Japantown Atlas - Northern California - Sacramento

Detail Map: Sacramento's Fourth St. between K and P Streets

In 1940, Sacramento's Japantown centered on Fourth and M Streets, a few blocks east of the Tower Bridge and the Sacramento River. Travellers on US 40 passed through the district on their way into town on M Street (today's Capitol Ave). A few blocks north lay K Street, Sacramento's primary department store and business axis; a few blocks south the commercial activity filtered into an old neighborhood of Victorian homes and boarding houses, in which was located the Japanese Buddhist, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, and Tenrikyo churches.

Our 1940 directories list most of the Japanese American businesses on Fourth Street. For simplicty, we started by tracing the next earliest Sanborn maps, which for Sacramento means 1915. No doubt this gives too quaint a view of the neighborhood, and a composite map mixing in landmarks from 1952 maps would help portray 1940 better.

The 1952 Sanborn maps document plenty that changed in 33 years - ethnic churches outgrew their Victorian dwellings and built brand-new facilities; corner dwellings were torn down for storefronts or gas stations; livery stables were replaced by parking lots for K Street shoppers. I've added a few such changes where business names or church histories confirm the buildings existed before WWII.

This is a fragment of a larger map that extends 1/2 block west to the river and a couple blocks east to today's light rail corridor on 6th and 7th Streets (where bits of the historic neighborhood survive - the Greyhound Station and old K Street pick up just past the mall). Large blank areas are not drawn yet.

One thing we learn from the 1915 map is the Nikkei presence is long-standing, and shifted slightly – there was a cluster of "Japanese" boarding houses and stores a little farther east along M Street, closer to Third Street and the river. From a State Park historian, we have also learned there were half a dozen Nikkei businesses in today's Old Sacramento - their map did not specify a date, but we imagine late 19th or early 20th century uses. We have not yet added these to our map (they were mostly north of K St.).

The Japanese American community returned after World War II, however the widening of M Street as Capitol Avenue and construction of state office buildings in the 1950s and '60s took out the heart of the Japantown; construction of Highway 99/I-5 through Old Sacramento and redevelopment of K Street as a shopping mall took out the northern edge of Japantown.

The Florin JACL put together a wonderful history of Sacramento's Japanese American community several years ago; it's worth seeking out for both the pre- and post-war history.


Draft 2/10/08; reposted 3/15/08 with expanded maps