Chinatowns and Other Asian-American Enclaves
Nihonmachi or Japantowns
by David Johnson
There are three remaining Japantowns of any size in the United States, located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose, California.
Although it is only six blocks long, San Francisco's Japantown remains an important hub for the city's 12,000 residents of Japanese origin. The area, west of Union Square, began attracting Japanese after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed much of the original Japantown south of Market Street. The five-acre complex of stores and restaurants known as the Japan Center is heart of Japantown. It houses a movie theater, hotels, suchi bars, and Japanese baths.
The Japanese community in Los Angeles is centered near downtown and is known as Little Tokyo. A cultural center, a theater troupe, the Japanese American National Museum, and a number of stores and restaurants attract visitors while providing a hub for the large Japanese-American community living throughout Southern California.
The Japanese community began settling around Jackson and Taylor Avenues, near Chinatown, around the turn of the century. Most of its residents were single men working as fruit and vegetable harvesters.
The Gentleman's Agreement of 1907 between the United States and Japan allowed the wives and children of men in the United States to emigrate. This swelled the ranks of the Japanese and turned Japantown into a more complete community, with a school, a Buddhist temple, and a Methodist Church.
Unlike most Japantowns, the area rebounded after World War II and today features stores, restaurants, and professional offices. There is also a farmer's market selling vegetables, baked goods, and flowers.