Japanese cultural center in San Jose in danger of closing

A nonprofit in San Jose that has taught the arts and culture of Japan to hundreds of families is in danger of closing. The center owes thousands of dollars in back rent because of the pandemic. Many families said they would be sad to see it go.

Before the pandemic, the Japanese Art & Cultural Center or JACC in San Jose was busy. It is half dojo teaching ancient martial arts training, the other half is a classroom with Japanese language and arts.

"We are here to help parents with their kids, helping people find out more about Japan," said Eugene Chang of the Japanese Art & Cultural Center.

While most martial arts facilities focus on competition, the center founded in 2010 is Zen-like focused on self-improvement.

"The philosophy is to be able to train the body, train the mind and be able to serve the community," said Chang.

It’s helped those with attention deficit disorder. For 13-year-old Jacob Gechlik, diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, learning karate at the center has helped him gain control without medication.

"It was more helpful than attending many therapy sessions," said Gary Gechlik of Palo Alto.

"Finally feel that I could be safe and comfortable in my own skin," said Jacob Gechlik of Palo Alto.

Due to the pandemic, the center has been shut down since March last year. Student fees covered rent and utilities. All instructors are volunteers.

The landlord is working with them and has discounted rent. However, the center must come up with at least $45,000 in back rent fast.

"If we don’t, this dojo this center will have to close," said Chang.

It’s sad news for Ruke Shimuzu, an instructor who at first volunteered to stay close to her roots but now has other reasons.

"We see kids and students come through every day and we change their lives," sadi Ruke Shimizu of the Japanese Art & Cultural Center.

The center is inclusive and the instructors are diverse who said places like this need to stay open.

"Especially now there is a lot of hatred against Asians," said Chang.

It’s a positive outlet to address societal concerns and fears and to educate.

"To keep the center open is a way for everybody to come together and understand each other," said Chang.

A Gofundme had been set up over the weekend. It’s raised more $26,000, half of the $45,000 needed, a testament to how much the place is valued.

The center calls it encouraging but will need to come up with all the money by next week.

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