Looking Back: Sayonara to Japantown’s Historic Print Shop? (Part 1)

San Jose Japantown's National Printing Company in 2015.
San Jose Japantown's National Printing Company in 2015.

 

In September of this year, a demolition request was applied for by the owners of the ninty-year-old print shop building at 510 North Fifth Street in San Jose Japantown.  Building permits can be viewed online on the San Jose City’s permit website by typing in an APN number (Assessor’s Parcel Number) or street address. For numbered streets, you would enter them as “1st”, “2nd”, “3rd”, etc.  On the following page you would choose “All” permits to include results from completed projects.

The building is the home of Japantown’s National Printing Company. The company began in 1910 at 591 North Fifth Street, where Japantown resident Toshio Kimura produced a Japanese American newspaper called the Soko Shinbun (San Francisco Newspaper). By the following year, the shop was operating as the Japanese Press (later San Jose Press). It’s not known how long the newspaper ran, however the company continued with its commercial printing services. Japantown historian Dr. Tokio Ishikawa recalled the company printing the lottery tickets sold in the adjacent Heinlenville Chinatown.

In 1913, Peter Takaichi became partners with Kimura, and then took over the business in 1915. The following year Takaichi moved the business to 246 Jackson Street, and then to the present location at 510 North Fifth Street in 1923. Living in the house next door to the print shop, Takaichi changed the business’s name to National Printing Company in 1927.

One of the primary resources for gathering information about a business like the print shop, is the annual Polk's City Directory (California Room carries 1870-1979, followed by Haines directories from 1981 to present). One challenge to doing research on San Jose Japantown, is that many of the directories in the late teens and early 1920s appear to have intentionally avoided gathering data from sections of the Japantown area.  While the phone directories don't have listings by address for that time period (unlike the city directories), you can often fill in blank spots if you have a name to search under.

Interior View of the National Printing Company in 2015.
Interior View of the National Printing Company in 2015.

Further Reading in the California Room: