California Japantowns - Exploring the preservation of history, culture, and community...
Preservation Toolkit

About the Preservation Toolkit

Few communities have been able to conduct historic resource surveys specific to a particular ethnic community. The surveys conducted by Preserving California’s Japantowns have begun to address this lack, but there is still much more to uncover. The "Preservation Toolkit" is designed to introduce you to resources, techniques and ideas that can help you research places in your own community associated with Japanese American heritage. It includes an introduction to conducting research on a neighborhood or individual building, an oral history "how to," and basic information about historic preservation. Through our work, we have found that a grassroots effort is the most effective way to advocate and foster stewardship of historic resources, and to develop partners for local preservation.

California's Japantowns have taken a lead in fostering discussion about new approaches to cultural and historic preservation, particularly in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose. Projects funded by Senate Bill 307 allowed each of these Japantowns to begin planning for their continued vitality as they identified what aspects of community heritage were most important to preserve.

In most other historic Japantowns in California, the connection between a building and its significance to Japanese American heritage has been hard to find. So identifying these places, documenting their history, and making decisions about how to protect them is an important way to ensure that the history of California’s Japantowns is not entirely lost. These places are important sites for remembering Japanese American history and the vigilance needed to protect civil liberties, but also as a precious opportunity to preserve early immigrant stories that speak to a broad segment of America’s changing population.

PHOTOS TOP L-R: Donna Graves, Marie and Harry Sugiyama look at maps and photographs prior to conducting historic resource survey of Petaluma and Sebastopol. Residents of San Mateo organized a barbecue just before WWII evacuation. Photo collection of Bancroft Library. The Oishi family in one of their Richmond greenhouses, ca. 1940. Courtesy of Tom Oishi.