Some concessions are inevitable as the core population grows older and the younger generation takes off to college rather than taking over the family business. I asked rhetorically if P.F. Chang’s opened a restaurant on an undeveloped corner, would it be a good idea? Ota said no. It’d take away from the character of the neighborhood and damage longtime businesses that stuck it out. He’d just as soon lie down in front of the tractor to prevent it from happening. The panel agreed.
But the other J-Towns have things ours don't—like an arts and community center. This seems to be a key ingredient missing from the mix. Panelists talked about this fictional building like little kids talk about their dream car—what it would look like, how it could hold lectures and classes, host performances by local and international acts. It could be the artistic and cultural hub of the neighborhood. Pre and post-war, J-town had dance, sumo and movies. Today, it’s heavy with dining and retail but shuts down after 10pm (save the karaoke bar and Hawaiian restaurant). The local Asian American performing arts group CATS has to put on shows away from J-Town at old venues with little parking. Imagine being able to park, eat and walk to a performance, knowing that your car is safe. It seems like a simple request yet given San Jose city politics, a lofty goal.
Of course it all comes down to money. Where are all the dot commers who grew up playing ball in CYS then made a mint in technology? Where are the Japanese American entrepreneurs with extra cash to flow? It’s like Japantown is your parent’s house, said SJ Arts Commission member Ben Miyaji. You can go away yet come home every couple months to eat, do laundry and nobody asks anything from you. It could be time to start charging for soap and water, washing and folding…