Single Gal and Japantown

The single best hidden gem in San Jose has to be Japantown, our cluster of authentic Japanese restaurants and culture located right outside of downtown on Jackson Street.  I know the area well because I grew up downtown, but most residents of San Jose still haven’t discovered all that is great about this area.

The restaurants are all so good, but my favorites are Tsugaru, Gombei and Kubota.  And whether you want some quick sushi-to-go, sake bombs with your friends, or a nice, civilized, sit-down meal, there really is something for everyone’s taste and wallet.

Then, after a fun meal out with friends, it’s always a treat to hit up the Bamboo 7 for some karaoke (I don’t know how this place has escaped my radar screen for this long).  This could possibly be the most fun thing to do with a group of friends since bowling or roller-skating in high school.  As you walk up to Bamboo 7, it looks inconspicuous and empty because there are no windows; then when you walk in, it’s like you’ve taken a time machine back to the lounge days of the 70’s.  I am amazed sometimes that just when you think you know this city inside and out, the things you can discover if you just step outside your comfort zone and try something new. 

This isn’t an advertisement; I just cannot believe how this area has stayed a secret to most of the city for so long.  So for all you negative people out there, when you’re complaining that this city seems stale and boring, take a trip down there and experience it for yourself.

30 Comments

  1. Once again, a slightly interesting column about an area that I have frequented for more than 20 years. Why though, do the powers at SJI insist on giving us a nice little column like this on a day the Council will be falling all over themselves to appear that they support open government in SJ? Why no column from late-to-jump on the bandwagon Cindy telling us how delivering late memos to the Council is really OK? Why nothing from the mayor telling us to shut-up because he knows what is best for us? Why not a column from the editors at SJI telling why they chose to use this column (twice) today instead of dealing with a critical issue?
    As for Japan Town, maybe Leonard McKay could do a real column about it and share the very long and rich history of the area with everyone.

  2. Sorry Wondering, I don’t agree with you.  We have had enough screaming and shouting and insulting about politics and city government.  Our column today won’t change or influence the course of events this afternoon and evening.  It’s quite refreshing to hear about pleasent things in San Jose.  It’s refreshing to hear about one’s expriences in the community and it’s also refreshing to get a history lesson on Mondays.  I’m sure during the course of the week there will be enough screaming, shouting, and insulting again to liven things up. Our Shark Fans and legal types will go at it again while us old folks sit and watch. 
    Salamanders, Banana Slugs, and Tree-huggers unite!

  3. Japantown yipee, its just one street!

    Lets talk about the real problems facing san jose, Ron Con and his illusions of thinking himself to be a statesman, when he is a two bit charlottine.

  4. Wondering & Greg-

    Tuesdays are always Single Gal – We think she brings a unique, female and youthful view to issues, places, politics and culture in San Jose.  You may not like it, but others do.

    But if you want to “talk about real problems,”  have at it!  No one is stopping you.

  5. John – Are you implying that a “unique, female, and youthful view” have to be lightweight and void of depth? I don’t think so. I have no problem with a “unique, female, and youthful view” but give me something more than fluff.
    I agree that Japantown is a treasure that many don’t know about. Having frequented the area for over 20 years, I have learned much about the history and culture of the Japanese American community. Today’s column didn’t do much to tell us about any of that. My point is simply if you are going to ignore the critical issues of the day at least give us something worthwhile in its place.

  6. Wondering & Greg…single gal is normally lame, but on this topic I have her back.

    Santo’s Market on Taylor makes great sandwiches for lunch and cheap tasty coffee in the morning.  Wing’s tomatoe egg drop soup is my favorite…my husband loves the happy family dinner special.

    Ladies (are there any ladies other than single gal and I?)  When in Jtown check out the new salon Polish…hair, nails and cute retail!

  7. Hidden away on the second story of a N. 6th street building in Japantown is the Cuban International Restaurant. An unexpected find and worth the trip if you want something slightly different in both food and ambiance.

  8. You know there are other young, intelligent women who can have in depth conversations about politics in San Jose, some of us even work the City.

