. The famed Japanese American 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, deployed to the European front, became the most decorated unit in American military history.  Others served as soldier linguists in the Pacific campaign with the Military Intelligence Service (MIS).  The San Francisco Presidio Building 640 Military Intelligence Service Language School was the birthplace of the Defense Language Institute, where Japanese American enlisted men secretly began training one month prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Eventually, MIS language students served in the U.S. Army attached to every unit in the Pacific Theater as soldier linguists, translating and decoding documents and broadcasts, interrogating Japanese prisoners, and interpreting commands, ultimately contributing to an early end to the war.  Hundreds of Japanese Americans died in service.


Forty years after the war’s end, after extensive research and testimony, the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians would find that Executive Order 9066 and the internment of Japanese Americans was "a grave injustice" arising from "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership."[16] 


Following the war, many Japanese Americans returned to San Francisco “Japanese Town,” as it was known then, which had largely become occupied by wartime defense industry workers.  Most of the new occupants were African Americans who had migrated from southern states.  Starting over was a particular hardship for most Japanese American families returning from the camps.  Temporary housing – sometimes in church social halls or former military housing – was often full.  Re-entry into society – from finding work to attending school – was often met with hostility and mistrust.  By the time of the 1950 Census, although Japanese numbers in the Japantown area were nearly back to their pre-war level, both Whites and African Americans far outnumbered them.[17]  Japanese property ownership initially rebounded following the war.  By 1950, 148 parcels were Japanese owned.[18]  By 1962, the end of the initial round of Urban Renewal condemnations, this number had risen to 186.[19]


Redevelopment in the Western Addition.


In 1948, a portion of San Francisco’s Western Addition, including much of Japantown, was selected as one of the first large-scale urban renewal projects in the nation. This involved the mass clearance of the neighborhood through the use of eminent domain, including a large number of residences and small businesses. In order to address “urban blight,” the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) began acquiring properties in the late 1950s. This undertaking was conducted in two project areas: A-1 and A-2[20].


Redevelopment: Western Addition Project Area A-1.


Project Area 1 (A-1) encompassed an irregular area of 27 blocks, including much of Japantown south of Post Street.  Project area evictions were non-negotiable and there was precedent established for relocation assistance to residents and businesses in this area. The Japanese American Merchants and Property Owners Association was the first organization to address concerns around redevelopment in 1953.


By 1960, about half of the core of Japantown had been razed, displacing at least 1,500 residents and more than 60 small Japanese American businesses.  At least 38 property parcels passed from Japanese ownership to the SFRA in this period.[21]  In place of the demolished structures, the City constructed the eight-lane Geary Expressway and the Japan Cultural and Trade Center. The Geary Expressway sliced through what had been historically the Japantown neighborhood and its southern border along O’Farrell where the African American community began.  The expressway became a physical and psychological dividing line between the Japanese and African American communities.  Loss of housing and urban decentralization contributed to Japanese American families leaving the core for the outer neighborhoods of the Richmond and Sunset districts of San Francisco, the suburbs of the Peninsula and the East Bay cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and El Cerrito.  The demolition of single-family or two-family residences and the construction of large, low-income, multi-family complexes changed the mix and fabric of the community as well.


Redevelopment: Western Addition Project Area A-2.


As the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) announced plans for the launching of Western Addition Project Area 2 (A-2), community members who had witnessed the ongoing mass evictions and clearance of neighboring A-1 became concerned and alarmed at what would happen to the rest of Japantown.  In part at the urging of the SFRA, the United Committee for the Japantown Community (UCJC) was formed in 1962 with over 200 members[22].  After negotiations with the SFRA, in 1964 the UCJC formed the Nihonmachi Community Development Corporation (NCDC), which became responsible for “. . . allocating development sites to its members, undertaking the financing and development of shared facilities, [and] coordinating community interests with the agency”.


The architectural firm of Rai Y. Okamoto and Van Bourg/Nakamura, who had worked with UCJC and the SFRA, prepared concept plans envisioning a “village-scale” environment and a community center for the new Nihonmachi bounded by Post, Webster, Bush, and Laguna Streets.[23]  However, redevelopment dramatically raised property values, and many small businesses that served the neighborhood were not able to return to Japantown.  Some were evicted due to increased rents.  Newspapers at that time reported property taxes tripling in areas adjacent to the new Japan Cultural and Trade Center.  As more and more low-income housing and small family businesses were evicted to make way for hotels and larger businesses, the tightly woven historic fabric of the neighborhood continued to unravel.


At the behest of progressive ministers and spiritual leaders, the Western Addition Community Organization (WACO) was formed in 1967 with a largely African American membership but also including Japanese Americans.[24]  Led by Hannibal Williams and formed to fight displacement and the destruction of the neighborhood, WACO organized residents, picketed the agency, and blocked bulldozers.  In 1967, WACO filed an injunction which eventually succeeded in halting A-2 activities until SFRA submitted a federally-certified plan for relocation of displaced residents as required by law.[25]  All this activity slowed the Agency and shortly afterwards the SFRA hired a Western Addition minister, Reverend Wilbur Hamilton, to become the director of the A-2 project area.


