Can you imagine bobcats, quail and rabbits roaming the land that is now Japantown? It’s true, Japantown (also referred to as Nihonmachi or Little Osaka) was once sandy and barren. The Japanese first arrived in San Francisco in the 1860′s. They initially settled in Chinatown and SOMA, but the fire resulting from the 1906 earthquake drove many of them from their homes and into the Western Addition, where the Victorian buildings were spared thanks to the break at Van Ness Avenue. The community grew as the Japanese built churches and shrines, and opened Japanese shops and restaurants. In 1960, a five-acre, three-square-block blighted zone was razed to make space for the Japan Center (originally known as the Japanese Cultural and Trade Center), which now houses shops, restaurants, karaoke, and the Miyako Hotel. Japantown is the largest, oldest, and one of only three surviving Japantowns in the continental United States. The five-tiered concrete Peace Pagoda was designed by Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi and was presented to San Francisco by its oldest sister city, Osaka, Japan.