  9. First off, SG, you hang in there.  You can’t help it if the timing is off and your column is scheduled for the same day as an “important” Council meeting.  I have “important” in quotes because as we all know, Council minds are always made up before any meeting or public commentary so these convenings are nothing more than a formal rubber stamping of the Gonzo/Chavez agenda these days.

    SJI, if you want to avoid complaints like Wondering’s, maybe you should move things around a bit and put somebody like Tom on Tuesday detail so the blog has a more political slant on Council meeting days.  Just a suggestion.

    As for J-town, I worked near 7th & Jackson for a few years and have eaten at practically every restaurant in that area.  The then-cheap Ika-fry at Okayama was the best!  I’m amazed that this district has changed so little over the years.  My mom used to drag me down there as a kid when she was looking for gifts at Kogura’s.  I always ended up with a little trinket or something from there for tagging along.  Not sure if old businesses like Hank’s Rod & Reel (great front window scene) are still there but it was a sad day when Aki’s bakery threw all their eggs into Meridian Ave.

    The recently closed Dobashi grocery was affectionately known as “the stinky store” where I worked.  They still used their freight elevator in the sidewalk.  Try to find that going on in downtown SJ anywhere.  Cuban International was always better than the place on Race St. in my opinion but now I think those people from Race are the owners of CI so I don’t know what it’s like.

    The property where I worked has been redeveloped and turned into condos.  I haven’t been down there to spend any time since all of the new residential has gone in.  I suspect it will be a little more hopping.  I always found this little stretch of Jackson St. to be kind of sleepy and quiet, except at lunch time.  I think the old Pharmacy at 4th & Jackson was the last one in town that still had a working lunch counter, but now that’s all gone.  I guess since we have no Chinatown anymore that Wings and Bamboo7 felt J-town was the next best place to be, but when I go down there, I’m looking for sushi not szechwan.

    Bottom line is we’re lucky that J-town has survived, and I believe it’s one of only 3 remaining of its kind in the state, if not the country, so we are lucky to have it and I appreciate that SG has reminded us.

  10. I gotta go with my real name for this one…since I am taking issue with a fellow poster.  Give the Single Gal column a break. 

    As a just-30, single, San Jose-native (or Local, if I may), I love Leonard’s articles but they are informative and don’t spark discussion.  Single Gal introduces a topic and let’s the readers add their two cents.  Both have a place here. 

    The timing of the blog?  Sure, you may have a point.  SJI can’t be everything to everyone. If you have an issue, why don’t you take initiative to start a discussion.  There have been plenty of blogs in the last week that would lend itself to political scene and the mayor. 

    Even better – Submit your resume to become a volunteer blogger on SJI.  You could spend your Sunday nights prepping for a weekly column focused on council meetings….then we could tell you how bad you are!

    Back to work – I will look forward to Single Gal’s column next week.

  11. Mark—I think you may have your info about the Cuban restaurant a bit mixed-up. I am not sure, but I believe the folks on Race Street used to be the owners of the CI in J-Town. They sold the 6th Street place and left the area. Then they returned and opened the place on Race Street. Anybody know for sure?

  12. A departure from the traditional fare is the Hukilau on Jackson.  It’s Hawaiian food but it does very well and packs in the people.  They have great weekly specials too – which helps those on a dime. 

    I heard the crape place is good – but I haven’t been there… And does anyone know what is replacing the old grocery?

    Santo Market is the best!  I hope it stays around for a long time!!!

  13. Thanks single gal for your thoughts.  Thanks John McE for your backup.  There are enough issues on the plate this weekend for loud discussions.  Whatever transpires with the CC this afternoon and evening will be yelled about and todays article about the non-BART county sales tax will be debated.  Nothing serious will take place with the CC and transparency until there is a new Mayor.  The present Mayor is worse than a lame duck incumbent.  Whatever the outcome of the election is I sure hope that we go back to a strong City Manager reporting to the Council not the Mayor.  We need a Mayor and City Council who can work together for the financial health of the city as well as the well-being of the citizens.

