Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Adventures in Japantown de San Jose

Now I can say that I've been to every Japantown in the United States, and I've been two 2/3rds of them during the course of less than 24 hours. This week, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a very offensive and biased article (and they wonder why the paper is on the verge of collapse) about our Japantown, one of my favorite parts of the city. It had statements on the order of "Collectively, however, the malls feel overstuffed and redundant." Overstuffed and redundant is a description that could be applied to Asia in general and Tokyo in particular, or at least to those of such a narrow world view.

Part of what I love about San Francisco's Japantown is that it feels like it is in something of a time warp, a glorious concrete fortress where I feel so safe and able to venture into its somewhat dated but cozy maze of malls, sushi joints, video stores, Sanrio joints, incense emporiums and overpriced stationary stores. I love walking down the stationary escalator at Soko Hardware and discovering great bargains and one of the best selections of drawer pulls and knobs in the city. Forget the Castro or Union Street, this is my idea of Main Street by the Bay.

Having explored the Japantown of my hometown and L.A's I did garner one bit of insight from the Chronicle article: There is a Japantown in San Jose, just north of San Jose State and downtown. San Jose is one of those places that I dismiss as being on the order of tofu, Muzak and wallpaper - possibly necessary but not worth taking time to give notice to. But every time I explore more, I am pleasantly surprised. Today's jaunt (in three digit heat!) proved that adage is well founded. There are no malls here, and the place has the village feel of many of the endless parade of Peninsula suburbs. I especially liked the abundance of ukulele related shops and posters. The stores were dusty with elderly proprietors standing guard suspiciously as I eyed their overpriced goods. I came away with only a DIY golden pavilion, that I look forward to assembling tomorrow morning after coffee, The Times and Bow's walk.
Now, I need to write a letter to the editor for the Chronicle to protest that offensive article that felt like ammunition to build some generic Santana Row style condo/Pottery Barn/IKEA combo at Geary and Fillmore.

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At 5:12 AM, Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

I don't believe I've ever visited a 'japantown'! chinatown yes, and fact until this most informative post, I never realized that there were such neighborhoods/communities.

yet another reason to start planning a trip to SF

At 5:17 AM, Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

curious mouse that I am just wiki'd japantown and found there are 3 official japantowns in the u.s. but there seems to be some unofficial ones (e.g. novi, mi!)


At 6:40 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Mouse - Novi, MI? I'd never even heard of such a place. Well, I've been to all three official ones. Come out, and I'll give you a tour.


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