In 1968, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began to require that projects form a Project Area Committee that would be able to review SFRA activities in the Western Addition.  Shortly thereafter, the Western Addition Project Area Committee was formed with representatives from 40 diverse Western Addition groups,[26] many of whom were nominated by WACO.  In addition to reviewing agency activities, WAPAC also began securing SFRA jobs for its members, some of whom formed the Fillmore Economic Development Corporation.  After WAPAC was founded however, WACO saw less and less a need to address housing and displacement, and turned to providing surplus food to needy area residents.[27]  With redevelopment already in full swing, a grassroots activist group, the Committee Against Nihonmachi Evictions (CANE) emerged in 1973 to address the needs of residents and small businesses.  One of CANE’s first actions was to support the Japanese American Religious Federation’s housing project for affordable housing in Japantown.  CANE’s increasing membership, which swelled to over 300, revealed the people’s discontent with redevelopment.  While CANE was able to make itself heard through protests, editorials, and education, the SFRA rarely acted on CANE concerns[28]. 


Also in the late 60’s, with the creation of the Ethnic Studies Program at San Francisco State University and the beginning of the Asian American political movement, the evolution of Japantown’s non-profit, community-based service organizations began.[29]  The Sansei (the third generation Japanese Americans) promoted their ethnic identity as Japanese Americans.  Observing the disenfranchisement created by the void in culturally-sensitive services, Sansei saw the need for alternative, ethnically-based services and formed many “grassroots” organizations based in Japantown to serve the needs of both Japantown residents and the extended Japanese American community. To meet the needs of children and youth in the Japanese American community, in 1969 the Sansei created the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC).  Kimochi, Inc. was created in 1971 to serve the elderly Issei, who were not being served by mainstream senior service organizations due to cultural and language barriers.  Japanese Community Services (now defunct) was founded to provide access to social services for the community – particularly the Japanese-speaking community.  In the mid-1970s, these three agencies together formed the non-profit United Japanese Community Services (UJCS) in order to access funds for Japantown from the United Way (formerly the Community Chest).  Other Japantown-based, non-profit organizations  were subsequently created, among them: Nihonmachi Little Friends, Nobiru-kai (Newcomers Association), the Japanese Community and Cultural Center of Northern California, the Japanese American National Library, the Japantown Art and Media Workshop, Nihonmachi Legal Outreach (recently renamed Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach), and the National Japanese American Historical Society.


Fifty-eight Japanese-owned properties were transferred to SFRA between 1962 and 1978.[30]  Ultimately, Japantown not only lost a great deal of land, residents, and businesses, but its community dynamics and relationships were significantly altered by the large influx of Japanese capital and shifting demographics.  The Japantown community now includes a significant number of Japanese immigrants who arrived after the 1952 lifting of the ban on Japanese immigration.  They are the Shin-Issei, the new first generation, and their children are now Japanese Americans with their own unique set of experiences and cultural connections.    Although Japantown continues to be the cultural, historical, and spiritual center of the Japanese American community, the redevelopment of the Western Addition dramatically altered the small neighborhood feel of Japantown with far-reaching effects that continue to this day.


As it came time for SFRA to relinquish domain over A-1 and A-2 to the City, the Japantown community recognized it must overcome its history of distrust of the government and proactively establish a relationship with City government that would support the struggle and ensure Japantown’s survival.  In late 1998, the people of San Francisco Japantown formed the Japantown Planning, Preservation and Development Task Force.   Fifty volunteers representing the breadth of the many factions of the Japantown community worked with The City and County of San Francisco for more than six years with the goal of maintaining and developing the social, cultural and economic life of the community.  They worked with community development organizations (specifically Asian Neighborhood Design and Chinatown Community Development Corporation), as well as  economic development and urban design professionals to engage the community through a public presentation/ feedback process in creating Concepts for the Japantown Community Plan, the first community-generated, post-Redevelopment assessment document to look into issues affecting Japantown’s viability and sustainability.  Recognizing the need for an established agency within the community, a grassroots organization was created for the new century.  Since its incorporation in 2001, the Japantown Task Force, Inc., building on the work of the previous volunteer task force, has already developed resource material based on more than three and one-half years of broad-based community planning.  The Japantown community continues its commitment to a living and sustainable culture.  The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the builders of Nihonjinmachi, though they may reside elsewhere, maintain their principal connection to their heritage in and through a Japantown that struggles to survive. 





[1] “Historic Context Statement” originally prepared for and presented to the San Francisco Landmarks Advisory Board in 2003 by the Cultural Preservation Committee of the Japantown Task Force, Inc.; some additions, corrections and revisions have been made for this report.


[2]  Small, but significant numbers of Japanese immigrants lived as “houseboys,” or servants in middle class white households in Pacific Heights and the Fillmore.

