California Japantowns - Exploring the preservation of history, culture, and community...

Sharing Our Discoveries

Since completing historic resource surveys in more than forty historic Japantowns, we have shared our rich findings with organizations and agencies across California, and responded to requests for help with related efforts to preserve Nikkei history.

Japantown Heritage Roundtable

Join us for the Japantown Heritage Roundtable to be held on Thursday, June 24, 2010 from 2 to 5 pm, and learn about a wide range of local efforts to preserve and reclaim Japanese American heritage sites and to document and educate the public on Japanese American community history. Share ideas on how to build local support and connect our stories to reach a broader audience. For more info, email us.

Preserving Our API Communities

Preserving Asian Pacific Islander America: Mobilizing Our Communities is the theme for the first-ever Asian Pacific Islander National Historic Preservation Forum to be held from Thursday, June 24 to Saturday, June 26, 2010 in San Francisco. The goal of this ambitious forum is to convene Asian Pacific Islander Americans and stewards of cultural sites associated with these communities, along with representatives of preservation, advocacy, and economic empowerment organizations, to share strategies, to foster networking and to exchange best practices. Click here for more information.

Preserving California’s Japantowns
Honored by City of Berkeley

City of Berkeley. In January 2008, Berkeley City Council awarded a special proclamation to Berkeley’s historic Nikkei churches and to Preserving California’s Japantowns "for Japanese American’s cultural contributions to American history, to historic Japanese American churches and temples for their role in supporting the Japanese American community, and to the Preserving California’s Japantowns project for helping to document and preserve this history by identifying historically significant structures in California’s Japanese American History." ››READ THE PROCLAMATION.

[PHOTO ABOVE: Accepting the City of Berkeley's proclamation are from left: Laura Takeuchi of California Japanese American Community Leadership Council, PCJ Project Director Donna Graves, and Reverend Ken Yamada of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple.]

Engaging Volunteer Teams

During 2006-2007, Preserving California’s Japantowns worked with local community advocates and preservationists to uncover the hidden histories of former Japantowns in the Los Angeles and Sacramento/Delta regions. Staff conducted trainings in Little Tokyo and Lodi that drew over fifty enthusiastic volunteers who formed teams and surveyed the communities of Glendale, Pasadena, Terminal Island, San Pedro, Gardena, Long Beach, Venice, and Sawtelle in Southern California, and Sacramento, Florin, Walnut Grove, Isleton, Lodi, Stockton, Cortez, French Camp and Livingston in Northern California. "Report-back" meetings after the surveys were completed allowed volunteer teams to share their findings and cultivate connections to build the foundation for long-term advocacy and stewardship of Japanese American heritage in their communities. For personal reflections on the Pasadena volunteer survey, see Naomi Hirahara's comments of January 2007. Local advocates have asked for our help in addressing threatened demolition of structures such as the Wintersburg Presbyterian Church complex in Huntington Beach and an historic Nikkei florist in Berkeley, and supporting the American River Conservancy's effort to preserve the Wakamatsu tea Colony in El Dorado County.

[PHOTO ABOVE: Suga Moriwaki leads a walking tour of Lodi's newly rediscovered historic Japantown as part of our PCJ volunteer "report back" event in Summer 2007.]

Preserving California’s Japantowns is called upon to share our research and support local preservation efforts across the state. State Parks Historian, Matt Bischoff, invited PCJ staff to tour the historic Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs and discuss strategies for developing a public/private partnership to rehabilitate and reopen this historic property. Among the requests for support from local advocates in Southern California concerned about threatened demolition to the Wintersburg Presbyterian Church in Huntington Beach, an historic Nikkei florist in Berkeley, and the American River Conservancy’s effort to create a state park at the site of the Wakamatsu Colony in El Dorado County.

[PHOTO ABOVE: Laura (Kitaji) Dominguez-Yon, Donna Graves, Matt Bischoff and Jill Shiraki at the Gilroy Yamato Hot Springs. Laura's relatives managed the Hot Springs after WWII.]

