Open Doors Project

441 Powell Street

RUSS ROOMING HOUSE 1898-1902 | UCHIDA FAMILY 1908-1942 | WAKABAYASHI TOFU ca. 1920s-1942

Many families lived in small apartments above or behind storefronts. Narrow alleys or breezeways connected the street to the back alleys, often to reach gardens, stables, sheds or nagaya (apartments added at the back of the building).

Tofu is made from soybeans, which is high in protein and is essential in Japanese cooking. There were several competing tofu producers in Powell Street.

"We made about 50 tofu cakes each day, selling them for about 5 cents each. Day by day, we sold more. Then by 1941, we were making 250 tofu cakes each day, selling for 10 cents each." - Bud Tanaka 

Artist Comments and Additional Information

Tofu was a product often made and sold along Powell Street. There were several competing tofu producers like Wakabayashi Tofu, which was located at 439 ½ Powell Street, one of many businesses located along breezeways. The rendering of a tofu maker is seen in this panel and through the window is an historical photograph of "lane houses" and how alleyways (breezeways) were utilized on Powell Street between buildings.