Sunday I convinced my family to come with me on an augmented reality tour of J-town – Hidden Histories of San Jose Japantown. J-town, or Japantown, in San Jose is one of three remaining Japanese communities in California, the others are in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
I saw an announcement for the augmented tour and we printed out the map from hiddenhistoryjtown.org and downloaded the AR-vos app on ar-vos.com. Our first stop was Santo Market, a supermarket with a great mural. The app showed us pictures from farmers and when you clicked on a seed it turned into a green vegetable, best guess broccoli.
The intersection of Fifth and Jackson St has floating blue lotuses. If you walk over to the Issei Memorial you see more images and a short Taiko performance with animated characters. This, I think, was my favorite. But overall the experience might be for a younger audience. My teenager wasn’t impressed at all.
While walking around we found a store that sells plants and collectible toys – Zonkey – what a great combination!
Our last try with the augmented tour was in front of San Jose’s Buddhist Church. You could place Chattra Umbrellas on the sidewalk. I got mine to spin, my husband multiplied his.
The real treat were the two chalk drawings left over from the Obon Festival. Beautiful.
In conclusion, I would not recommend the augmented tour, but a real tour of J-town is well worth it.
A few more tips if you decide on doing the augmented tour. We found that we had to restart the app for every station. Also, the maker of the app, AR-vos, recommend bringing an extra phone charger. And I agree, the app will drain your battery. Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk into the streets in order to view the art.
While you are in Japantown, I also highly recommend the Japanese American Museum.
Have you explored J-town before?