Johnson Town

American suburb in Iruma City

By Sherilyn Siy    - 2 min read

If you are driving around Iruma City (Saitama), you might chance upon a community of mostly one-story clapboard houses with paint finish and cement tile roofs that look straight out of an American suburb.

This house transports me straight to the suburbs of America
This house transports me straight to the suburbs of America

This is Johnson Town, one of the few remaining areas densely populated with similar type houses. Most of the distinctly American Army Houses were built in 1954 for US civilian employees, following the outbreak of the Korean War (1950). Twenty-three such buildings remain. In 1978, when the US military returned Johnson Air Base (now known as Iruma Air Base) to Japan, the area was neglected and began to deteriorate until developers saw the potential of the area with its history and charm. In 2004, the first of the Heisei houses was built. The Heisei House follows the aesthetics, safety and comfort of the US military house, while meeting the current building standards. Throughout Johnson Town, you will see the consistency of the atmosphere.

I'd love to sit out in this porch and chat with neighbors
I'd love to sit out in this porch and chat with neighbors

In 2008, the developers called this area PHAI (Parkside House Azuma-cho Iruma), but the name didn't really stick. The acronym didn't mean anything. Residents and visitors spontaneously called the area "Johnson Town," because of the Johnson Base and the American feel of the place. In 2009, the name "Johnson Town" became official, with the PHAI mark added as a logo underneath. This is what you will see today.

One of several cafes and restaurants to choose from
One of several cafes and restaurants to choose from

Right next to gorgeously wooded Fujimi Park, Johnson Town is a residential and commercial area with abundant nature. Stroll through the streets, browse curio shops, stop for a cup of coffee or a leisurely lunch and enjoy an atmosphere like nowhere else. Pets are welcome in many of the establishments.

Curio shop
Curio shop
One of the few two story houses.
One of the few two story houses.

Getting there

Johnson Town is about an 18 minute walk or a 3 minute taxi ride from Iruma Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line. Parking is available for over 86 cars. On weekdays, parking is free for the first 30 minutes, and ¥200 for every hour thereafter, capped at ¥800 for 24 hours. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, parking costs ¥200 every 30 minutes and up to ¥1,000 for 24 hours.

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Sherilyn Siy

Sherilyn Siy @sherilyn.siy

For Sherilyn Siy, Asia is home. Born in Hong Kong, Sherilyn spent time in the Philippines, China, and now lives in Japan. She speaks English, Filipino, Chinese (or putonghua), and Hokkien, her family's local dialect. Running is one of her favorite ways to explore Japan. She proudly finished the 2015 Tokyo Marathon -- her first ever full marathon -- in 4 hours and 37 minutes. She was absolutely psyched when she got selected again to run the new Tokyo Marathon route in 2018. She hopes to complete other races in Japan. 

Join the discussion

Lynda Hogan 6 months ago
I'm so glad you got to go. Great write up about it and beautiful photos.
Elizabeth S 6 months ago
I've been curious about this place for ages! It absolutely looks like suburban North America.

Clever how the real estate company incorporated the vintage style in new houses.
Sherilyn Siy Author 6 months ago
I've always been curious too! Happy to finally tick it off my list and see it for myself.