I just read an interesting webpage that speaks clearly to the cultural dilemma faced in San José’s Japantown.
San Jose’s Japantown remains the only traditional “Japanese Town” that has not gone through urban renewal. The streets and shops (though modernized) still look as they did in 1940. Many longtime stores such as the Kogura Gifts, still are family owned and operated. However, it is unknown how much longer this most “rural” of the Japantowns will remain in its present state. Those involved in the community continue to voice many different questions about the fate of their community.
Some of the main areas of concern are:
- Concerns that the community will be “over-run” by non-Japanese Americans who will take away opportunities for Japanese Americans to carry out their cultural or social traditions, and possibly challenge existing Japanese and Japanese American oriented businesses. There are conflicting feelings regarding the need to “market” Nihonmachi to appeal to a more diverse base of the region’s population while trying to retain the Japanese American character of Nihonmachi intact.
- Concerns that the decline of the Japanese American population and the dispersal or assimilation of the remaining population will lead to loss of customers for the business in Nihonmachi and involvement in the various organizations and activities of the community. Some family run businesses that trace their origins to the pre-World War II period are concerned that their children will not continue with the family business and other individuals wonder if Nihonmachi will have relevancy to the interests or needs of future generations.
- Concerns that local Japanese American history and the values and heritage many Japanese Americans wish to preserve will be forgotten and lost to society. This includes future physical development of historic structures in the neighborhood as well as cultural and social practices. Efforts continue in this area to secure city and state support to help with economic development plans and to create public projects that emphasize the unique cultural contributions of Nihonmachi. San Jose’s Japanese American community has historically faced many challenges. It adapted to major changes spanning many different political, economic and social issues. Today’s community will continue to change and develop as we move into a new century.
If I may add that San Jose’s Japantown is not a theme park, but it is a tourist attraction, in a city that is not rich in tourist attractions.
People don’t jam the streets of Japantown on Friday and Saturday nights in search of sushi – there are actually better sushi restaurants in other parts of the Bay Area.
They are in search of the inspiration that only Japanese culture can give to Silicon Valley.