[This marker is composed of four panels, each located at one corner of the intersection of Jackson and North Fifth Streets in San Jose.]
[Panel 1, south corner]Pioneers
1890s to 1920s
During the 1890s, Nikkei (Japanese in America) migrant workers began to seek seasonal employment in the fields and orchards of Santa Clara Valley following the paths pioneered by Chinese. As the number of Chinese farm workers declined because of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese migrants were hired to meet the farming needs of this agricultural community. These migrant workers were largely single Nikkei men. By the turn of the century, these Nikkei men had formed a small Nihonmachi (Japantown) adjacent to the existing Chinatown in San Jose. Nihonmachi catered to the needs of a bachelor society by providing boarding houses, bathhouses, pool halls, and gambling establishments around Fifth and Jackson Streets. The arrival of Japanese women in the early 1900s and the subsequent growth of families led to the development of other services to meet the needs of the Issei (first generation) and Nisei (second generation). Nikkei farmers made significant contributions to the Valley's agricultural production in spite of the state's Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920 which made it illegal for the Issei to purchase or rent land. Nikkei families struggled to work on the land mainly as tenants or sharecroppers.
[Panel 2, east corner]Settlers
1920s & 1930s
The advent of families in the early 1900s changed Nihonmachi from a bachelor-oriented community to a family-oriented community. By 1930, Nihonmachi included Japanese food and retail stores, a soda works, medical offices, a hospital, a service station, and a sak?
(rice wine) brewery. Christian and Buddhist religions, as well as other civic and social groups, played and important part in the lives of the Nikkei. Weddings, funerals and festivals were held in Nihonmachi's churches or in the community hall. Special sports activities such as sum?
wrestling and baseball, held on the athletic field, were major community events. Nihonmachi grew increasingly diverse with the arrival of other ethnic groups, including Filipinos and Italians.Nihonmachi evolved as a self-sufficient, self-contained community largely because of widespread discrimination and prejudice directed against the Valley's Nikkei. On the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Issei the right to become naturalized citizens. In 1924, Congress passed the Exclusion Act, adding Japanese to the list of Asians prohibited from immigrating to the U.S. This anti-Japanese movement lead to the mass removal of Nikkei from the Santa Clara Valley and the West Coast during World War II.
[Panel 3, north corner]Internees
1942 to 1945
On the eve of World War II, Nikkei farmers were making steady economic gains even in a continuing climate of discrimination and distrust. The events of December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor fueled anti-Japanese sentiments and dashed hard-fought Nikkei progress toward self-determination. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced removal of all person of Japanese ancestry along the West Coast. As a consequence, over 110,000 Nikkei - women and men, the elderly and children, citizen and noncitizen - were summarily evicted from their homes and confined in ten concentration camps in isolated areas of the American interior from 1942 to 1945. This action was later recognized as an unprecedented violation of Japanese American civil rights, motivated by "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership," by the U.S. Government.Strong anti-Japanese feelings continued through the war years. While the Santa Clara Valley Nikkei were interned, most at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming, other groups filled the farm labor need, took over Nikkei land, and settled in Nihonmachi. Local governments of San Jose, Morgan Hill and Santa Clara County passed resolutions in May, 1943 opposing the return of Nikkei to the Valley. Despite that sentiment, Nikkei returned to San Jose and Santa Clara Valley to rebuild their lives and their community.
[Panel 4, west corner]
1945 to 1980s
By 1947, most of Santa Clara Valley's Nikkei had returned to the West Coast. Many has lost land or property during their absence and had to begin again, although a great number were unable to regain their former positions. Through the strength and perseverance of the Nikkei, San Jose's Nihonmachi once again became the center of Japanese culture in the Valley. Religious and cultural festivals were reestablished, and new community organizations and activities begun by the Nisei and Sansei (third generation), building upon traditions of the Issei.In the 1980s, the U.S. Congress and local governments of San Jose and Santa Clara County publicly expressed regret over their role in the wrongs of World War II. Efforts were launched to bring recognition and life to Nihonmachi.