Selected List of Preserving California’s
Japantowns Presentations

Whose America? Who’s American? Diversity, Civil Liberties and Social Justice Conference organized by Japanese American National Museum, Denver, July 2008

Vernacular Architecture Forum annual conference, Fresno, May 2008

Office of Historic Preservation Workshop, Lodi, March 2008

Monterey Peninsula JACL Day of Remembrance Event, February 2008

San Francisco State University Journalism Class, February 2008

UC Berkeley Asian American Studies course, December 2007

"Cultural History of Alameda: Meeting Neighbors and Sharing Stories"
City of Alameda Social Service Human Relations Board, October 2007

Institute for California & the West, USC-Huntington Library, Pasadena, October 2007

City of Pasadena Preservation staff, October 2007

Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission, October 2007

Oakland Heritage Alliance, October 2007

City of Long Beach preservation staff, September 2007

State of CA Historical Resources Commission, Oakland, August 2007

CA Office of Historic Preservation and State Parks staff, July 2007

State of CA Historical Resources Commission, Oakland, August 2007

Japanese American History Walk

The San Francisco Japantown Japanese American History Walk integrates interpretive signage, historical business/organization building plaques, and Japanese American History Walk icons highlighting points of historical and cultural significance to the Japanese and Japanese American community throughout San Francisco’s Japantown (Nihonmachi). A public project funded by the State of California Proposition 40 Bond measure (The California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002), it creates permanent historic and educational markers in a combination of private and public areas of San Francisco’s Japantown. The History Walk will engage, educate and enrich visitors, making Japantown a place for discovery, exploration, validation, inspiration and recognition. ››For an online version of the SF Japantown History Walk, go here.

Preserving California Japantowns Symposium

This one-day symposium held June 9, 2006, brought together experts and practitioners in the field of historic and cultural preservation to discuss the preservation of the three remaining Japantowns, community development, cultural and historical documentation, and more. The discussions and outcomes of the symposium sessions will help shape future directives and priorities for cultural and historic preservation efforts of California's Japantowns. ››READ MORE...

California’s Japantowns in the News

Selections from press coverage that documents Preserving California’s Japantowns and local preservation efforts in many of the communities we surveyed throughout the state.

Artist's murals help bring Lodi's Japantown back to life
By Lori Gilbert, Stockton Record, February 14, 2010-04-12

Volunteers sought to conduct research for local Japantown preservation project
By Ross Farrow, Lodi News-Sentinel, January 26, 2010

Development Plan for Nikkei Nursery Site Pleases Preservationists
By J.K. Yamamoto, Nikkei West, January 2010

History Forgotten, Isleton’s Japantown
By Jill Shiraki, Nichi Bei Weekly, New Year’s Edition, Jan 1, 2010-04-12 View PDF

Obata Studio Is Newest City Landmark
by Riya Bhattacharjee, Berkeley Daily Planet, Thursday June 11, 2009

Japanese culture's roots run deep in Bay Area
By Tyche Hendricks, San Francisco Chronicle, April 16, 2009

Rediscovering Oakland's Japantown
Oakland Heritage Alliance News, Spring 2008 View PDF

Untold Pre-WWII Stories Surface: Communities Torn Apart by Forced Internment in Camps by Momo Chang, Oakland Tribune, Feburary 16, 2008

Oakland Family Suffered 1940s "War Hysteria" by Momo Chang, Oakland Tribune, February 16, 2008

Preserving California’s Japantowns by Donna Graves and Jill Shiraki, Nichi Bei Times, New Year’s Edition 2008

Remembering Sawtelle by Jill Shiraki, Nichi Bei Times, New Year’s Edition 2008

Discovering Pre-WWII Japantowns in the East Bay by Donna Graves, Nichi Bei Times, New Year’s Edition 2008

Kawashimo: A Rural Japantown in the Sacramento Delta by Barbara Takei, Nichi Bei Times, New Year’s Edition 2008

