December 21, 2015

San Jose: There is so much to do in Japantown

101 South 

Japantown  N. 5th St./Jackson St., (408) 298-4303. 

Dating back to the late 1800s, when bachelors from Japan migrated to the area, this historic neighborhood features streets lined with cherry trees that bloom spectacularly in the spring.  One of only three remaining historical Japantowns in the U.S. (the others are in San Francisco and Los Angeles), it is just south of downtown and can be reached via the Light Rail line.  Standing here at 10:55 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we viewed the huge Dreamliner fly in from Tokyo to land at the city airport here as it does once each day.

street banners in Japantown in San Jose, California

These historical sites of interest are situated on residential side streets:

San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin  640 N. 5th St., (408) 293-9292.  Featuring a Japanese garden and a tile roof, this still-active church dates from 1937.

San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin in Japantown in San Jose, California

Wesley United Methodist Church  566 N. 5th St., (408) 295-0367.  Established in 1895 as the Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church and at this site since 1913, this church has been remodeled several times. 

Japanese American Museum of San Jose  535 N. 5th St., (408) 294-3138.  Thur-Sun noon-4pm.  $5, $65+ $3, under 12 free.  This newish museum’s permanent exhibits include vintage farming artifacts used by early settlers as well as a furnished replica of the Tule Lake Relocation Center barracks room.  The World War II internment exhibits are well done and thought-provoking (for a good background read on this subject, visit here).  A free neighborhood map is available here.

exterior of Japanese American Museum of San Jose in Japantown in San Jose, California

guided tour of Japanese American Museum of San Jose in Japantown in San Jose, California

reproduction of Tule Lake Relocation Center cabin at Japanese American Museum of San Jose in Japantown in San Jose, California

Shops, galleries, and Japanese restaurants abound in the neighborhood, and on Sunday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to noon the bustling Japantown Certified Farmers Market  unfolds.  Happi House (695 N. 5th St./Taylor St., (408) 295-5554.  L-D daily; $.) serves Japanese-style fast food.  Diners order at the counter--noodle soups, tempura, teriyaki items--and then food is delivered to the table lickety-split. 

Annual festivals celebrating the changing seasons include Nikkei Matsuri in May, the Obon Festival in July, and Aki Matsuri in September.  

More things to do in San Jose.      

Even more things to do in San Jose.

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


  1. Looks like an interesting place to eat some Japanese food and learn about North American Japanese history during WWII. There is similar history near to us in Lethbridge, Alberta, where many Canadian Japanese were forced to live during the same period.

    1. I have never heard before that this also happened in Canada.

  2. I made a brief visit to Japantown in San Jose for a wonderful lunch. Looks like there is much more than food!

  3. I did not know there was a Japantown in San Jose. It looks like an interesting place to visit and to eat.

  4. I have a sister who lives in Milpitas, so I'm a little chagrined to say I've never been to San Jose. However, having lived in Honolulu for 3 months, I have experienced a place where Japanese culture and food continue to resonate. I'm going to share this post with my sister. I suspect she will be able to find some places she hasn't yet visited.