  14. Linc, I don’t know for sure how the ownership thing went with CI restaurant.  I know it existed long before Habana did over on Race, so you could be correct that those owners sold and later opened up on Race.  I’ve heard horror stories about food and service on Race but haven’t had a bad experience there myself the few times I’ve been there.

    It appears that the latest culinary wave through town is Hawaiian.  We have Hukilau, there are a couple of L & L (?) franchises now in town, and there’s Ohana on Branham.  This may be the next big thing around here.  Haven’t made it over to Smoke yet but I suspect there’s a Hawaiian theme to their menu as well.

    I wasn’t getting tired of Vietnamese, I could have banh mi’s for lunch every day of the week (not Lee’s overpriced little pinners though), but it’s going to be fun checking out the Hawaiian options around town now.

  15. Seems like Wondering is wondering the same thing every Tuesday.  At least try a unique complaint next Tuesday.

    As for Japantown, it stands to really benefit from all the residentials going up downtown.  It could actually end up becoming fashionable (although I know all you Wondering’s out there will just complain since you’ve been going there for 20 years).  Sushi and drinks outside of the war zone that is Santa Clara Street could really take off.

  16. Dead Man Wins Election
    Created: 3/16/2006 5:53:10 PM
    Updated: 3/16/2006 5:53:26 PM

    Sierra Vista, AZ—Bisbee voters returned incumbent Bob Kasun to office Tuesday, even though he died nine days before the election.

    Kasun easily defeated challenger Jeff Harris in a recall vote.

    Kasun’s funeral was the day before the election.

    The 79-year-old four-term councilman died March 6 of lymphoma and renal failure. Both Bob Kasun and Luche Giacomino were targets of a recall campaign that accused him, among other things, of failing to represent and be accountable to his constituents.

    But voters decided overwhelmingly against the two candidates who opposed them.

    Giacomino said she had been confident she would survive the recall attempt, but was especially pleased that Kasun was not voted from office.

    Associated Press

    Here’s a great example, if we just stick together and have the same vision in voting someone new in office.
    If they can vote a dead man in office, Why can’t we vote for a new candidate with a clean slate to be mayor? Wouldn’t we want a candidate that fills holes for a living instead of making holes for living?

    GM

  17. Mark T & Lincoln

    The Cuban family that used to own Havana on Race St. have moved to downtown and have a great restaurant called Los Cubanos in San Pedro Square on Almaden Ave. –  The same family that started CI in Japantown.

    The whole family works there and they serve a delicious meal with hearty portions.  Give it a try before a Sharks game and enjoy the Cuban beer.  The McEnery News (see Fri’s column), gave them a good review.

  18. I would love to check out Japantown and some of the posters have mentioned streets, but why couldn’t the exact location of Japantown be included in the fricking article?????

  19. #20 – Japantown is located on Jackson Street (generally) between 4th and 6th Streets.  Went to “Banana Crepe” today for a bite to eat (near Kazoo) – it was very good and I will go back!

  20. Annie is living proof that your post on J-town was worthwhile SG!

    The commercial district on Jackson St in J-town may appear to only be one block long, but it’s more like from 3rd to 6th.  The numbered streets that run through J-town also have businesses, a Buddhist temple, and there are still a number of Japanese people living in the neighborhood, not the least of which are located in the retirement high rise on Taylor St, so this district encompasses a lot more than a single block.

  21. Used to love karaoke at Bamboo’s…back when the old timers did the bulk of the singing and before ABC got tough.
    You won’t find the old pinoy dude crooning Elvis tunes anymore. Instead there’s typically a bunch of loudmouth fratboys who think it’s cute to burp into the mike. Oh wells…my favorite tune was Joe Jackson’s “Is She REally Going Out with Him?”

  22. Idiots that complain about single girl articles are out of it.  She is fun and funny and lets people know about things in san jose for people of all ages.  There are many articles about San Jose politics give it up with your attacks on her blog.