Historic San Jose Japantown monument vandalized

A granite monument that was gifted to the City of San Jose by its sister city in Japan was vandalized overnight. It’s the latest in a series of crimes in San Jose’s Japantown.

City leaders said the Japantown community has been hit hard with thefts, burglaries and vandalism during this pandemic. The defacing of a beloved piece of art adding insult to injury.

In the heart of San Jose’s Japantown at the corner of North Fifth and Jackson Streets, the 11,000-pound granite rock is not just any rock but a monument that holds special significance straight from a little island in Japan.

"We were able to secure a stone in Japan and have it shipped over," said Ken Matsumoto of Art Object Gallery. "It sort of made the same journey that the original Issei’s did."

It’s a nod to the first-generation Issei pioneers who immigrated from Japan and settled in San Jose. The granite symbolizing their strength and resilience. It’s a gift given in 2008 from San Jose’s sister city Okayama.

Overnight Monday, the gift was tagged with red graffiti.

"It’s heartbreaking," said Jane Kawasaki of the Japantown Community Congress. "It’s hard to believe someone would be doing something like this."

"I was extremely disheartened," said San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez.

Peralez who represents Japantown said the community has struggled already with businesses broken into and vandalized in recent weeks.

"I don't believe this was targeted specific for the Asian American community," said Peralez. "I unfortunately have seen this particular moniker."

Community members suspect a tagging crew may not have realized what they were tagging.

A business’s surveillance video captures a bicyclist at 1:30 a.m. believed to be the vandal.

"A lot of these individuals are out in the cover of darkness at night when this happened," said Peralez. "Pretty quick imagine it only takes a couple of seconds."

Garden City Construction is looking to restore the monument.

"The blatant disregard that people have for other people’s property now is a travesty," said Jim Salata, president of Garden City Construction.

Community members hope to have the graffiti taken down as quickly as it was put up.

"Some people just don’t understand what these things are here for and what they represent," said Matsumoto.

Peralez said he’s seen an increase in graffiti vandalism as police are tied up with priority calls. He’s now looking at offering monetary rewards for people who can identify the vandals.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at azenith.smith@foxtv.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.