“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
San Jose in Santa Clara County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)



Nihonmachi Marker - Pioneers (Panel 1) image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
1. Nihonmachi Marker - Pioneers (Panel 1)
[Photo captions, clockwise from the top left:]

New arrivals Mrs. Kinura (l) and Nonoshi Miwa (r) pictured here in c.1907. Issei women worked in the valley’s fields and canneries, contributing significantly to the family’s income. (Photo courtesy of Joe Y. Akahoshi)

Issei pioneer Yuwakichi Sakauye, picking pears. Mr. Sakauye and many other Nikkei farmer’s developed new varieties of fruit, vegetables, and flowers. (Photo courtesy of Eiichi Sakauye)

Riichi Nishimura at the corner of Sixth 7 Jackson Sts. in 1910 delivering his produce to market. ( Photo courtesy of Hideko Morishita)

Yamato Bathhouse on Sixth St., pictured here on New Year’s Day 1911, was typical of the period, serving the needs of transient men. (Photo courtesy of Kenemoto Collection and California History Center Archives).
[This marker is composed of four panels, each located at one corner of the intersection of Jackson and North Fifth Streets in San Jose.]

[Panel 1, south corner]
1890s to 1920s
During the 1890s, Nikkei (Japanese in America) migrant workers began to seek seasonal employment in the fields and orchards of Santa Clara Valley following the paths pioneered by Chinese. As the number of Chinese farm workers declined because of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese migrants were hired to meet the farming needs of this agricultural community. These migrant workers were largely single Nikkei men. By the turn of the century, these Nikkei men had formed a small Nihonmachi (Japantown) adjacent to the existing Chinatown in San Jose. Nihonmachi catered to the needs of a bachelor society by providing boarding houses, bathhouses, pool halls, and gambling establishments around Fifth and Jackson Streets. The arrival of Japanese women in the early 1900s and the subsequent growth of families led to the development of other services to meet the needs of the Issei (first generation) and Nisei (second generation). Nikkei farmers made significant contributions to the Valley’s agricultural production in spite of the state’s Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920 which made it illegal for the Issei
Nihonmachi Marker - Settlers (Panel 2) image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
2. Nihonmachi Marker - Settlers (Panel 2)
[Photo captions, clockwise from the top left:]

Sumó tournament in the athletic field at Sixth and Jackson Sts. Sports events such as these attracted large crowds and provided opportunities for socializing and revelry. (Photo courtesy of Bill Kogura)

San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, 630 N. Fifth St., under construction during the 1930s. This structure, employing authentic Buddhist design, was constructed by two leading builders, brothers Gentaro and Shinzaburo Nishiura. (Photo courtesy of Masuo Akizuki)

Kuwabara Hospital, 565 N. Fifth St., served the medical needs of the Nikkie community from 1910 to 1933. During the 1980s the structure was renovated and renamed the Issei Memorial Building as a legacy “for future generations.” (Photo courtesy of Grant Shimizu)

The San Jose Asahi baseball team in c.1920. The all-star team was widely known in Nikkei communities throughout northern California. (Photo courtesy of Kawahara Family, Kanemoto Collection, and California History Center Archives)
to purchase or rent land. Nikkei families struggled to work on the land mainly as tenants or sharecroppers.

[Panel 2, east corner]
1920s & 1930s
The advent of families in the early 1900s changed Nihonmachi from a bachelor-oriented community to a family-oriented community. By 1930, Nihonmachi included Japanese food and retail stores, a soda works, medical offices, a hospital, a service station, and a saké (rice wine) brewery. Christian and Buddhist religions, as well as other civic and social groups, played and important part in the lives of the Nikkei. Weddings, funerals and festivals were held in Nihonmachi’s churches or in the community hall. Special sports activities such as sumó wrestling and baseball, held on the athletic field, were major community events. Nihonmachi grew increasingly diverse with the arrival of other ethnic groups, including Filipinos and Italians. Nihonmachi evolved as a self-sufficient, self-contained community largely because of widespread discrimination and prejudice directed against the Valley’s Nikkei. On the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Issei the right to become naturalized citizens. In 1924, Congress passed the Exclusion Act, adding Japanese to the list of Asians prohibited from immigrating to the U.S. This anti-Japanese movement lead to the mass removal
Nihonmachi Marker - Internees (Panel 3) image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
3. Nihonmachi Marker - Internees (Panel 3)
[Photo captions, clockwise from the top left:]

Leaving Heart Mountain, May 1943. Although the vast majority were confined until 1945, selected Nikkei were permitted out of the camps to work or continue their college education. (Photo courtesy of Masuo Akiznki)

Obsón religious festival at Heart Mountain in 1943 was celebrated despite the fact that during the war Japanese culture was viewed as anti-American. (Photo courtesy of Masaryi Kastlu)

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team receiving the Presidential Unit Citation. Thousands of Japanese-Americans served with great distinction in the U.S. forces during World War II. (Photo courtesy of Chester Tanaka and the National Japanese-American Historical Society)

Nikkei farming at Heart Mountain concentration camp. Santa Clara Valley Nikkei introduced agriculture into a dry and unproductive region of Wyoming. (Photo courtesy of Sakanye Family and California History Center Archives)
of Nikkei from the Santa Clara Valley and the West Coast during World War II.

