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Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



World War II Incarceration

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Japanese Americans in California:

San Jose Japanese Theatre
San Jose, Santa Clara County

The Japanese Theatre is a single-story rectangle of western false-front style, with an overhang above the double-door entrance. Its construction features horizontal wood siding painted a grayish color, with dark gray trim, roofed with deteriorating wood shingles. To enter the building, one steps up to a concrete platform and onto a floor on the same level. The interior is one large room, with a low raised stage at the west end of the building. A mezzanine on the east end of the building was used to project films. The structure is part of the nihonmachi section of San Jose, with commercial establishments to the immediate north and south. It is estimated that the building was erected in 1906.

Recreational activities for the issei were very limited early in the century. Cultural and language barriers, combined with discriminatory actions by the dominant society, resulted in early Japanese settlers establishing their own means and structures for recreation and relaxation. The San Jose Japanese Theatre is one lasting and successful effort.

Early in this century, issei in the San Jose area felt a need to form a corporation and build a structure in which to perform shibai (plays) and to show movies. The corporation raised the money and oversaw construction and operation of the theatre. Performances of shigin (poetry recitation) and utai (epic singing) were occasionally held in the theatre.

The theatre could be used by community groups to raise money for various causes. For example, a special movie from Hawaii or Japan might be shown to raise money for a particular organization. Before the war, nisei held dances in the theatre, and a kendo group practiced here. The building was sold at auction after World War II. Aikido of San Jose, a martial arts group, currently occupies the building.

San Jose Japanese Theatre
San Jose Japanese Theatre, San Jose, Santa Clara County

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