Kimonos, getas and manjus – oh my! Japantowns in the U.S. are an endangered species, but San Jose’s is alive and kicking. Just north of downtown, this historic – and still authentic — neighborhood features outstanding Japanese restaurants, Asian performing arts, martial arts schools and places of worship such as the beautiful San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin. Hear the strains of bittersweet traditional Japanese music, or upbeat modern sounds as you walk around J-town, which features great gems like Santo Market, a mom & pop joint filled with everything Japanese and Hawaiian, as well as florists, novelty shops, unique gift shops such as Nikaku (for all you anime fans out there) and a farmers market on Sunday mornings. Unlike L.A.’s and San Francisco’s Japantowns, here you can still buy homemade tofu and manju (a Japanese pastry). The Japanese American Museum, set to re-open in early 2010, after a major expansion, will feature 6,400 square feet of permanent and rotating exhibits and community activities. Japanese culture is also celebrated with live events, such as the Obon Festival in mid- July, featuring two days of game booths, food booths, cultural exhibits and demonstrations, and more than 1,000 dancers in full costume each evening, swaying under a canopy of colorful lanterns to live music from the Chidori Band and San Jose Taiko. Adventurous visitors can learn the dances ahead of time, with lessons beginning in late June at the San Jose Buddhist Church. During the festival visitors can find stores selling kimonos and geta slippers to blend in with the scene. If you’re an ethnic culture vulture, J-town is an experience you won’t want to miss!