Japantowns Disappearing

January 14, 2006

On an unrelated note, I was watching TV the other day and saw this dumb beer commercial. Has anyone seen it? A martial arts master with a long beard (of course), teaches a white dude -- through rigorous discipline and punishment ala Kill Bill --how to pour Bud Light. Damn, can't I watch TV without some annoying image/stereotype? Apparently not.


Melissa Hung

Founding Editor

Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. A native Texan, she lives in California. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.



As sad as it is to see any cultural center disappear or greatly diminish, I wonder how much of the sentimentality considers the reality of people living there, ie it's one thing to consider it a tourist attraction or curiosity and another to be living next to the projects in the middle of the city (which is where J-town in SF is- first time I visited there I half-intercepted a pair of Black kids who had just snatched a purse from an older Japanese woman- they dropped it as they past me and kept going without hesitation into Western Addition) or otherwise actively being a part of any geography-reliant community.I may be totally off-base here, but to contrast with other Asia-towns and thereby Asian nations, Japan is perhaps the most affluent Asian nation with major business dealings in the USA; Japanese immigrants, in my limited experience, are coming over for white collar jobs or art school so aren't as restricted financially in where they choose to live or work. I think once we get away from contrasting White v. Asian cultures in America we will see there are some serious socioeconomic factors at work in ways that aren't being held down by The (Euro) Man.As noted in the SFChronicle article, if the younger generations are not inclined to keep up certain traditions, at what point do traditions, even presented as part of Japantown and Japanese culture, turn into Japanese American culture? And when does that continuing evolution become more important than maintaining traditions if they are reduced to being field trips to Japanese for Japanese Americans and other cultural tourists?
Yeah, it's a series of ads. The previous one involved keeping the swill in a cool, dry place, out of sunlight. Doesn't help that I'm a beer snob, and that their pouring instructions don't help the beer at all, and only induces a head for appearance's sake. Now compound that with the Mystic Orient stereotypes, and you've got a winner.I'm an East Coast guy, but enjoyed the Japantowns in LA and SF. Would be very sad to see them shrink into nothingness.
Here's an interesting story about a culture clash over the concession stand contract for the Japanese Tea Garden at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.A Chinese American business owner has the contract now, but a Japantown restaurant owner wants to take over and add more culturally sensitive items to the cafe menu and the store.