Japanese American Commercial Village Buildings | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Lauren Everett/L.A. Conservancy staff.

Japanese American Commercial Village Buildings

This row of modest commercial buildings is the last vestiges of a Japanese fishing village and commercial district that thrived on Terminal Island before World War II.

The distinctive Japanese American community, which by 1940 had reached a population of 3,000, formed alongside the growing fishing and canning facilities in the Fish Harbor section of Terminal Island. The commercial heart of this Japanese-American community was Tuna Street, which was lined with restaurants, barber shops, and pool halls.

In 1942, this community was the first in the nation to be forcibly removed and relocated to World War II internment camps. Immediately after the forced evacuation of the residents, their homes were demolished. After the war, many of them returned to find very little of their former fishing village and once-thriving community. The fact that any buildings remain is remarkable. 

The building at 700-702 Tuna Street housed the Nanka Company Dry Goods Store, one of many Japanese-American businesses located on the street before World War II. It was the areas only clothing store and reportedly was particularly popular with the women of Fish Harbor.

The building at 712-716 Tuna Street housed the A. Nakamura Company Grocery Store, one of many groceries located at Fish Harbor. The proprietor was Akimatsu Nakamura, a Japanese-born American citizen. His family lived nearby at 222-a Terminal Way. As were most of the Japanese-American residents of Terminal Island, Mr. Nakamura was arrested by the FBI in 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Both buildings were designed in a vernacular style, using common materials and simple detailing. Despite alterations over the years, including the removal of wood detailing on 700-702 Tuna Street and a 1940s Moderne remodel of 712-716 Tuna Street, these two buildings retain their basic form and continue to tell a crucial part of Terminal Island’s story.

To learn more about Terminal Island and other pre-World War II Japantowns, visit Preserving California's Japantowns, the first statewide project to document historic resources from the numerous pre-World War II Japantowns.

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