Japantown Atlas - Northern California - Marysville

Overview Map: Marysville - Japanese American Businesses of 1940

Marysville is a small city founded in 1851 at the confluence of the Sacramento and Yuba Rivers. It served both as a farming center for the fertile Sacramento Valley, and a jumping off point for the northern Gold Country (Feather and Yuba River mines). Through the 1860s, as hydraulic mining washed away hillsides to get at the gold-bearing soil, vast amounts of soil filled the bed of the Yuba River, and Marysville was devastated several years in a row by severe floods. Lawsuits by Marysville residents in the 1870s largely ended hydraulic mining, and the city built tall levees to guard against floods. None of this relates directly to Marysville's Japanese American community, except that they took up residence in the old Chinatown, which was at the southernmost, lowest, flood-prone section of the city.

Marysville was a major fruit-orchard center of the Sacramento Valley, and Japanese farmers pioneered rice growing farther west. Japanese arrived in the Yuba-Sutter region as migrant laborers starting in the 1890s, and gradually set down roots.Marysville's Japantown served both the local population and summer laborers. Although some Japanese Americans returned to the Marysville area after WWII, today their population is shrinking as few younger Japanese Americans stay in Marysville after college. The Buddhist Church remains in use, but shares a minister with the church in Penryn, Placer County. There are only a couple surviving businesses, but still a fair number of Nikkei who can remember busier times.

The commercial heart of Marysville is a little north of the area shown, on D Street. It's a lot more spruced up than when I used to commute through town while working in Tahoe National Forest in the '80s -- the city has built reproductions of old cast iron arches over the street, plus new street trees and benches. While the old town is not 100% prosperous, the chamber of commerce has made a good effort to keep it going. Note that when the D St. Bridge was washed out by floods in the 1950s, Caltrans rebuilt it on E St. so the original main street was bypassed by a block, and the road most people take through town never quite gels into a downtown. But the old center is findable if you turn off the beaten track. While somewhat cut up by parking lots, newer civic and industrial uses, but is nevertheless enjoyable to wander around on a crisp fall day.

See PCJ's Marysville page for detailed histories and photos of the Buddhist Church, Nakagawa Co. Grocery, the Toyo Hotel, and more.

Selected Photos

First posted 7/27/07, reposted with photos 2/10/08