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
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
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.