Johnson Town is an enclave of carefully restored American suburban buildings in Saitama Prefecture dating back to the early 1950’s. Located in close vicinity to Iruma Air Base, with which it shares much history, Johnson Town is today a vintage America-themed, privately owned neighborhood offering a large number of cafés and restaurants as well as many antique shops specializing in Americana.
This private neighbourhood is owned and managed by the Isono Corporation. Mr. Isono’s father purchased the land in the 1920s. The area was primarily agricultural land owned by silk mills who grew their own food to feed their female workers. The silk industry fell on hard times and had to sell off many of their agricultural holdings, and Mr. Isono Snr was one of the buyers.
The air base was originally established in 1937 as Irumagawa Airfield. it played its role in WWII including the deployment of kamikaze suicide missions and, like all other Japanese military installations, was taken over by the U.S. after the war ended.
Renamed Johnson Air Base, the site became one of Japan’s most important U.S. air bases, housing major air force units operating all over Japan and South Korea.
Johnson Town has 24 original American houses, 35 modern ‘Heisei Houses’ and 7 kominka, accommodating up to 130 households. Many of the residents are creative types, such as photographers, designers, authors and musicians. Some have opened their own studios, cafes and shops in the estate. There are no fences between houses. This helps to create a real community atmosphere which is not something you would normally find elsewhere in Japan.
The very center of Johnson Town is a small intersection adjoined by Café Marcus and Culture Café Grandir. The two cafés, attached to each other in an L configuration, both offer tables on their porches, right under the big magnolia tree in front of them. Drinking coffee on the porch of either café on a sunny day in March, when the tree is in full bloom, is an extraordinary experience. Interesting? Please check it out!