[Panel 3, north corner]
1942 to 1945
On the eve of World War II, Nikkei farmers were making steady economic gains even in a continuing climate of discrimination and distrust. The events of December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor fueled anti-Japanese sentiments and dashed hard-fought Nikkei progress toward self-determination. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced removal of all person of Japanese ancestry along the West Coast. As a consequence, over 110,000 Nikkei - women and men, the elderly and children, citizen and noncitizen – were summarily evicted from their homes and confined in ten concentration camps in isolated areas of the American interior from 1942 to 1945. This action was later recognized as an unprecedented violation of Japanese American civil rights, motivated by “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” by the U.S. Government. Strong anti-Japanese feelings continued through the war years. While the Santa Clara Valley Nikkei were interned, most at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming, other groups filled the farm labor need, took over Nikkei land, and settled in Nihonmachi. Local governments of San Jose, Morgan
Nihonmachi Marker - Heirs (Panel 4) image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
4. Nihonmachi Marker - Heirs (Panel 4)
[Photo captions, clockwise from the top left:]

The San Jose Tiako Group, formed in 1973 by mostly Sansei musicians, blends the rhythms of Japan with the rhythms found in America – African, Latin and Filipino – using the instruments of their ancestral past. (Photo courtesy of Curtis Fukuda and San Jose Tiako Group)

Day of Remembrance. Each year the Nikkei community pays tribute to the 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry incarcerated during World War II, to ensure that the injustice be neither forgotten nor repeated. (Photo courtesy of Gary Jio and the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee)

The emblem chosen for Nihonmachi is a plum blossom set against a furrowed field. The history of the Nikkei immigrants and their descendants is one of perseverance, symbolized by the plum blossom, and the struggle intimately tied to the land, represented by the furrowed field. (Emblem designed by Pamela Matsuoka)

Nikkei Maturi, began in 1978 by Nisei, was organized to preserve and promote Nikkei culture in the Santa Clara Valley. This annual spring festival celebrates Nikkei creativity and vitality, and continues the heritage of Nihonmachi community-wide events. (Photo courtesy of Nikkei Matsuri)
Hill and Santa Clara County passed resolutions in May, 1943 opposing the return of Nikkei to the Valley. Despite that sentiment, Nikkei returned to San Jose and Santa Clara Valley to rebuild their lives and their community.

[Panel 4, west corner]

1945 to 1980s
By 1947, most of Santa Clara Valley’s Nikkei had returned to the West Coast. Many has lost land or property during their absence and had to begin again, although a great number were unable to regain their former positions. Through the strength and perseverance of the Nikkei, San Jose’s Nihonmachi once again became the center of Japanese culture in the Valley. Religious and cultural festivals were reestablished, and new community organizations and activities begun by the Nisei and Sansei (third generation), building upon traditions of the Issei. In the 1980s, the U.S. Congress and local governments of San Jose and Santa Clara County publicly expressed regret over their role in the wrongs of World War II. Efforts were launched to bring recognition and life to Nihonmachi.
Location. 37° 20.938′ N, 121° 53.662′ W. Marker is in San Jose, California, in Santa Clara County. Marker is at the intersection of Jackson Street and North Fifth Street on Jackson Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: San Jose CA 95112, United States of America.
Other nearby markers.
Nihonmachi Marker, panel 1 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
5. Nihonmachi Marker, panel 1
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mr. Peckham (a few steps from this marker); Taihei Hotel (within shouting distance of this marker); Tom & Mary’s Snack Shop & Dr. Watanabe’s Office (within shouting distance of this marker); Jackson Drugs (within shouting distance of this marker); Dobashi Market (within shouting distance of this marker); Kawakami Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Hori Midwife House (within shouting distance of this marker); Takalkni Printing (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in San Jose.
Also see . . .
1. The Exclusion of the Ethnic Japanese from the US West Coast in 1942. (Submitted on February 10, 2012, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.)
2. Return to the Valley. After World War II ended, Japanese Americans returned at a time when there was a scarcity of labor. Many who ran their own farms had to become migrant farm workers. Those who had strong friendships with local families who promised to care for their land and property found their farms intact. (Submitted on February 12, 2012.) 
Categories. Asian AmericansWar, World II
Nihonmachi Marker, panel 3 image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
6. Nihonmachi Marker, panel 3
Panel 2, opposite.
Nihonmachi (Japantown) image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
7. Nihonmachi (Japantown)
Ken Ying Low Building image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
8. Ken Ying Low Building
Garden next to the Buddhist Temple image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, January 30, 2012
9. Garden next to the Buddhist Temple
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 765 times since then and 96 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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