Japantown San Francisco is a bit of concentrated Japanese culture in San Francisco, small but mostly undiluted. Even the hotels are Japanese-themed, making it all the more unique and 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 plenty of them in any one of 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 excellent to visit Japantown, especially since many of its attractions are indoors. It's extra festive, lively, 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, an excellent way to learn more about the place.
- Go to the Movies: We wouldn't usually 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 incredibly reasonable price tag. They also offer massages and other spa services at a good price.
- Go Shopping: Shops in Japantown Center offer a wide range of Japanese products, 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: July
- Nihonmachi Street Fair: Mid-August
- J-Pop: September
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 to help you decide which one is best for you.
If you'd like someone to introduce you to what's available, try Gourmet Walks' Japantown Tour.
Where to Stay in Japantown San Francisco
If you want to stay with the Japanese theme, you have a couple of options: Kimpton Buchanan, or the 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.