Japantown is a neighbourhood located on the western side of the city. San Francisco's Japanese community dates back to the 1860's, and the area is jam packed with Japanese restaurants and sushi bars, amidst quirky shops selling an unusual range of goods.
In the heart of the area is the Japan Center, which is a tacky-looking shopping mall, with indoor rock gardens and wooden bridges. Worth sticking your head in if you are in the area, but not worth a detour.
Next to the Japan Center is the Peace Pagoda, which was gifted to the city in 1968 by its sister city of Osaka, Japan.
We visited Japantown primarily to have some sushi for lunch, but did enjoy having a look around the area. It is a little out of the way from the main city districts though, so don't think it should be a top priority if your time is limited.
Many Japanese immigrants in the 1900's entered the United States through San Francisco (Hawaii then was just a unincorporated territory) and many settled either here but since the forced internment of Japanese-Americans in world war II, many chose not to go back here hence the area is now less japanese and more cosmopolitan, however the commercial area is still japanese oriented. Japan Town hosts the Japan Center (with its Peace Plaza and five-story Pagoda) that dominates the architectural structure here. Fairly non-de script on the outside but filled with delightful restaurants and shops, stairways and open courtyards, the Japan Center Mall is a concentrated expression of Japanese culture in the middle of San Francisco.
The AMC Kabuki 8 Theater(Good theaters, I watch Movies here Sometimes) also known as the home to the annual San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, is at the western most end of the Japan Center mall and the Kabuki Springs and Spa is at the other end, just a block from the Filmore Auditorium on the other side of Geary Boulevard.
I don't really go to Japantown except to get my hair cut (Comsa/Art'y on Post street, yay!). Mostly Japantown's kind of a big mall with specialty stores and this japanese looking tower thingy, but that said it does have some cool stores. You can buy some hello kitty accessories for tricking out your Honda, visit this awesome beauty store with the best fake eyelashes ever, go do some karaoke and then sit down for some sushi. Oh, and my friend says there's a bargain store with cute sake sets for under $10. It's also a clean area with decent hotels that cheaper than Union Square.
I stopped in to see Japantown twice in April 2007. The first was after dark on a Wednesday when most everything except the restaurants was closed, and the second was on the Sunday afternoon at the end the of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
Japantown is much cleaner, friendlier, and more modern than Chinatown, with a very distinct Japanese flavor in the architecture. One thing that struck me as odd was how many of the storefronts and restaurants had Korean writing instead of Japanese characters. The commercial area is much smaller than Chinatown, running just two blocks by two blocks, centered mainly on Post Street and the giant Peace Pagoda. Here you will find numerous restaurants, shops, and groceries offering a variety of Asian goods and services, as well as the comfortable Kintetsu Mall with its unique restaurant alley. Parking is plentiful in the numerous parking garages, but don't expect to find too much on-street parking during the day. San Francisco's Japantown is the oldest Japanese community in the US, and one of only three Japantowns remaining in California (the others are San Jose and Las Angeles).
The first Japanese arrived in the US in 1841, and in 1851 the first Japanese born person became a US citizen. The Japanese Tea Garden was built in Golden Gate Park in 1894, and by 1900 San Francisco had over 1,700 Japanese residents. San Francisco's Japantown began in 1906 after the San Francisco earthquake ravaged the city and destroyed some of the existing Japanese communities, causing the Japanese people to consolidate here. By 1910, Japantown had some 4,700 Japanese residents despite efforts by the US government to limit Japanese immigration. During World War II, Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the west coast were detained and moved to other parts of the country including 120,000 who ended up in internment camps. Today about 12,000 Japanese-Americans live in San Francisco.
Located about a mile west of Union Square, in the Western Addition, on Geary and Webster streets, what was originally labeled the Japanese Cultural Center is now mostly a collection of Japanese oriented shops and restaurants. The Western Addition has it origins mostly after the 1906 Earthquake when residents from other parts of the city set up tents in the barren sand dunes of the area. Just prior to World War II, the character of this part of the neighborhood had become Japanese, but with World War II, the Japanese became uprooted with the hysteria of relocation to internment camps, mostly in California's central valley. After the war, the city sought a way to build back relations with Japan by cooperating in a venture with Hawaiian based Japanse business people, so in 1960 the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency sold part of the property now part of Japan Town. The center expanded over the years, and became itself redeveloped and modernized in the late 1970's.
Anchor businesses in Japan Town are mostly Japanese-American companies that manage the center and the adjacent hotels. The annual Cherry Blossom festival is an important cultural event in this one of three remaining Japanese neighborhoods in the USA (the others are in San Jose and Los Angeles). Parking is generally pretty easy, and the indoor mall environment one of the largest in the city. There are several memorial statues and fountains outside on the Webster Street center, and inside are quaint Japanese style staircases and pavilions. Bridges of the mall span two city streets. This is a good place to shop for things Japanese in character-- furniture, house decore, art, ornamental plants, cooking supplies, and so on. There are a large number of Japanese restaurants and tea cafes.
