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

Community Profiles

›› Choose any of the following links to view a sample of what we've discovered in selected communities: Berkeley, Florin, Fresno, Guadalupe, Lodi, Long Beach, Marysville, Monterey, Oakland, Orange County, Oxnard, Pasadena, Petaluma, Placer County, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Sawtelle, Terminal Island, Vacaville, Walnut Grove, and Watsonville.

Project Director Donna Graves and Project Manager Jill Shiraki have completed historic resource surveys in forty-three Japantowns throughout California.

Our primary sources are detailed community listings from directories published just prior to WWII by Nikkei newspapers Rafu Shimpo, based in Los Angeles, and the Japanese American News, based in San Francisco. Because the number of communities we have chosen is ambitious, our field surveys focus on the public spaces of historic Japantowns that served as gathering spots and symbols of the community. These include churches, temples, offices and meetings spaces for community and cultural organizations, businesses, farms and recreational landscapes such as ballfields and parks.

We have been fortunate to find enthusiastic support throughout the state as we pursue our research. Nisei in many communities have guided us through the Japantowns of their youth, providing critical information and insights that add immeasurably to the published and archival record. Staff in libraries and archives have generously opened their collections to us. Community members who care about preservation and local history have joined the effort by sharing important sources of information or volunteering to conduct surveys in selected areas.

"We had several holidays. One was Hana Matsuri, the Fourth of July, and Emperor Meiji's celebration. The streets were so crowded with Japanese during these times that you could hardly walk on the streets of Japantown."
— Pedro Hamada on Walnut Grove in the 1930s.


"I grew up in Marysville before WWII in Japantown. I loved the Japanese community, which was located next to the levee. My dad had an ice cream parlour and my grandparents had a boarding house. Unfortunately we lost both while we were interned in Tule Lake. "
— Toshiye (Maruyama) Kawam