I live close to San Jose’s Japantown, and I have been getting takeout from there for many years. During that time, I have seen the Soko hardware store (pictured left) closed down and converted to a number of shops. One of those shops is Sonny’s Place Hawaiian store which has a large studio area for the Hālau Nā Wai Ola Hula School. Some of the space became The Ukulele Source. Near one of my family’s favorite Japanese restaurants, the Hukilau opened. I didn’t think that anyone else noticed this Hawaiian influx, but when AAA Via Magazine arrived in the mail, the article called “Honolulu? San Jose!” shows that someone else did.
While the online version of the article has a different title, both pieces talk about the many Hawaii oriented shops and restaurants that have appeared in San Jose’s Japantown. Some of them I didn’t know about, such as Santo Market which sells Kauai Kookies and Hawaiian Sun drinks. I knew there were shave ice places, but I never really thought about it. Not only is there a ukulele shop, but Ukulele Jams offers lessons.
How did all of these Hawaiian places end up in Japantown? My theory is that as the Japanese American population gets older and more mixed, one of the few sources of new Japanese Americans are those from Hawaii who have come to the mainland to work. These Hawaiian Japanese Americans set up in a location with some familiar reminders of home. Does that theory sound reasonable? Has anyone noticed the same thing happening at the other two Japantowns in California? I don’t get to San Francisco Japantown very often, but a quick search reveals at least one restaurant that serves some Hawaiian food along with the Aloha Warehouse. I have never been to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and wonder if it is seeing a similar influx of Hawaiian oriented businesses.