San Francisco's Japantown (Nihonmachi) is the biggest among the three remaining Japantowns in California. The other two are in San Jose and Los Angeles. Japantown is roughly bounded by Geary, Sutter, Laguna and Fillmore streets; Post Street is like Japantown's Main Street.
Going to Japantown is like catching a glimpse of another culture. There are many restaurants there where you can sample a wide variety of Japanese cuisine. The shops offer a wide range of Japanese products, including manga (comics), anime, and related collectibles; souvenir items; and houseware. They have a lot of ingenious stuff (gadgets), at very affordable prices, which makes life and work a little bit better.
Japan is a thriving community, which helps to make San Francisco the unique and wonderful city that it is.
So it rained I think 11 of the 14 days I was in San Fran.
My best friend took me here and it was great! We went 4 times.
It's a spa with expensive treatements and massage but they have a "public bath"
which was $20 for the day. They have women's days, men's days, and mixed days.
Bathing suits optional.
This place was very relaxing. It's dim lit and there is no talking. Ambient yoga music playing in the background.
The main room has a hot tub, cold tub, and seated showers as well as cucumbers provided for your eyes! They have a sauna and a steam room as well.
We would go to a make-up counter in the Mall or around town first (my favorite is Origins) and ask for free samples of the various face masks and scrubs. We would go to a few counters and get a bunch of stuff and then go to the spa and do our own treatments ourselves! Don't bother to pay for a facial- do it yourself and still get to relax!
It's great after being cold from the damp rainy weather.
Check out their website!!!! This link is to the communal bath page:
Japan Town, or Japan Center, was built during the 1960s in the Fillmore District. The 75-foot pagoda stands at the center of the Peace Plaza. Kinokuniya, American Multi-Cinema, and Union Bank of California are among the owners of this complex.
If you're looking for Japanese gits, food, or culture then this is the place.
I like this area although it's not as convenient for me to come out here as it used to be.
Japantown was established in the 1860's and is one of the first and oldest Japanese communities in US. Other Japanese enclaves in San Francisco were destroyed by the 1906 earthquake.
There are a lot of good restaurants and shops. Walk through the mall and pick out a restaurant. There are so many to chose from: noodle bowls, bento box, sushi, suriyaki. There is something for everyone. After dinner grab a delicious crepe for dessert. You can also find anything from silk-kimonos, Japanese arts and crafts, silk calligraphy scrolls, tea and many other traditional items.
Unfortunately the complex is a little rundown but please don't let that put you off because it's a great place to spend a few hours. And if you're looking for a traditional Japanese spa, the Kabuki Springs and Spa is also located here.
Japantown celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 2006.
My friend, a fellow Angeleno, is staying in SF for a few months. And when I hang out with her in LA, we like to hit Chinatown and Japanese for kitschy knicknacks featuring characters such as Pucca and Mashimoto and inspiring messages with untintentionally bad English translations.
So one of the first places she wanted to hit when I arrived in SF was Japantown. We didn't get to spend a lot of time in the neighborhood as a whole, but we of course had to visit the Japan Center, consisting of Miyako Mall and Kintetsu Mall.
If you've visited the shops in the heart of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, the Japan Center is more of the same; there is a Kinokuniya Bookstore there as in LA. You have no dearth of knicknack and anime shops as well as pastry/candy shops and sushi restaurants. I haven't decided if Japantown than its LA counterpart is bigger, though. For some reason, there appeared to be more stores in Japantown, but perhaps memory fails.
Peace Plaza, where the Peace Pagoda is, is a pleasant place to hang out, eat, and catch a musical/dance performance or two. The International Dragon Boat Festival was taking place the day we visited.
See my restaurant tips and travelogue for more pics from Japantown.
J Town is the neighborhood known as Japantown. It is home to over 10,000 residents of Japanese descent. Japan Center which can be found on Geary at Webster, is a 3-block complex with shops selling unique items from the Orient, restaurants, art galleries and a movie theater complex. This neighborhood has become a miniature ginza known as Nihonmachi.
In Japan Town you can get great food. Plus there's The Kabuki Spa, Japanese communal baths. Book a massage, Body Wrap: Matcha, or Facials. Very clean enviornment. You have an area to read and relax if you're between steams, so bring a good book.
Although not as large or as well know as Chinatown, there is a Japantown in San Francisco. With the small population of only 12,000 people Japantown is one of the smaller neighborhoods in San Francisco. Here you will find the five tiered Peace Pagoda representing a symbol of eternal peace. The pagoda stands outside of the Nihonmachi Mall. The mall was designed to imitate a traditional Japanese village. We took time for lunch in the mall and had a delicious traditional Japanese meal.
The center of San Francisco's J-Town is the 5 acre complex called Japan Center. It features shops, sushi, restaurants, a hotel and movie theaters. Be sure to explore the restaurants and shops outside of the center.