The first of four historical markers recognizing the former existence of a Japantown in Alameda near Oakland is being unveiled Wednesday, November 16.
The Alameda Sun reports the project aims to connect current Japanese American community sites with past Japantown businesses.
The first-generation Issei immigrant came to the island city at the turn of the 20th Century. They made the area bounded by Park Street, Santa Clara Avenue, Walnut Street and the Estuary their home.
According to CaliforniaJapantowns.org, at its peak 822 Japanese residents settled in the area in the 1930s. The site lists 80 businesses connected to the community. Those include two churches and two Japanese schools.
By the 1940s, the community supported four florists, four nurseries, eight cleaners & laundry services, and six shoe repair stores.
The site says nearly three-fourths of the pre-war Japantown still remains today, but is largely hidden.
The so-called Tonarigumi or neighborhood project will put the area back into the limelight.
The Issei encountered many hardships, according to Downtown Alameda.com.
They faced anti-immigration laws in the 20s, increased animosity in the 30s and then forced imprisonment in the 40’s during WWII.
Tonarigumi is a joint project between the city, Buena Vista United Methodist Church and the Buddhist Temple of Alameda.
The four markers are divided into four themes, says the Alameda Sun.
“Traces of Alameda Japantown” at the Alameda Marketplace
• “Life that Connects Us All” at the Buddhist Temple of Alameda
• “Becoming a Japantown” at the City of Alameda Free Library
• “A Beacon of Light” at Buena Vista Methodist United Church
The November 16th ceremony begins at 4:30 at the Alameda Marketplace.
Today there are only three Japantowns left in the nation in San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles.
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