Japantown in Downtown San Jose
Any time is a good time to visit San Jose’s historic and lovely Japantown, but never is it more fun than during the annual Obon Festival!
This year, 2016, the Obon Festival will take place July 9th (noon – 10pm) and 10th (noon – 8pm).
What does Obon mean? The word means lantern but the festival is very ancient, more than 2,000 years old, and the celebration is in honor of one’s ancestors.
You’ll find delicious food, tables with goodies to buy, Taiko drumming (3 different groups per day), games to play, the Chidori Band, and dancers in colorful costumes.
Returning visitors, you’ll see something new in 2016! For many years, the San Jose Buddhist Church community has been running a major capital campaign to build a new annex or gym. It was begun just after Obon 2015 and as of last week, it was completed – awaiting only the city’s building department to grant finals on the permits.
Because this is an immensely popular event, it’s advisable to carpool and use the website link below to check on parking options and shuttles.
The location is the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, 640 N 5th Street, San Jose (easiest freeway access is 87 to the Taylor exit).
See the lineup of performers at the church’s website:
San Jose’s Japantown is not just a neighborhood, but a community with a strong history. Only three Japantowns still exist in the US, and San Jose’s Japantown is the only one that remains in its original location. Issei (first generation immigrants) were drawn to the Santa Clara Valley in the late 1800s for agriculture, and somewhere between 1890 and 1900 they founded Japantown, also called Nihonmachi, next to the site of San Jose’s second Chinatown, known as Heinlenville, which no longer stands. It became a cultural center, safe from the hostile anti-immigrant attitudes of the time. Stores sold familiar products, there were restaurants, boarding houses, social clubs and sports, a bath house, and work and recreation for the Japanese pioneers. As with other groups, the first immigrants from Japan were mostly male, so this “bachelor society” also entertained in gambling houses and brothels.
Many newcomers to the San Jose & Silicon Valley areas want to buy new homes (or newer ones). Santa Clara County, though, had a big “building boom” after World War II ranging from the 1940s through the 70s. At the end of the building frenzy, most of the land was taken. More importantly, most of the really good land was built up.
How old is the “average” San Jose home for sale? Probably about 45 – 50 years old, on average. Depending on where you’re looking, precisely, the homes could be younger or older on average.
There are some nice communities of new and younger homes in Silicon Valley, but there aren’t a lot of them. Most of the new home communities have houses on small lots. Some are near high voltage power lines (homes on Taft in San Jose’s Cambrian Park area) or next to freeways (Summerhill development off Samaritan Drive in San Jose).
I have been fortunate to have made 5 trips to Europe, one of them lasting 9 months, and will be returning again before the end of 2013 (this time to Belgium). It is so diverse, beautiful and compelling! Having experienced a little culture shock myself (when living in Florence, Italy, for one year of university), I’m very sympathetic about how hard an international move can be, and I understand that for Europeans moving to Silicon Valley, there can be an acute culture shock, particularly for those coming from more rural areas.
The bulk of Silicon Valley is located in Santa Clara County, which is at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay. In this county, there are approximately 1.8 million people, almost a million of them in the city of San Jose. Some areas, or districts, of San Jose have a distinctive character and are almost like towns or small cities themselves. So in this article I’ll mention both cities and towns, but also areas or districts of San Jose, which might appeal to our European transplants. Most of my comments will reference Santa Clara County or “south bay” locations, but I will also mention others on the San Francisco Peninsula and SF Bay Area too.
Architecture, Urban Centers and Charm
It is an unfortunate negative in Silicon Valley that much of our housing consists of ranch style tract homes, and truthfully, they are not exactly a work of art. New or newer homes tend to be on very tiny parcels of land (or “lots”) and for many people may simply feel too congested or crowded. But there are beautiful residential neighborhoods – you just need to know where to look! In many ways, the areas with higher charm can make our global home buyers feel more comfortable than if they were faced with only track, ranch neighborhoods.
Do you value unique, older architecture with Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor or other home styles? Then check out these areas:
- Within San Jose: the Japantown, Vendome, and Naglee Park areas of downtown San Jose. Also in central San Jose are the Rosegarden, Shasta Hanchett and Burbank neighborhoods which all boast some lovely older homes. Or, if you love classic Spanish Revival style homes with views, consider the old Alum Rock area of San Jose near the country club (golf course). The Willow Glen area of SJ (zip code 95120) is full of lovely old established neighborhoods with historic homes and tree lined streets. If your job takes you to downtown San Jose, all of these areas will be fairly close.
Please read the rest of this article on the Move2SiliconValley.com website:
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of working with some past clients in purchasing a home in downtown San Jose’s Japantown neighborhood. Their street is full of bungalows and gracious 1920s or 1930s Spanish Revival style homes. With a wide road and an enormous “sidewalk strip” and beautiful trees, just a look down the street is like a look back in time.
The home that my friends bought had a lot of wonderful exterior touches and a few interior ones that are reminiscent of the era. (This is fun real estate to see and sell!) A walk into the bathroom, though, really just takes your breath away if you love older, historic homes. In this post I’ll share a few large photos of this very cool, classic tiled bathroom and indicate why a bathroom like this is so special. Please continue on to see several photos!