|Gateway to Japantown San Francisco
This article was reposted from About.com – California Travel Section, by Betsy Malloy, About.com Guide “How to Spend a Day or Weekend in San Francisco Japantown.”
Japantown San Francisco is bit of concentrated Japanese culture in San Francisco, small but mostly undiluted. Even the hotels are Japanese-themed, making it all the more fun.
Japanese settlement began in this part of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake forced people to move out of residences in Chinatown and south of Market Street. Settling in the area called the Western Addition, they built churches and shrines and soon, the neighborhood’s Japanese shops and restaurants became a miniature Ginza known as Nihonmachi, or Japantown.
This area is good for a day visit or a leisurely, one-night getaway.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Japantown?
Japantown is a unique cultural opportunity, one of only 3 official Japantowns in the continental United States (the others are Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and Japantown in San Jose.
If you enjoy shopping for unusual things, you’ll find tons of them in the Japantown shops.
One of the best things about Japantown San Francisco is that you can get there by public transportation or park your car in the Japantown Center Garage and just leave it there until you’re ready to go home.
Best Time to Go to Japantown
San Francisco weather is best in April and October, but most any time is fine to visit Japantown, especially since many of its attractions are indoors. It’s extra festive and fun during the annual events listed below.
If you’ve only got a day, spend it walking around the Japantown Center, shopping and exploring.
4 More Great Things to Do in Japantown San Francisco
- Take a Tour: San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tours of Japantown, a great way to learn more about the place.
- Go to the Movies: We wouldn’t normally recommend this as a weekend getaway activity and the only thing Japanese about it is the name, but the Sundance Kabuki Theatre offers an extraordinarily pleasant film-going experience that’s far beyond your local multiplex.
- Come Clean: Kabuki Hot Springs & Spa offers a unique opportunity to experience a Japanese-style bath experience, a very relaxing process that comes with an extremely reasonable price tag. They also offer massages at a good price.
- Go Shopping: Shops in Japantown Center offer a wide range of Japanese goods, including books, ikebana flower-arranging supplies and housewares. Pika-Pika is always a hit with the girls, who like to use the Japanese photo booths to make silly stickers and photo stamps. Daiso is also a fun shopping stop. Think of it as a Japanese bargain shop, where you can find all kinds of fun and kitschy stuff for very affordable prices.
Annual Events You Should Know About
Cherry Blossom Festival: April
Japan Day Festival: June
Nihonmachi Street Fair: First weekend of August
Best Bites in Japantown San Francisco
You’ll find lots of Japanese restaurants in Japantown Center, serving Japanese food styles that go way beyond sushi and ramen noodles. Check reviews of them at Yelp.com
If you’d like someone to introduce you to what’s available, try Gourmet Walks’ Japantown Tour.
For a fine evening of Japanese cuisine and great (non-Japanese) jazz music, Yoshi’s serves up both – and it’s only a few blocks away from Japantown Center.
Where to Stay in Japantown San Francisco
If you want to stay with the Japanese theme, you have a couple of options: Hotel Buchanan, a cheerful place with anime-style wall murals that the kids would love. It’s one of my favorite San Francisco hotels. You can also try Hotel Kabuki for a more laid-back, traditional Japanese style experience, with deep soaking tubs and sliding panel walls.
For help getting the best possible deal on these places or others, read about how to find a good place to stay, cheap.
Where Is Japantown San Francisco?
Japantown San Francisco is located west of San Francisco’s Union Square, just off Geary Blvd. at Fillmore Street.