Mayor London Breed Celebrates Forthcoming Rehabilitation of Historic Japantown Community Center and School

Kinmon Gakuen, located at 2031 Bush Street, received a $5 million grant through the City’s API Nonprofit Acquisition Fund, and $4.5 million provided by the State of California
March 01, 2024

Mayor London N. Breed and community leaders today celebrated recent funding for the rehabilitation of Kinmon Gakuen’s school and auditorium at 2031 Bush Street. The educational institution, also known as the Golden Gate Institute, is one of the oldest cultural organizations in San Francisco’s Japantown and has been offering elementary through high school-level courses for children of Japanese ancestry since 1911.  

"For over a century, Kinmon Gakuen has been an important education institute supporting children of Japanese descent and their families especially at times when our Japanese community was harshly discriminated against,” said Mayor London Breed. “As someone who grew up just a few blocks away from the Japantown community, I deeply understand that our community is still healing from the painful xenophobia they endured. Through investing in this iconic institute, we are working to preserve, embrace, and celebrate the cultural heritage and accomplishments of the oldest Japantown in America and our Japanese American community to our City and nation.”

The forthcoming renovations of Kinmon Gakuen will be supported by a $5 million grant through the API Nonprofit Acquisition Fund, secured through a competitive request for proposals process facilitated by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). Assemblymember Phil Ting secured an additional $4.5 million in funding from the State of California for the organization.  

“Japantown residents and their families have endured so much pain since immigrating to San Francisco. We must make it right by investing in their community. Revitalizing a neighborhood asset gives visitors a chance to connect and learn about the area’s history,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting

Kinmon Gakuen was created in the wake of an 1895 school exclusion law passed by the San Francisco Board of Education which made it difficult for children of Japanese ancestry to attend public schools. Through fundraising and donations, Kinmon Gakuen officially opened in 1911, and at its height boasted more than 600 enrolled students. After many years of dedicated fundraising, a new building for Kinmon Gakuen was constructed in 1926, where it currently stands. During the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940’s, the school closed and the building was used as a processing center by the U.S. military. The site also served as the gathering place for one of the main contingents of evacuees to the Tanforan Assembly Center until the school’s reopening in 1949. 

Kinmon Gakuen remains as a historical landmark for the Japanese American community and a center for community programs and events. For nearly a century, Kinmon Gakuen served as a cultural educational center and movie house on Saturdays showing Japanese films, plays and other community events. It also holds the distinction of having been visited by many members of the Imperial Family of Japan. In 2019, Kinmon Gakuen was recognized with a landmark designation by the City and County of San Francisco for its contribution of providing and promoting important historic and cultural resources.   

Today’s celebration kicks off the community’s planning and envisioning of Kinmon Gakuen’s rehabilitation and renewal. After renovations are complete, the Kinmon Community Center project will restore community-wide use of the historic building. The rehabilitated building will host classes six days a week and serve as a home for nonprofit offices, social and legal services, community meetings, and cultural activities, including art, exhibit, event, and performance spaces.    

“We are extremely honored to be the recipient of the much-needed financial support from the City and County of San Francisco to rehabilitate our building to be fully utilized for community use and enjoyment,” said Kinmon Gakuen Board President Shinichi Seino. “Kinmon Gakuen is the oldest building that remains of our pre-World War II history in this community, and we will now be able to remain a vibrant venue for generations to come." 

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2022-23 budget included $30 million for acquisition and tenant improvements of community facilities. These would be paid for by issuing Certificates of Participation (COPs), a type of debt, through the Office of Public Finance. In 2023, MOHCD issued two rounds of Requests for Proposals (RFP) for the API Nonprofit Acquisition Fund. To-date, $29.2 million has been awarded to seven organizations. 

About Kinmon Gakuen

Established in 1911, Kinmon Gakuen/ Golden Gate Institute served as an educational institution for the children of Japanese immigrants who were not allowed to go to the local schools in the US. In 1924, the State of California granted its recognition as a legal corporation. Over the years, Kinmon Gakuen has grown. With time it has become a venue for Japanese Americans to gather and participate in cultural activities to enrich their lives and those of future generations. Today, Kinmon Gakuen is a language school that teaches not only the language but also the Japanese culture and tradition to anyone interested. 

To learn more about its mission and history, please click here.