In celebration of the opening of the Heinlenville Park in San Jose Japantown, San Jose JACL Interns created a social justice walking tour in commemoration of John Heinlen's altruism. Despite receiving death threats, Heinlen leased 5 acres to Chinese immigrants after the Market Street Chinatown was burned to the ground in 1887. Heinlen's empathy, born from his own discrimination as a German immigrant, resulted in the Heinlenville Chinatown built in brick to resist arson. Ironically, a locked fence with security guards built around Chinatown helped protect the Chinese against the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. Japantown was built on the shoulders of Chinatown and Filipino “Pinoytown” that shared the same location.
The tour highlights the rich historical past of one of the last 3 remaining U.S. Japantowns. It showcases the multicultural past based on mutual respect and acceptance as racist laws and redlining severely impacted the Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and African American communities living in Japantown.
Intertwined are culinary recommendations, spotlighting the best of Japantown to help promote local businesses in their post-pandemic resurgence. Many thanks to our mentors Tom Izu, Susan Hayase, and Curt Fukuda. On behalf of San Jose JACL Youth members: Evelyn Zhang and Austin Hideo Eng of Palo Alto High School, Avery Teruko Wong of Carlmont High School, and Charlotte Zhang, marketing consultant, we hope you enjoy the tour!