Although not immediately obvious, there are few foreign cultures that have influenced the Davis area more so than Japanese culture. What makes this trend even more dramatic is that Japanese influence has only been felt strongly within recent decades, and yet its impact is so pervasive today; this inclusive attitude contrasts sharply against less enlightened times in which Davis had succumbed to anti-Japanese prejudice. Pre-existing racial tensions were heightened by the Japanese involvement in World War II, and the Davis City Council unanimously approved a policy of Japanese Internment. The council, then led by CA Covell, also decided that Japanese nationals and even American citizens of Japanese descent should not be allowed to live in Davis after the war.
Now, however, the situation is a lot more progressive. The Fred T. Korematsu Elementary School is named after a Japanese American leader who was interned. Davis Senior High School has a strong Japanese language program. Ranging from food to philosophy, it is indeed rare to find an element of Japanese culture which is not well represented in Davis.
Sushi, in particular, is almost ridiculously popular in Davis. It seems like every time you turn a corner, you see a sushi joint. A lot of it is technically American style-sushi, meaning that it's often slathered with insane helpings of high-calorie, sugary goo, but nobody can deny it has become a Davis staple food. Most grocery stores in Davis also have small Japanese food sections. Kim's Mart, while primarily Korean, probably carries the best selection of East Asian foods in general. Other good places to check for Japanese snacks include Cost Plus World Market and The Inconvenient Store.
Sake, the traditional alcoholic beverage of Japan, is also widely available in several varieties at most grocery and liquor stores. Japanese beers may appear to be common in Davis on the surface, but this is actually the greatest beer hoax ever. Almost every Japanese beer sold in the USA is produced in Canada just so that the makers can trick you into believing it's from Japan with their big, fancy letters saying "IMPORTED." The fine print tells a different story. Sadly, these beers are nowhere near the same as their Japanese counterparts as their recipes have been altered to suit the typical Western palette (think overpriced Budweiser with fancy Asian graphics). Even Kim's is not totally immune to this phenomenon; as of this writing, the store may have one beer that is actually from Japan, but most of her selection is the same crap they sell you everywhere else. I can't remember for sure but she may have real Sapporo singles. Drinkers should document any other locations in town that actually sell real Japanese beer clearly marked as being from Japan
Davis was once home to Crepe House Uni, a chain franchise headquartered in Japan. It initially required its all-female staff to dress as cosplay maids as part of the dress code. Customers were able to buy authentic fast foods rarely found outside of Japan such as okonomiyaki (creative pancake) and takoyaki (octopus balls). Sadly, the store had to be closed owing to some technical hardships of shipping ingredients from Japan.
Japanese Food - Local Japanese restaurants, grocery stores, and food items.
Relief Efforts for the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster of March, 2011.
Religion and Philosophy
Davis is a very Buddhist-friendly town, and there are a few groups that follow distinctly Japanese forms of Buddhism; there are also many individuals who practice on their own.
Bird Path Zen Community of Davis - Originally of Chinese origin, Japanese Zen Buddhism evolved unique characteristics of its own.
Students for Nichiren Buddhism - The only campus club affiliated with Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organization of Japanese origin. They study the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, a famous monk who lived in 13th century Japan.
Pure Land Buddhism - Some buddha statues seen in or around Davis homes are depictions of Amitabha (a fact perhaps unbeknown to some owners), a celestial buddha referred to as Amida in Japanese. This form of Buddhism, existing in various schools, is arguably the most popular in Japan today.
Japanese vehicles are among the most popular in the US. Many of these vehicles made by Japanese companies are actually made in America. All three major Japanese brands are available at local dealerships:
Due to a significant population of UC Davis students from Japan, you can come across the occasional manga or novel in the original Japanese at the local used bookstores or Bizarro World. Also, the collectible card games based off the Pokemon and Yugioh series have had a considerable following over the years. Borders was notable for its large selection of English translated manga, and the shoplifting of such books.
Cosplay (from the Japanese "kosupure") Although the love of dressing up in costume transcends all cultural boundaries, some Japanese fans are particularly obsessive about it. Davis anime and manga fans have taken note and some have developed a similar level of passion.
Electronics and Machinery
Throughout much of the 80's and 90's, Japan was the dominant player in the design and manufacture of video games. You can revisit this golden age of gaming simply by entering the time warp known as MU Games Area at UC Davis. This interactive museum offers you a chance to replay some of the world's most treasured coin-op games, the majority of which are Japanese. It's no secret that arcades are all but dead in the USA, but they are still somewhat popular in Japan. MUGA is one of the ultra-rare American establishments that dares to purchase new arcade game cabinets on occasion, plopping them alongside the ancient, cobwebbed edifices of grandaddies such as Soul Calibur and House of the Dead. Some of the newer games barely seem to be localized as evidenced by the Initial D machine which sings to you in Japanese.
Mori Seiki, a Japanese manufacturer of specialized machinery products, has a laboratory in Davis. They are also building a large factory that is set to open in 2012.
Also, many of the most common cameras are made by Japanese companies. Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, Canon...