San Jose Japantown Landmarks
Historic Markers – the Benches
Throughout Japantown are engraved granite benches that provide information about the historic significance of each site. They were designed and installed as a result of SB 307, a California Senate bill intended to preserve the Japanese-American culture in California’s three remaining Japantowns. Read them all to get a feel for what life was back then.
Ikoi No Ba
There are many other landmarks sprinkled throughout Japantown. Five distinctly different resting areas were designed to represent core parts of Japanese-American history: internment, festivities, farming, immigration, and culture. The Ikoi no Ba are peaceful places to stop, relax, and reflect on the Japanese American history and culture.
5th and Jackson Landmarks
The intersection of North Fifth and Jackson Streets is home to three key landmarks. The first is the Issei Voices, a 36 foot horizontal granite monument, that echoes the words and phrases of the first generation Issei pioneers who instilled deep, binding values and traditions in the second generation of Nisei. On the top of the monument is a timeline of historic milestones in JA history.
The Issei Pioneer stone, an 11,000 pound granite rock from Inujima Island, made the arduous voyage across the Pacific. This route symbolizes the journey of the Issei immigrants a century ago. The Issei Stone is a gift from San Jose’s Sister City, Okayama, Japan. Its strength and durability are a permanent tribute to the courage and perseverance of the Issei pioneers who settled in San Jose’s Japantown.
The Nikkei Lantern is best viewed in the darkness of the night. Guiding lights along the length of the lantern reflect the optimism of the Nikkei generations, ending at the top with a torch, symbolizing eternal hope. Etched in the bend of the lantern is ‘February 19, 1942’, the date Executive Order 9066 was signed. This bend symbolizes the profound stress and dislocations imposed upon Japanese Americans during internment.
Each landmark represents the strong community that resides within Japantown today; some of them were even created by locals such as Ken Matsumoto of ArtObject Gallery.
Civil Liberties Monument
Outside of the Issei Memorial Building is the Civil Liberties Monument. This monument complements the Internment Ikoi no Ba at the Issei Memorial Building. It is one of the three monuments commemorating the only three Japantowns remaining in the United States. The three sides of the monument depict the history and experiences common to all three Japantowns and Japanese-Americans: Immigration and Settlement, World War II Internment, and Celebration of Festivals. Each landmark honors a specific part of the Japanese-American history, and brings the current JA community closer together.