KRAFTY KORNER: Cruising J-town




San Jose's J-Town banners.

J-town. A rarity these days, only three remain in the US . . . LA, SJ, SF. Over 40 once existed.

Family members from as far away as Chicago gathered for a reunion and the out-of-towners hit the pavement over the weekend to cruise San Jose’s J-town. Two amicable tour guides from the Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj) walked and talked historical info of what was, what is and changes that continue to evolve.

Jackson St. is a three-block long parcel of precious real estate rich in Japanese history and culture with a comfy, neighborhood charm. The JAMsj, Yu-Ai Kai sr. center, Buddhist and Methodist churches and JACL surround this space just blocks away from downtown San Jose.

Shoppers purposely come by for homemade tofu, manju and shave ice. A former gas station is the local coffee shop hangout. The Japanese market, Dobashi’s, is now a Nijiya, so foodies can still get the essentials plus bento boxes to go.

A turquoise-hued graphic tote made from a recycled city banner comes from Lydia Uchida-Sakai and Kathy Sakamoto of San Jose. (Courtesy of T. Miyasaki)

From noodles, sushi and shabu-shabu dishes to Korean, Hawaiian, Mexican and Chinese foods, there are enough restaurants to satisfy one’s palate.

As long as the heartbeats of community people who care are heard, J-town will  sustain itself without the presence of big corporations.

Tall poles on the main drag currently display colorful banners designed with a Japanese motif. Swaying lanterns, floral patterns and kanji in brilliant turquoise, pink and white  add a distinctive Nihonmachi look.

Where do these banners go when they’re replaced with new ones? That very thought crossed the minds of two sharp, community-minded gals who did some homework. Recycle. Restructure. Repurpose.

Sak n’ Sak is the budding creation of Lydia Uchida-Sakai and Kathy Sakamoto, started more than a year old, SAK are the first three letters of both of their last names and their products are obviously bag-related—totes, wallets, multi-purpose grab bags, laptop holders. Prices range from $8 to under $200.

The banners are made of heavy duty vinyl to withstand mother nature, maing these saks easy care and practically indestructible.

Now right brain challenged, this duo is loving every minute of thinking green. Spare time? Uchida-Sakai runs Uchida Travel in J-town plus a restaurant-catering business. For the past 10 years, Sakamoto’s job as the executive director of the J-town Business Assn. keeps her pretty busy.

Sak’s retail space is shared with Uchida Travel on the corner of Fifth and Jackson, a landmark spot where all four street corners display meaningful history markers.

Not too far down the road is the city of Saratoga where the Crafty Foxes 33rd holiday boutique will be held on Saturday. Over 60 artisans from near and far will offer an array of

Dardie Ishida of San Mateo created this gray-gold-black washi collaged notebook with handwritten thoughts for a special friend. (Courtesy of D. Ishida)

Asian arts and crafts at the Joan Pisani Community Center.

Part-time crafter is Dardie Ishida with her paper creations. Passionate about washi paper, she designs eclectic mini albums, notebooks and checkbook covers with striking color choices and unusual embellishments.

A Hawaiian influence comes after living there for 10 years. Combine all things aloha with her Chinese heritage and a taste of East-West is unveiled. After starting out as a Bay area shopper at these Asian shows, she’s been hooked for 25 years even since.

More attention grabbing holiday gift ideas are Ishida’s popular pikaki or plumeria-scented fortune cookie soaps in unique packages, like steamers and bowls, and even flip-flop soaps.

Saturday, Oct. 16, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Crafty Foxes Holiday Boutique
Joan Pisani Community Center
19655 Allendale Ave., Saratoga
408-356-2764, Carol Yuki

Sunday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Krafty Delites #1
Carson Community Center
801 E. Carson St., Carson
310-329-5874, Stephanie Nakayama

Friday-Sunday, Nov. 5-7, Friday, Saturday, Nov. 12, 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Touch of Nature Home & Holiday
Décor Show
Diamond Bar, call for location
909-594-5964, Lily Saito

Saturday, Nov. 6 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Holiday Boutique
WLA United Methodist Church
1913 Purdue Ave., Los Angeles
310-479-1379, Fusako Hamamoto

Sunday, Nov. 7 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Kiku Crafts & Food Fair
E. San Gabriel Valley Japanese
Community Center
W. Covina Buddhist Church, Sponsor
1203 W. Puente Ave., W. Covina
951-818-8740, Hisako Koga

Saturday, Nov. 13 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
JAMsj Winter Boutique
Japanese American Museum of San Jose
San Jose Buddhist Church Gym
640 N. 5th St., San Jose
408-294-3138, Mimi Suga


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