Kinmon Gakuen
2031 Bush Street

Kinmon Gakuen is one of the oldest structures and cultural organizations in San Francisco’s Japantown. The school currently operates a weekly Japanese language education program, and houses Nihonmachi Little Friends, a bilingual day care center. The building has undergone several renovations since its inception. It has six mid-sized rooms, and includes a kitchen, a social hall, a library, and an auditorium.

In the late 1800s, a core group of San Francisco Japanese associations gathered to address the community’s need for a Japanese educational system, motivated largely by an 1895 school exclusion law passed by the San Francisco Board of Education, which made it difficult for children of Japanese ancestry to attend public schools. Through fundraising and donations, Kinmon Gakuen (literally translated, "Golden Gate School") was officially opened on January 18, 1911, offering elementary through high school-level courses.

On March 20, 1925 architect William C. Hays’ building design was approved and the building was completed on April 11, 1926. Many Japanese Americans in San Francisco were ordered to report to Kinmon Gakuen to register for the evacuation on April 24, 1942, and the site served as the gathering place for one of the main contingents of evacuees to the Tanforan Assembly Center. During World War II, the school was shut down and re-opened in 1949. For several decades Kinmon Gakuen served not only as a school, but as a cultural educational center and as a movie house on Saturdays showing Japanese films, plays and other community events. At its height, over 400 students attended the school. Kinmon Gakuen also holds the distinction of having been visited by many members of the Imperial Family of Japan. Kinmon Gakuen is now only open on Saturdays, but remains as a center for community programs and events and is a historical landmark for the Japanese American community.