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.

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