Piecing Together the Past: Preservation of Lodi’s Historic Japantown Gains Interest by Lisa Masai, Nichi Bei Times, New Year’s Edition 2008

Gilroy Hot Springs by Matt C. Bischoff, Historian III, Monterey District Newsletter, January 2008

Drive to Save Redman-Hirahara House, Nikkei West, December 25, 2007

LPC to Discus Japantown, Wood Smoke Ordinance by Riya Bhattacharjee, Berkeley Daily Planet, October 2, 2007

Now You See It, Now You Don't, photos by Richard Brenneman, December 18, 2007

Berkeley Nikkei Landmark Torn Asunder By James Woodard, Hokubei Mainichi, December 18, 2007.

Effort to Save Historic Japanese Florist Can’t Prevent Demolition by Riya Bhattacharjee, Berkeley Daily Planet, December 14, 2007

Bittersweet Centennial for Y-S Institution by Nancy Pasternack, Appeal Democrat, December 13, 2007. Terry Manji remembers when Marysville’s Japantown was the center of a thriving, tight-knit community of farmers and farmworkers.

Developers, Preservationists Work Together on Prewar Richmond Site by Tyche Hendricks, San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dreams flow for Downtown Lodi by Ross Farrow, Lodi News, November 14, 2007

Part of Watsonville Japantown History is Lost by Mas Hashimoto, Nikkei West, November 10, 2007

Agency Seeks Proposals to Replace Greenhouses with Homes by Geneviéve Duboscq, Berkeley Daily Planet, November 6, 2007

Project Offers a Glimpse into Life of Berkeley’s Lost Japantown by Riya Bhattacharjee Berkeley Daily Planet, October 16, 2007

Church Reflects Japanese History by Katherine Yamada, Glendale News Press, October 26, 2007

Recalling the Pre-War Community by Katherine Yamada, Glendale News Press, October 12, 2007

OC Nikkei Historic Sites Threatened by Alex Isao Herbach, Rafu Shimpo, September 19, 2007

Vacaville Buddhist Church Named California Point of Historical Interest, Hokubei Mainichi, September 19, 2007

Book Documents "Japantowns of Placer County," Hokubei Mainichi, September 19, 2007

Rediscovering Berkeley, Oakland Japanese American Communities by Alec-Yoshio MacDonald, Nichi Bei Times, August 2-8, 2007

Discovering Oakland and Berkeley Japantown by James Woodard, Hokubei Mainich, August 15, 2007

Preserving Lodi’s Japanese Culture: Group Tours Japanese in Eastside by Ross Farrow, Lodi News-Sentinel, June 11, 2007. VIEW PDF

Preserving California’s Japantowns by Donna Graves, California Preservation Foundation News, Fall 2007

California: Preserving California’s Japantowns, Forum News, National Trust Forum, a program of the Center for Preservation Leadership, National Trust for Historic Preservation, May/June 2007, pg 4

Preserving California’s Japantowns, Western Preservation News, National Trust for Historic Preservation, April/May 2007, pg 7

Japanese History Lives in Buildings by Patricia Jiayi Ho, Pasadena Star News, January 1, 2007

Through the Windshield by Naomi Hirahara, January 2007

Beyond "The Big Three" Japantowns by Caroline Aoyagi-Stom, Pacific Citizen, Oct 20-Nov 2, 2006. "On any given day patrons of the Sun Café in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp District ..."

Revisiting Old Japantowns: Coalition Seeks to Document History by Patricia Jiayi Ho, San Gabriel Tribune, October 21, 2006

Communities Rediscovered: An Overview of California’s Historic Japantowns, Special Edition: Centennial of San Francisco Japantown, Nichi Bei Times, September 30, 2006

Project is Rediscovering California’s Historic Japantowns, Special Edition: Centennial of San Francisco Japantown, Nichi Bei Times, September 30, 2006

Effort Begins to Document Pasadena’s Japanese Legacy by Paricia Jiayi Ho, Pasadena Star News, September 18, 2006.