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 simplicity, we started by tracing the early Sanborn maps, which for Sacramento means 1915. No doubt this gives too quaint a view of the neighborhood, and we checked it against the 1952 maps to portray 1940 better.

Changes include ethnic churches that 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.

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 shopping mall itself had been reinvented a few times by the time we firt did this pair of maps in 2008, and a few years ago two blocks of it were replaced by the Sacramento Kings' basketball arena.

We adapted our 2008 maps for author Kevin Wilde, for his 2013 book, Sacramento's Historic Japantown (History Press) and his community reviewers suggested I start over with their list of places, which I did. In 2019 I redid the atlas maps from Kevin's maps, and finally added them here in 2020. I am not sure if I used a less-accurate directory (perhaps a Southern California publisher or newspaper with less on-the-ground presence) or what was the problem with my original source, but the newer information was much more fleshed out.

Years before Kevin's book, the Florin JACL had put together a history of Sacramento's Japanese American community; it's worth seeking out for both the pre- and post-war history.

Thanks also to Gael Muramoto for more complete info on her father and uncle's offices.

Revised 10/11/20