Japan's own little slice of 1950's America
Johnson Town in Iruma, Saitama, is a picture-perfect recreation of a small American town straight out of the 1950s. Neatly trimmed lawns separate period-style wooden houses, vintage cars are parked at the most scenic spots, and restaurants sell homemade burgers.
Although Johnson Town feels American, all the residents and shopkeepers are Japanese. It’s an American dreamland made by Japanese for Japanese, which is further part of the town’s charm.
Things to see and do
Johnson Town is an easy day trip from Tokyo, offering scenery that feels like walking through the sets of Leave it to Beaver while offering a large variety of contemporary delights. They range from hearty American-style food, closely adhering to original recipes to the latest in western-inspired health food.
Try the huge burgers at a cafe called Blue Corn, or the rice flour bread (米粉パン) at Koigakubo Bakery. The bakery also sells the famous Johnson Town ice cream, a delicious gelato using locally grown Sayama tea as a key ingredient.
If you are in a shopping mood, there are plenty of designer stores scattered across Johnson Town, selling locally made fashion. You might also want to check out the vintage clothing stores and the antique shops specializing in vintage Americana.
Feel free to take your pets out there. Most shops and restaurants pride themselves as pet-friendly, some going as far as to advertise themselves as “shops for dogs and their owners.”
Adjacent to Johnson Town is two large parks. They make for a leisurely stroll through the woods with your dog after consuming that large hamburger.
Johnson Town history
Johnson Town is rooted in an American Airforce settlement dating from the same period whose image Johnson Town today tries to preserve.
In 1937, the Irumagawa Airfield was opened and soon became one of Japan’s largest military airfields. The airfield played an important part in World War II, including the deployment of kamikaze missions.
After the war, the American Airforce took over the Japanese airfield and renamed it Johnson Airbase.
Several residences were built to accommodate the American officers. Those residences offered the latest in American comforts, which the officers were accustomed to back home. Houses were spacious and had what many consider a staple of American life, a lawn.
Today, Johnson Town sports more than 50 businesses. They range from wellness clinics to cafes, and a great variety of quirky shops. Parts of the town are purely residential. You can walk those streets, but please respect the privacy of the citizens.
For more information visit the Johnson Town official website.