USJC Holds Panel Discussion on COVID Impact on Japantowns

On October 29, a panel discussion on the impact of the pandemic was held with leaders from Northern California’s Japanese American cultural and community epicenters. Representatives from Japantown San Francisco and Japantown San Jose shared their challenges, which began in the spring when shelter-in-place mandates were issued. The panel also discussed strategies for how to preserve their Japantowns. 

Grace Horikiri (Executive Director, Japantown Community Benefit District and Executive Director, Nihonmachi Street Fair) and Michael Sera (President at the Japanese American San Jose Museum and Board Director at the Japanese Community Congress of San Jose) shared information on the impact of the pandemic on their respective Japantowns and organizations, and what they are doing to confront the ravages of COVID-19. USJC Associate Ellen Kamei (External and Legislative Affairs Manager for AT&T and Vice Mayor of the City of Mountain View, CA and ELP ’15) shared her perspectives growing up in San Jose, and her support for organizations and businesses at Japantowns. The discussion was moderated by USJC Associate Jaclyn Funasaki, Economic and Commercial Affairs Division of the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Special remarks were offered by Consul General in San Francisco Toru Maeda. 

The dedicated Bay Area leaders spoke about ways they are addressing the crisis caused by COVID-19, including translating and communicating the latest government mandates and assistance programs from local and federal governments to immigrant business owners. The discussion also included ways that people have pivoted to keep businesses alive. For example, the Japanese American San Jose Museum depends heavily on technology with additional offerings of online tours, and reliance on touchless technology such as QR readers when navigating through the museum.  

Consul General Maeda

While continued support will be necessary for communities to survive the pandemic, collaboration, shared information and resources among community entities have eased some of the burdens. Long term, programs like the Nikkei Community Internship that get college-aged youth more involved in the Japanese American community will help foster long-term support for Japantowns and Japanese American affinity groups. 

Click here to watch this panel discussion.