[3]  Of these historic Japantowns, only those in San Jose and Los Angeles are extant.

[4] Some extant copies include Nichibei Shimbunsha’s directory 1915, 1926, and 1941; Shin Seika Adoresu Bukku (Address Book) 1923, 1927; Shin Sekai Asahi Nenkan (Yearbook) 1940, 1941.

[5] Significant Japanese immigration to Hawaii predates this.

[6] Japanese Americans in California. National Park Service, (Isami Arifuku Waugh, Alex Yamamoto, Raymond Y Okamura) 2002. http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/5views/5views4a.htm

[7] Federal law, since 1790, had limited naturalization to “free white persons”. However, due to ambiguities over the definition of “white” some 400 Japanese immigrants had been naturalized over the years prior to 1910.

[8] Twelfth Census of the United States (1900), Population Schedules, Enumeration Districts 203, 204, 205, 206, 207 208 , 209 & 210

[9] Thirteenth Census of the United States (1910), Population Schedules, Enumeration Districts 181, 186, 187, 188, 194, 243, 244, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253 , 256

[10] Block Book of San Francisco, 1910.

[11] Korea had at that time been annexed by Japan and occupied by its armed forces .

[12] Sixteenth Census of the United States (1940), Census Tracts J-2, J-3, J-6, J-7 and J-8 (bounded by Gough, Eddy, Steiner, Fulton, Geary, Baker, & California streets) Although these Tracts together encompass an area slightly larger than that defined as the Japantown Core, it is not possible to break the census data into more precise increments, and it may be assumed that the non-white, non-Negro population of these Tracts was concentrated in the Core.

[13] City and County of San Francisco Sales Ledgers, Assessor’s Blocks 649, 659, 651, 652, 653, 660, 661, 662, 663, 664, 673, 674, 675, 676, 677, 685, 686, 687, 688, 697, 699, 700, 701, 708, 709, 710, 711, 712.

[14] ibid

[15]  tenBroek, Jacobus et al., Prejudice, War and the Constitution, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1954, p. 166.

[16] Personal Justice Denied, Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, December 1982, p. 18.

[17] Seventeenth Census of the United States (1950), Census Tracts J-2, J-3, J-6, J-7 and J-8 (bounded by Gough, Eddy, Steiner, Fulton, Geary, Baker, & California streets) The population of these Tracts included 14,716 Whites, 14,652 Blacks, and 4,820 other non-whites, who, it may be assumed were almost all Japanese. Although these Tracts together encompass an area larger than that defined as the Japantown Core, it is not possible to break the census data into more precise increments.

[18] Sales Ledgers

[19]  ibid

[20] See Pease, Ben.  “Japantown & Vicinity” map.

[21] Sales Ledgers

[22] Seigel, Shizue. “San Francisco Nihonmachi and Urban Renewal”. Nikkei Heritage. XII, 4 and XIII, 1, Fall 2000/Winter 2001

[23] Seigel. Nikkei Heritage

[24] http://www.pbs.org/kqed/fillmore/learning/time.html

[25] See Seigel, Shizue.  “San Francisco: Nihonmachi and Urban Renewal” Nikkei Heritage Fall/Winter Vol. XII/XIII (2001) National Japanese American Historical Society: 23.

[26] Okita, David.  “Redevelopment of San Francisco Japantown.” Thesis.  California State University, Hayward, 1980: 44.

[27] Mollenkopf, John H.  “The Contested City” Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey 1983: 196. 

[28] Okita, David.  “Redevelopment of San Francisco Japantown.” Thesis.  California State University, Hayward, 1980: 54.

[29] A significant phenomenon occurred in 1968 when minority-led students at San Francisco State College and conducted a strike in support of the establishment of a School of Ethnic Studies, including Japanese American Studies.  One offshoot of the strike was the development of a new breed of self-determining community-based organizations (CBOs) organized by students and community activists from the Sansei generation.  The first CBO, Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC), was housed in Japantown, first at Sturge Hall at Christ United Presbyterian Church, then in a Redevelopment-owned building for $1 a year at 1808A Sutter Street.


From this initial organization rose new CBOs to provide social services to various community constituencies such as Kimochi (elderly), Japanese Community Services (mental health and immigrants) and the Japantown Collective (political).  These and many other newly established Japanese American organizations rented the old, Victorian buildings owned by the Redevelopment Agency.


In 1976, JCYC rented 2012 Pine Street from the San Francisco United Methodist Mission which in 1906 was Episcopal/Methodist.  The building was previously utilized by a Filipino Methodist Congregation known as Alternative Futures Non-Profit.  Subsequently, other CBOs purchased land in Japantown and built their own facilities including, the National Japanese American Citizens League headquarter office in the 70's, and in 1983 Kimochi Home and the Japanese Community and Cultural Center. Today, Kimochi, Inc. owns a second building, formerly Nichi Bei Bussan Department Store, on the Buchanan Mall.

[30] Sales Ledgers