Japantown was once a thriving community in Downtown Sacramento, prior to redevelopment in the late 1950s.
It was also one of the biggest Japantowns in America, with as many as 4,000 residents in the 1940s. Unfortunately,
it became lost in history due to a plan passed by the City Council that became a national blueprint for other
city governments to follow. The California Museum celebrated its memory in 2017 with an exhibit called "Kokoro" from
February through May.
In this video I discuss the research I've learned from various sources about the history of Japantown, also
known as "J Town." It was located on the "West End" where Capitol Mall now exists and covered several blocks
east of the Tower Bridge. Two big events led to the demise of this Japanese community. First, Japanese-Americans
were forced to move to "internment camps" following Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Then in
the 1950s the Sacramento Redevelopment Agency was established and came up with a new way to finance redevelopment
projects by issuing its own bond.
Local officials and media declared that the West End was a slum and needed renovation. Although Japantown
was only a portion of the West End and was not considered a slum, it was lumped into the project. Construction
began on redevelopment in 1957 and was completed by 1961, wiping out stores, schools, churches and over
300 businesses owned by Japanese residents. Since the project was financially successful, other cities followed
suit with redevelopment projects.
More information can be found about this lost community from the sources below. Additionally, Consumnes River
College professor Kevin Wildie wrote a book called Sacramento's Historic Japantown: Legacy of a Lost Neighborhood.