History of the Japanese in San Francisco

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There is a Japanese American and a Japanese national population in San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area.


The history of the Japanese in San Francisco begins in 1869 when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in San Francisco Bay.[1] In 1900 there were 90 Japanese businesses. By 1909 this figure increased to 545.[1]

San Jose's Japantown was founded due to the need of combining comradeship and resources to survive as immigrants in the United States. Initially, it was known as Heinlenville Chinatown between Jackson and Taylor east of Sixth Street. However, John Heinlen offered his own property for the new location after the city's second Chinatown burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. Despite outrage from the general public, Mr Heinlen built a new Chinatown entirely of brick. He then rented these buildings to the Chinese at very low rates.[2]

Japanese Americans in the process of being removed from San Francisco during World War II.

During World War II, San Francisco saw the largest and oldest enclave of Japanese outside of Japan, Japantown, completely empty out many of its residents as a result of Executive Order 9066 that forced all Japanese of birth or descent in the United States to be interned. By 1943 many large sections of the neighborhood remained vacant due to the forced internment.

Following the war, some Japanese Americans returned, followed by new Japanese immigrants as well as investment from the Japanese Government and Japanese companies. However, many did not return to the neighborhood and instead settled in other parts of the city, or out to the suburbs altogether. This was further exacerbated by the city's efforts to rejuvenate the neighborhood initiated by Justin Herman in the Western Addition in the 1960s through the 1980s.[3]


The Fukuin Kai opened in 1877. The book San Francisco's Japantown stated that this was believed to be the first Japanese organization in the United States.[1]


The San Francisco Japanese School (SFJS) is a Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT)-designated weekend Japanese school serving the area. The school system, headquartered in San Francisco, rents classrooms in four schools serving a total of over 1,600 students as of 2016; two of the schools are in San Francisco and two are in the South Bay. For elementary students it operates out of the A.P. Giannini Middle School in San Francisco and The Harker School Blackford Campus in San Jose. For junior high school and high school students it operates out of Lowell High School in San Francisco and the J.F. Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino.[4]

MEXT also defines the Grossman Academy Japanese Language School as an official weekend school.[5] The academy has its offices in Fremont and its classes are held in Palo Alto.[6]

Saniku Gakuin in Japan has an affiliated weekend Japanese school, the Saniku Gakuin Japanese School in Santa Clara, California (三育学院サンタクララ校 San'iku Gakuin Santakurara Kō). It holds its classes at Latimer Elementary School in San Jose.[7]

Kinmon Gakuen (金門学園) is a Japanese language school in San Francisco, established in 1911.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  • San Francisco's Japantown. Arcadia Publishing, 2005. ISBN 073853059X, 9780738530598.


  1. ^ a b c San Francisco's Japantown, p. 7.
  2. ^ http://www.japantownsanjose.org/history.html
  3. ^ Jofuku, Linda (August 31, 2005). "Preserving Japantown is about people, not just property". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  4. ^ "About San Francisco Japanese School." San Francisco Japanese School. Retrieved on September 27, 2016.
  5. ^ "北米の補習授業校一覧(平成25年4月15日現在)." (Archive) MEXT. Retrieved on May 5, 2014.
  6. ^ "Welcome." Grossman Academy. Retrieved on April 1, 2015.
  7. ^ "三育学院への来校方法." Saniku Gakuin Japanese School in Santa Clara, California. Retrieved on April 1, 2015. ""

Further reading[edit]

  • Kiefer, Christie W. Changing Cultures, Changing Lives: An Ethnographic Study of Three Generations of Japanese Americans. California: Jossey Bass Publishers, 1974. See profile at Google Books.