Railtown Japantown

Railtown-Japantown is a compounded micro-hood that is part of Downtown Eastside. It is home to several interesting shops, designs studios, small event venues, restaurants and cafes, not to mention Oppenheimer Park and the beach at Crab Park. The boundaries are Main Street (some say Columbia) in the west to Heatley Street in the east and from the waterfront and railway tracks (hence the name) south to Alexander Street. Though the modern diaspora of Japanese-Canadians is now found throughout Vancouver, at one time this neighbourhood was the epicentre of Japanese-Canadian culture and business, and the home of the famous Asahi baseball team (Oppenheimer Park was their home field). Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, all persons of Japanese heritage were forcibly relocated to Internment Camps in remote areas of the province. Their property and belongings were sold, and all mainstream Japanese newspapers and publications were shut down (more on this here). Though very few Japanese businesses and institutions have returned to the area, the blocks just to the north – what was once a thriving industrial enclave of warehouses and workshops – have been transformed into something of a tech/design hub over the last decade; Railway St. itself is now a parade of local fashion houses, design shops, tech start-ups, interior stores, and even an urban winery.

THE COLOUR PALETTE


Dock freight crane orange-red; the summer grass in Oppenheimer Park: Cadeaux Bakery salted caramel brownie tri-colour; violet neon signage of Cuchillo; the bright yellow facade of Double Happiness Foods; No. 5 Orange exterior; the interior blues of St. Lawrence; Vancouver Urban Winery grey exterior; Railway JJ Bean tri-colour; interior paneling at Ask For Luigi.

THINGS WE’VE SEEN HEREABOUTS

  • IMG_4057
  • The Mackenzie Room
    The Mackenzie Room
  • St. Lawrence.
    St. Lawrence.
  • St. James Church
    St. James Church
  • IMG_4011
  • Lunch at Railtown Cafe
    Lunch at Railtown Cafe
  • Sunrise Market
    Sunrise Market
  • Ask For Luigi
    Ask For Luigi
  • IMG_4062
  • The Park Cafe (now The Mackenzie Room)
    The Park Cafe (now The Mackenzie Room)
  • Ask For Luigi
    Ask For Luigi
  • Table #11 at The Alibi Room
    Table #11 at The Alibi Room
  • Chef Sean Reeve | MacKenzie Room
    Chef Sean Reeve | MacKenzie Room
  • Powell Street Festival
    Powell Street Festival
  • IMG_3619
  • Cadeaux
    Cadeaux
  • Cuchillo
    Cuchillo
  • IMG_4039
  • Crab Park
    Crab Park
  • Vancouver Urban Winery
    Vancouver Urban Winery
  • IMG_3390
  • JJ Bean
    JJ Bean
  • Cuchillo
    Cuchillo
  • Powell Street Festival
    Powell Street Festival
  • Vancouver Urban Winery
    Vancouver Urban Winery
  • IMG_3479
  • Cuchillo
    Cuchillo
  • Vancouver Urban Winery
    Vancouver Urban Winery
  • Raspberry lemon scone at Cadeaux
    Raspberry lemon scone at Cadeaux
  • IMG_3575
  • Mathew Bishop of The Mackenzie Room
    Mathew Bishop of The Mackenzie Room
  • Vancouver Urban Winery
    Vancouver Urban Winery
  • St. Lawrence
    St. Lawrence
  • Railtown Cafe
    Railtown Cafe
  • Powell Street Festival
    Powell Street Festival
  • Cuchillo
    Cuchillo
  • IMG_3627
  • IMG_4055
  • Cadeaux
    Cadeaux
  • Crab Park
    Crab Park
  • IMG_3341
  • Railtown Cafe
    Railtown Cafe
  • Jamie and Lyndon Cormack of Herschel Supply Co.
    Jamie and Lyndon Cormack of Herschel Supply Co.
  • St. Lawrence
    St. Lawrence
  • IMG_3607
  • Cuchillo, before it was Cuchillo
    Cuchillo, before it was Cuchillo
  • Stephanie Schneider at Glasnost | Railtown
    Stephanie Schneider at Glasnost | Railtown
  • Cuchillo
    Cuchillo
  • Vancouver Urban Winery
    Vancouver Urban Winery
  • St. Lawrence
    St. Lawrence
  • Cuchillo construction
    Cuchillo construction
  • IMG_3487
  • The team behind the fondly remembered Fat Dragon restaurant (closed in late 2012)
    The team behind the fondly remembered Fat Dragon restaurant (closed in late 2012)
  • Remembering the peameal bacon from Big Lou's (now St. Lawrence)
    Remembering the peameal bacon from Big Lou's (now St. Lawrence)
  • Crab Park
    Crab Park
  • The Mackenzie Room
    The Mackenzie Room

HERE YOU WILL FIND

GENERATIONAL GUILT OVER JAPANESE INTERNMENT
GREAT VIEWS FROM THE BRIDGE AT ALEXANDER & MAIN
A PLACE TO SPRAWL IN OPPENHEIMER PARK
THE INCOMPARABLE TABLE NO. 11 AT THE ALIBI ROOM
PEOPLE AT REST WITH COLD BEERS IN CRAB PARK (AKA PORTSIDE PARK)
SHOPPERS INVESTIGATING PRODUCE AT SUNRISE MARKET
PEOPLE WATCHING DURING THE NERD/FASHIONISTA LUNCH RUSH
CRAZY LOUD NOISES COMING FROM THE FREIGHTER DOCKS
THE POWELL STREET FESTIVAL IN OPPENHEIMER PARK
THE NUMBER 5 ORANGE AND THOSE WHO LURK BY ITS DOOR

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK


ALBACORE TUNA CEVICHE AT CUCHILLO
THE CLUB SANDWICH AT RAILTOWN CAFE
THE STRONG RAILTOWN BEANS FROM JJ BEAN
PASTA AT ASK FOR LUIGI
CHICKEN FRIED STEAK WITH COUNTRY GRAVY AT DEACON’S CORNER
FRAT BAT BEER SAMPLER AT THE ALIBI ROOM
A TOUR OF THE WINE TAPS AT VANCOUVER URBAN WINERY
THE TOURTIERE AT ST. LAWRENCE
“I WANT IT ALL” CHEF’S TASTING MENU AT THE MACKENZIE ROOM

Which TWO Railtown/Japantown restaurants are your favourites?

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COOL THINGS OF NOTE


– The first school in Vancouver, opened in 1873, was the Hastings Sawmill School at the foot of Dunlevy Avenue.

– The Roger’s Sugar Factory at the Port of Vancouver (c. 1890) was the city’s first major industry outside of fishing and forestry.

– Herschel Supply Co. – provider of good bags to quality-appreciative students and world travellers alike – have their home base in Railtown.

– The Alibi Room was once co-owned by actors Jason Priestly and Gillian Anderson.

– The old Hastings Mill site was a hotspot for unemployed and transient men during the Great Depression. These squats and shacks were referred to as the “hobo jungles”.

– In 1986 Railtown residents successfully lobbied for a bylaw to allow artists work/live privileges in warehouse studios, the first of its kind in Canada.

– The Japanese name for the Powell Street area (Japantown) is Nihonmachi.

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