fbpx Discover San Francisco Japantown!
SF Japantown Header
Social Media Icons
San Francisco Japantown News & Events San Francisco Japantown Directory Getting to San Francisco Japantown San Francisco Japantown Community San Francisco Japantown Partners Getting to San Francisco Japantown Contact Us
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Visit our Flicker gallery San Francisco Japantown Home Japan Center Garage
The History of San Francisco Japantown

The neighborhood that is now Japantown (Nihonmachi) is approximately one mile west of Union Square and is part of San Francisco’s Western Addition, a subdivision that came into being with the writing of the Van Ness Ordinance in 1855. The land then was sandy and barren, and accommodated primarily bobcats, rabbits, quail, and chaparral.In the 1870s, San Franciscans began to move to this area. They built homes in a variety of architectural styles with the Victorian influence predominating. Van Ness Avenue was the eastern boundary of the Western Addition and also the breakpoint of the fire caused by the great earthquake of 1906.

The Western Addition remained untouched by the fire and provided a haven for the bulk of San Francisco’s burned-out population. Tent villages were hastily erected in nearby parks to provide emergency accommodations for homeless families. Later these families crowded into small apartments which Western Addition homeowners had built into the attics, basements, and wings of their homes. Many property owners raised their houses and placed stores beneath them, and additional commercial buildings were constructed alongside homes. Thus began the mixed land use which later brought restaurants, theatres, saloons, and hotels to the area.

Arrival of the Japanese
The first Japanese arrived in San Francisco – or Soko as they called it – in the early 1860s. For the most part, they lived in Chinatown and in neighborhoods south of Market Street, including South Park and the area near what is now the San Francisco Shopping Centre. It was not until the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire drove many of them from their homes that they began moving to the Western Addition. As they settled here, they built churches and shrines and opened typically Japanese shops and restaurants. The neighborhood took on a very Japanese character and before long became a miniature Ginza known as Nihonmachi, or Japantown. It is here that the foundations of San Francisco’s Japanese American community took root.

With the advent of World War II, the Japanese Americans in San Francisco and in other West Coast communities suddenly were uprooted and interned in what was one of the great tragedies of the War – and a most regrettable episode in our country’s history.
Following the War, many of the original Japanese American residents returned to the city to pick up the threads of their lives. Today, nearly 12,000 Japanese Americans live in San Francisco and approximately 80,000 live in the greater Bay Area.




Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival is said to be the second largest festival outside of Washington, D.C. to celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms; and held at one of three remaining Japantowns in the United States.


Nihonmachi Street Fair

Founded in 1973, the Nihonmachi Street Fair was hatched as an idea to provide leadership and mentorship opportunities for the youth of Japantown and to honor the cultural heritage that was, at the time, at risk of being displaced.


National Japanese American Historical Society

The National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), founded in 1980, is a non-profit membership organization is dedicated to the collection, preservation, authentic interpretation, and sharing of historical information of the Japanese American experience for the diverse broader national and global community.


Japanese Community Youth Council

The mission of JCYC is to cultivate and enrich the lives of children and youth from diverse, multi-cultural communities throughout San Francisco and beyond. They provide a comprehensive continuum of care from preschool to college and empower young people to realize their full potential to ensure that they have the resources and support necessary to grow into healthy, responsible adults.


Japanese American Citizens League

Founded in 1929, the JACL is the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. The JACL monitors and responds to issues that enhance or threaten the civil and human rights of all Americans and implements strategies to effect positive social change, particularly to the Asian Pacific American community.


Japanese Cultural & Community Center of No. CA

The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of No. CA strives to meet the evolving needs of the Japanese American community through offering programs, affordable services and facility usage.


Kimochi, Inc.

Kimochi, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides culturally sensitive care for seniors primarily serving the Japanese American community.


Nakayoshi Young Professionals

Nakayoshi is a group for young adults and recent college graduates in the San Francisco Bay Area looking for opportunities to network, volunteer and get involved in the Japanese American and Asian Pacific American community, and to have fun at the same time!



Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Visit our Flicker gallery San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency San Francisco Japantown Home San Francisco Japantown Home Japan Center Garage Parking Info
JCGC Community Fund  | JCGC Marketing Fund