|Discover Japantown: Edible Excursions’ Tour Shines a Light on Unique Culinary Offerings
Japantown is one of the most culturally rich neighborhoods of San Francisco, with a fascinating history and delicious, authentic cuisine. Edible Excursions has led culinary tours through the neighborhood for 3 years, guiding guests to the many diverse gems including YakinQ Café for sweet potato lattes, fresh onigiri (rice balls) from Kissako Tea, handmade mochi (rice cake) from Benkyodo, and authentic Masala Dosa with chutney from DOSA.
Edible Excursions guide and Japantown community member Alice Kawahatsu, a 3rd generation Japanese American who was born and raised in San Francisco, gives us her perspective on what makes this community unique and why this tour a must-do for San Franciscans and visitors alike.
What makes the Japantown community special, in your opinion?
Alice Kawahatsu: A lot of people who live in Japantown and own businesses here have seen the community go through many transitions. They’ve seen everything – good and bad, sad and happy times. So we tend to be a very close- knit community. We support each other. The people here span many different generations, so you have small kids and families as well as older people who have been around for decades all interacting together. It’s a nice feeling to be able to walk down the street and say “hi” to everyone you pass.
Why do you think the restaurants on the Japantown tour are culturally unique?
AK: The places we visit on the tour are places that most people who come to Japantown haven’t tried before. They may have had sushi and basic Japanese food, but we let them experience new things, like okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake). We help guests open up their taste buds and learn how food is put together. Our tour also leads guests through the local supermarket, so they can see where the ingredients come from and what they look like before they are prepared in a dish.
What do visitors and locals most enjoy about the tour?
AK: I think they like learning about the history, and they like learning how to feel comfortable going into different restaurants and stores. Maybe they have passed the restaurant or even eaten there before, but had no idea what to order. This tour helps them to learn not only about some of the great businesses here, but to also expand their knowledge about the offerings. They seem to enjoy visiting a variety of places and getting to know the community.
What is most surprising to guests on the tour?
AK: When they sign up for the tour, they know that they are going to enjoy great food. But they don’t expect to hear the stories of how the restaurants came to be, or that many of these restaurants even existed. They’ll often say, “Wow, I didn’t even know there was a place like this in San Francisco.” They are also surprised to learn about my personal connection to this community, and can really connect to the history through my stories. By the end of the tour, everyone is full, happy, and a little more informed about a wonderful San Francisco neighborhood.
Join Edible Excursions for an upcoming tour to discover your favorite bites!
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
For more information: www.edibleexcursions.net