Obon Festival in Japantown

Buddhist Temple in Japantown

The Buddhist Temple in San Jose’s Japantown – one of only 3 Japantowns in the US

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:



Banner for the Obon Festival and link to the Buddhist Church of San Jose's web page for the event

San Jose’s Japantown: living history

Buddhist Temple in Japantown

The Buddhist Temple in San Jose’s Japantown – one of only 3 Japantowns in the US

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.


Consider location issues broadly when deciding where you’d like to live in Silicon Valley

Waves of flowersOften home buyers assess real estate location issues based on only a few criteria, such as being within a particular zip code or school district, or opposed to a few things, such as busy roads, high voltage power lines or commercial properties.  Either approach can be too narrow (or too broad), so I’d like to suggest a few more elements to for factoring into the Silicon Valley neighborhood search.

  • Look at the street and several blocks surrounding it: are the homes and yards maintained?  Are there too many cars parked on the road or in driveways? Are there eyesores?
  • The nearby housing types and quality will impact properties values in the surrounding area.  If a house is too close to an apartment building, the apartment will hurt the value of the house.  If a small house is surrounded by larger, more expensive ones, they will pull the value of the small house up.  The old adage that it’s best to be the least expensive property in a more expensive area is true. So is the reverse.
  • Check sites such as CrimeReports.com to see how safe it is generally
  • You may also want to check the Megan’s Law database online too
  • Consider positive attributes, such as the walkscore or walkability.  You may not want to buy a house right next to a 7-11, but having one 3 blocks away may be very convenient for you (and good for resale value).
  • Also consider access to commute routes and transportation. The newest “plus” for a given location could be the bus stops for commuters working for Google or Apple.  Convenience is highly prized in Silicon Valley, hence the eternal popularity of homes in Santa Clara, for instance. (more…)

Spanish Revival Style Home in Japantown Features Classic Tile Bathroom

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!


Live Glassblowing Demonstration in Japantown this Friday, August 28th at 8pm

During the fabulous Obon Festival in July, my husband and I popped into Wunderboy Glass and Mechanica in Japantown (San Jose) and happened upon them doing live glassblowing. The photos below were from that day, July 12th. Pics weren’t planned so were taken with my treo – quality not the best but hope you enjoy them nonetheless!




Today I got an email from them, stating that Wunderboy Glass and Mechanica is hosting a live glassblowing this Friday evening at 8pm; it will be hosted at Art Object Gallery in Japantown – a great area full of shops and restaurants, so go early and enjoy a meal in the neighborhood first. (Address: 592 North Fifth Street San Jose, CA 95112) Since we enjoyed watching them, I wanted to let you know about it too.

Additionally, Also on Friday evening, in the Art Object Annex Gallery, you will also be able to see and purchase our glass work along with work by some of the South Bay Areas best known artists. Pieces by Luis Gutierrez, Reid Winfrey, Sara Cole, Joe Sax, Randy Shiroma, Ken Matsumoto, Mario Uribe and Rachel Lazo.




You will also have the opportunity to preview work by members of the Women’s Caucus for Art, whose opening will occur on Saturday from 6-9pm in the Art Object Main Gallery.  If you’re anywhere in Silicon Valley, this is a worthwhile event!




San Jose Neighborhoods Make Walkscore’s Most Walkable List – Top 40 Cities in US!

Silicon Valley, which consists of San Jose in large part, is sprawling city. We have lousy public transportation (though it’s getting better) and one of the unfortunate hallmarks of San Jose or Santa Clara County as a whole is that you really need a car to get around here.

Don’t tell Walkscore. They just ranked a few San Jose neighborhoods on the “most walkable” list in the country. Walk – in San Jose? OK, we do have 300 sunny days a year and only about 20″ of rain per year, so walking is pleasant. But where can you really live and walk and not use a car?
Walkscore put San Jose’s Buena Vista, Rosegarden, and Burbank neighborhoods at #17 of the top 40 US cities for walkability. No, I’m not kidding.

Does this surprise you? It does me, and I’m a valley native.

Walkable areas: I’d have said San Jose’s Willow Glen area, the original Cambrian Village area of Cambrian Park (lots of homes near lots of shops) as well as other Silicon Valley neighborhoods. There are several walkable areas in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, Santa Clara
(esp near the University of Santa Clara. There’s a lot of walk-to in downtown areas in San Jose such as Japantown and Nagelee Park, though in fairness they are needing a large grocery store there.