Japantown Atlas - Central California - San Luis Obispo

Detailed Map: San Luis Obispo Japanese American Businesses of 1940


San Luis Obispo's small Japantown was on Higuera Street between South and French Streets. This little commercial center was developed by the Eto and Tsutsumi Eto families in the 1920s and '30s. It was just one block long, but had two hotels, a barber shop, a soda bottling company, two groceries, and a fish and meat market. There were a handful of outlying businesses nearby along with a grower's association. Although not large, San Luis Obispo anchored a number of satellite farming communities, including Arroyo Grande, Los Osos, Pismo Beach, and Nippomo.

A block down French Street (just off this map), the Buddhist Church and Japanese School occupied 10 acres opposite the Madonna Inn from 1927 until 1960. (Buddhist services began as an offshoot of the Guadalupe temple in 1912; San Luis residents built their first temple in 1927. A larger temple was built in 1939; it was closed in 1942 and reopened to serve a small, post-war congregation in 1948. The church was torn down in 1960 to make way for an interchange of the US 101 freeway, at which time today's church was built near Avila Hot Springs.

Before automobiles came into common use, the South Pacific Coast Railway provided transportation from San Luis Obispo west to Avlia and south to Arroyo Grande, Nippomo, and Santa Maria. It so happened that the freight sheds and shops were just across Higuera Street; extensive lumber yards extended north another block, to the edge of downtown. (The passenger depot was across town near the Southern Pacific RR main line). The railroad operated until 1942. Thus while the strip of stores is fairly commonplace, it faced a relatively industrial (industrious) section at the edge of town, which (though extensively rebuilt) remains so today.

Following Pearl Harbor, the Tsutsumi family was compelled to sell their property to a local realtor, Mr. Evans, who paid them a mere $2000 for a property worth at least $150,000. The "Evans Building" remained standing until the 1980s when it was torn down. (Nikkei Heritage, 1999 or so)

Eto Street was renamed Brooks Street after WWII. A proposal to restore the original name was rejected in the 1990s, however as a compromise the city named Eto Park to honor the Eto family.

1st draft 8/26/07