The History of Sacramento's Lost Japantown

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, the Sacramento Kings take a closer look at the lost neighborhood of Sacramento’s Japantown, which originally began across the street from where Golden 1 Center stands today.

Spanning from 3rd to 5th and L to O Streets, the lost Japantown was cultivated by Japanese immigrants in the late 1890s who worked in nearby agricultural fields looking to shop for goods that were imported from Japan. In addition, Japantown became a place for Japanese immigrants to find a place to live and build roots away from home in Sacramento.

In the face of increased anti-Japanese rhetoric and hostility across the nation through these years, Sacramento’s Japantown continued to grow. At its height, the community became the fourth largest and most vibrant Japantown on the West Coast.

Teens at Ouye Pharmacy (c. 1930s)Credit: Unknown Photographer, California Museum

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Frankin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced evacuation of over 100,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry. In result, The Executive Order left Sacramento’s Japantown businesses, homes, and community centers deserted.

Forced out of business (c. 1942)Credit: Unknown Photographer, California Museum

By the end of World War II, as many as 450 Japanese Americans returned to Sacramento only to find their neighborhood was not the same as it was left. Because of such short notice, very few businesses and homes were able to retain ownership. Other ethnic groups who couldn’t own property filled the vacancies while the Japanese were sent to internment camps. Those who returned to Sacramento were still able to bring back some of the liveliness that was lost prior to the War.(via A Neighborhood Lost: Sacramento’s Japantown)

4th Street Cherry Blossoms (c. 1955)Credit: Harold N. Oyue, California Museum

In 1957, the Sacramento City Council and Sacramento Redevelopment Agency used the power of imminent domain to pass the Capitol Mall Redevelopment Plan. This plan allowed Sacramento’s Japantown to be destroyed to make way for what is now the Capitol Mall. The council and agency considered the west end of town, which included Japantown, “blighted of disease, crime, [and] poverty.”

Capitol Mall Groundbreaking (c. 1959)Credit: Unknown Photographer, California Museum

Despite the obstacles, the community that was left decided to relocate yet again. Currently, the small section of what is left of Japantown lives along 10th Street between V and W Streets. This small block is home to Osaka-ya, Royal Louis Florists, and Sakura Gifts. These shops are working to revitalize the community, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to expand knowledge and bring opportunities to the Sacramento community.

Credit: Sacramento Asian Chamber of Commerce

For more information on how you can support these businesses and learn more about the Sacramento AAPI community, visit sacasiancc.org.