Executive Director, Kimochi, Inc.
Down Fillmore Street in the late 1950s
My world starts
from Octavia and Bush at Morning Star Schoolyard. There was a Buddhist
church across the street, and on Bush Street was Octavia's Green
Eye Hospital, we used to call it. From school, with a couple of
friends of mine, we took our daily descent down here to J-town.
By the time you get down to Bush Street and Laguna, the commercial
community starts to appear. You're passing African American churches.
You're passing Victorian storefronts that were part of tofu or bean
cake factories. You're passing Yamato Garage which repairs cars.
On the corner
would be Wong's Bait Shop because fishing was a big deal for the
Japanese American community. Then as you descended down Post Street
from Laguna, you started to see barber shops, merchandise shops,
Japanese artifacts, and all of a sudden, there's Jimbo's Bop City.
If you were really hip in this community, you'd try to sneak out
of your house at about 2am to be able to hear all the jazz that
was going on in the club. Just an entire community, a whole wonderful
On the Western
Addition in 1970
Ever get into
a situation where sometimes your mood is gray and everything is
overcast, cloudy and gloomy? Riding the 22 Fillmore during the days
when the Redevelopment process was in full effect, the bulldozing
of the buildings, you could ride Fillmore with all of those skeletons
of all these buildings boarded up, dismal and desolate, from the
turn down Hayes Valley all the way down to Sutter Street. All the
way down. And you could flash back again to the days when you could
walk down the street and there would be folks hanging out and businesses,
markets and drugstores, compared to nothing at all. You could stand
and look down the street two blocks and see somebody down there.
That's how clear your vision was after the buildings were knocked
On the Day
The Day of Remembrance
is an attempt to acknowledge that particular experience of the camps
within the community. It's been almost fifty years. I work with
the elders, the nisei or second generation of Japanese Americans;
they're one of the last generations that experienced the camps.
That particular event is something that must always be embedded
within the experience of our Japanese American community. When you
begin to understand that that particular experience happened to
your folks, it's devastating. But as a result of the camp experience
is this other Japanese American trait: do whatever you can do to
be successful. If you have all these freedoms in front of you at
this particular time, it's hard to talk about this kind of history
in terms of humble or restricted beginnings. Most of the representatives
who lit the symbolic candles of the ten concentration camps were
younger people. How they interpret that experience and how they
participate in a Day of Remembrance and how that applies to today
is really the question at hand. For me, that interpretation is the
very survival of Nihonmachi, Japantown.
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