Empire Seven Studios

As many of you in the San Jose Japantown area know, Juan Carlos Araujo and Jennifer Ahn have built a unique local art gallery on the fringes of Japantown called Empire Seven Studios – so called because they are at the intersection of Empire Street and Seventh Street.

Their murals have enlivened the walls of Japantown for many years. We wouldn’t be the same without them: Santo Market’s mural inspired by Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa? The “Shanghai” building’s looming irezumi dragon?

The building they have occupied and used for a gallery for ten years, is a former meat processing plant; it’s flanked by a motorcycle shop and a tire shop. Very funky and hard-scrabble corner of the city.

Yet it looks like their landlords have sold the property to a developer, to be built up into another apartment or condominium complex. For more information on this, check http://www.sjpermits.org for PDC16-028.

The good news is that they have an opportunity to acquire one of the old buildings on the 500 block of Sixth Street, an area that is in sore need of revitalizing.

They are looking for a little help. For those who truly love Japantown and want know how they can help, here is the way. Please watch Juan and Jennifer’s video on this page:



Curtains for Empire Seven?

Looking at the City of San Jose Online Permits page, we see that a development is being planned for the area where Empire Seven studios and E.T. Tires are located.

City of San Jose Online Permits
535 N 7th Street

Planned Development Zoning from Heavy Industrial (HI) to R-M(PD) zoning district to allow for the construction of up to 92 multi-family attached units on 1.25 gross acre site.

What could this portend for the future?

Sampling Wenzhou cuisine

We were lucky enough last weekend to meet with Carol and Max and their new staff for the soft opening of their new restaurant, Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More.

Now, it’s easy for a westerner to think of Chinese food as a single category. We tend to have more experience with Cantonese cuisine, and for many North Americans, that is the definition of “Chinese Food”. In reality, there are many, many varieties of Chinese food. Some of us may be aware of the famously spicy Szechuan cuisine.

Enter Wenzhou and its cuisine. I am no expert on it – yet – but at least one dish is new to me: “Knock (or Knocked) Fish Soup”. This is made from boneless fish that has been flattened (and tenderized) by pounding and sliced into noodle-like ribbons. This is served in a lightly-flavored soup with noodles. Side condiments include white pepper and rice vinegar. Subtle and delicious!

photo 2

When we arrived at Wenzhou for the soft opening, they had been mobbed by local Wenzhou-ese and had already run out of Knock Fish. Instead, we were treated to fish ball soup, jiaozi (gyoza or pot stickers), stuffed pita, a kind of Chinese black sesame mochi, and something I wasn’t expecting: chop suey!

photo 1

Chop suey is, of course, not a native Chinese dish, but was evolved by the Chinese who came to California during the Gold Rush. It is typically based around stir-fried vegetables. This is what we see advertised in an old photo of the Ken Ying Low building on Sixth Street in San Jose’s Japantown.


Dick’s Market

This is a little removed physically from Japantown per se, but it’s very interesting, and potentially very valuable to local residents.

New plans floated for old-school San Jose motel

This is located on 4th Street, between 880 to the north and Barrett Middle school to the south.

This deserves some research, but the motel renovation may be contingent on the market next door being brought out of mothballs.

If it does become some sort of grocery again, it would bring the surrounding neighborhood out of “Food Desert” status.

It’s also next door to the long-empty Dick’s Market, more recently open as Truong Hung market.


Good news for the Nishioka building!

Yesterday, I finally met the new owners of the Nishioka building!
I have some very interesting news to share, but I caution you all: it’s VERY preliminary.

The new owners plan to restore the building and convert into a performance space. There may even be a spot for Empire Seven studios, since apparently they are faced with moving out of the space that they currently occupy.

Personally, I want to see more about this before I get too excited about it. But the really good news is that the beautiful old brick building is NOT facing the wrecking ball. Hooray!