Japantown was an area of San Luis Obispo on Higuera Street between South and French Streets, near the Pacific Coast Railway buildings that had a concentration of residences of and businesses run by Japanese and Japanese Americans.

Japantown was a commercial center developed by several individuals and families, including Y. Watanabe and the Eto and Tsutumi Eto families in the 1920s and 1930s. Between 1923 and 1928, Yoroku Watanabe built a residential and several commercial buildings in the area, and by 1925 opened Y & M Grocery, a wholesale fruit and vegetable grocery, at 198 Higuera Street.

The area grew to include two hotels, a barber shop, two groceries, and fish and meat market.By the 1930s the area was referred to as the "Nippon Tract." By 1935 the 1-block street running parallel to Higuera Street off South Street was named Eto Street possibly named for local leader Tameji Eto. The Pacific Hotel was one of the buildings located in the area.

Japantown was lost when Japanese-Americans were forcibly removed and imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II.  In February 1942, the city council voted to rename Eto Street to "Brook Street," proposed by Harry J. Dubin, an attorney who owned much of the land fronting the street.3,4,5

Many Black families settled in this area during World War II when Black servicemen were stationed nearby at segregated troops at Camp San Luis and nearby military areas. Records document that some Black families were living in the neighborhood before the war.

In 1992, the County Historical Society proposed to the city council to restore the Eto Street name. The Planning Commission "continued the matter indefinitely and referred it to the Human Relations Commission to work out a compromise solution" after hearing testimony from the members of the Eto family, as well as the St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church.2

Eto Park 

Eto Park, at 170 Brook Street, was dedicated on Thursday, May 9, 2002, in recognition of the early history of the site. In 2022 the site was rededicated.


A marker describes the "Nippon Tract" and its history

Eto Park was added to the historic Japantown area in 2002


See also:


1. San Luis Obispo's Japantown, Japantown Atlas

2. "Street name unchanged," San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, March 12, 1992, pg. 5.

3. Ordinance No. 326 (New Series) An Ordinance changing the official name of Eto Street., San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, February 28, 1942, pg 6.

4."City Sewer Plans are Revised" San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, Februrary 25, 1942, pg. 1.

5. "Renaming of Eto Street Proposed," San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, February 17, 1942, pg. 3.

6. San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune, September 18, 1941, pg. 13.