In Japantown, new condos meet old customs

By Donna Gillespie

While wandering through the haze of sizzling teriyaki burgers and listening to the pounding of Taiko drums at the Nihonmachi Street Fair last month, you might have been asked to sign a petition supporting the event, or seen people wearing stickers that said “Save Our Festivals.”

It was a response to a local developer and the head of a new condo association, who had threatened to shut down Japantown’s festivals.
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‘Our Lady of the Parking Lot’

In the parking lot behind St. Dominic's Church is a shrine to Our Lady.

Neighborhood lore says the bulldozer operators couldn’t bear to push down the grotto in the school’s courtyard when St. Rose Academy was demolished after the 1989 earthquake. So they carefully left it standing — and it’s still there, amid a grove of cherry trees, in the parking lot behind St. Dominic’s Church. Covered with gnarly vines watered by an underground spring, the grotto is a place of quiet contemplation dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. To locals she has become “Our Lady of the Parking Lot.”