San Jose California is a city with a rich history, one of the oldest cities in California and as Californians know it has seen many changes. It was once known for its fruit market and farming community but eventually became the largest city on the West Coast without an ocean port. Today San Jose’s population is more than 1 million and it is home to many major companies such as Lockheed Martin, Adobe Systems and PayPal. One of San Jos’e historical districts is Japantown, also referred to as Nihonmachi which means Japanese town or neighborhood in English. The area originally was developed by early Japanese immigrants who made their way into what would become Silicon Valley during the Gold Rush Era looking for work in the farms or opening up businesses. The Japanese community grew and so did the need for resources such as Buddhist temples, a newspaper, grocery stores and pool halls.
Many of these immigrants were housed in what is now called Japantown but back then was referred to as Little Tokyo due to its location near downtown next to Mexican Town (Downtown San Jose). Before the World War II began many of these buildings housed Japanese families and businesses. After the attack on Pearl Harbor relationship between White Americans and Japanese citizens living in America became tense; this tension was exacerbated when President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which allowed certain military commanders to designate “exclusion zones” from which any person could be excluded if they posed security concerns or questions. Tensions only increased with the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. People of Japanese descent were put into internment camps as a result – many losing their homes and businesses.
In 1942 the United States government ordered all American Citizens of Japanese descent to be forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated in what were called “War Relocation Camps.” The majority of these people came from California due to its close proximity to Asia; it was estimated that 70% of those detained at War Relocation Camps were from California alone . Once arriving at these camps they encountered armed guards who watched them constantly but also searched through each person’s belongings for items such as weapons, cameras or radios. They also to deal with unfriendly weather conditions with heat reaching up to 110 degrees and cold fronts. Despite these conditions many people made the best of their detainment by creating gardens, art, music, dance and theater becoming a form of entertainment for themselves.
After WWII ended in 1945 people were slowly allowed to leave camps providing they gave up all their belongings and often had to prove they were not a threat or security risk before leaving. Many did what they could to resettle back into American Society but this was difficult as most lost everything after being put into camps – especially if their family had been split up due to relocation policies. Japanese Americans that enlisted into the military during WWII often saw very little appreciation for fighting against Japan; many came home only to be discriminated against or lose jobs once they returned home.
Restoring a sense of normalcy to Japanese Americans proved difficult for many reasons including rebuilding homes, businesses and personal lives. Many were involved in the process of rebuilding their community by reopening up shops and reestablishing newspapers, radio programs and churches . This movement was multifaceted as Japanese Americans worked hard to rebuild not only their institutions but also themselves. They wanted to prove that those who were incarcerated had nothing at all to do with the war and simply wanted to live their ordinary lives – something they were denied while being locked away.