J-Town Beatdown

November 5, 2004

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…




For ISEA, we are planning a new media art project with seniors, perhaps in J-Town?
todd, is sj j-town unique? i can't imagine that that many sizable, non-commercialized j-towns survive today. it's kind of like asking about the survival of any traditionally structured ethnic neighborhood, asian or not. the very structure of our inner cities, especially in overpopulated california, is changing. it's not just the usual cycle of gentrification anymore; values and class-wide desires and goals are changing; people, families, want more and more to be able to live in safe, amenity-laden inner-city areas, rather than be relegated to suburbs.so the old cycle of new immigrant groups replacing the old in traditionally immigrant areas is getting broken in a lot of places. the sf mission district every year has less room for subsequent waves of immigration from latin american countries. the richmond isn't so much an ethnic enclave as it is the bleedout of one of three dominant ethnicities in the area.i wonder what it's looking like in other points of entry, like l.a. and nyc.
definitely unique in its denizens and heart-- very down home. we should do a field trip during edit retreat