February 21, 2016

A Modern Guide to San Francisco’s Japantown

February 21, 2016

A Modern Guide to San Francisco’s Japantown


Photography by Ana Kamin

One of just three official Japantowns in the U.S., San Francisco’s Japantown is a cultural hub brimming with original restaurants, quirky shops, and unique community. Here’s where to hang when you’re in the ‘hood.



Benkyodo’s Diner
Get your hands on mochis of all flavors.—pink habutai, red bean, and peanut butter are musts. // 1747 Buchanan St.,


Sophie’s Crepes
This sweet shop offers a genius mix of cone and crepes all filled with exotic and traditional ice cream flavors, and topped with everything the sauce cabinet has to offer. It’s pure indulgence, worth living on kale for the next two weeks. // 1581 Webster St., 415.929.7732


Suzu Noodle House
Suzu’s fried chicken ramen is on this guy’s list of 9 Dishes Worth Traveling to San Francisco For. And we approve. Stop by this small, spare, yet comfortable eatery for soba noodles and other Japanese delicacies. // 1825 Post St., 415.346.5083


Yusukochi’s Sweet Shop 
Hidden inside the Super Mira Market, Yusukochi’s Sweet Shop has been making one of San Francisco’s most beloved desserts, the coffee crunch cake, for more than 40 years. The fluffy dream is filled with buttery cream and covered in crunchy candy. To get a taste, go early before they sell out, usually by 11:30 am. // 1790 Sutter St., 415.931.8165


Udon Mugizo 
Opened in 2014, Udon Mugizo is one of the few places that makes its noodles  fresh in-house. Choose from a variety on udon, ramen and soba bowls to warm you up on foggy SF day. // 1581 Webster St., 415.931.3118


Mums Home of Shabu Shabu
Often a bit crowded, Mums serves some of the tastiest shabu shabu, which is best enjoyed with a group of friends over sake bombs. If you stumble upon Japantown early in the morning, Mums also serves daily breakfast. // 1800 Sutter St.,


Isobune Sushi
Small, floating boats around the countertop deliver fresh sushi to be picked by guests sitting at the rounded sushi bar. Fun entertainment and delicious sushi—we don’t need more. // 1737 Post St.,


Belly Goods Coffee & Crepes
This Japantown mall creperie serves up crepes with luscious fillings and loads of personality. It doesn’t get much better than this, but dieters be warned: One crepe might be worth 3,000 Weight Watchers points. // 1737 Post St., 415.346.8383

Kui Shin Bo
We love this cozy and laidback place for its simple, homemade Japanese food at super affordable prices. Must try: takoyaki. // 22 Peace Plaza., 415.922.9575


Ramen Underground
SF folks are vehemently competitive when it comes to arguing over the best locak ramen spots. In hot pursuit of the title is Ramen Underground, the hipper antidote to its more traditional neighbors in the mall. Go for tasty broths and perfectly cooked pork belly. // 22 Peace Plaza,



(Photo courtesy of Hotel Tomo)

Hotel Tomo
Hip and modern, with murals painted by local Japanese artists and anime details, Hotel Tomo is a funky base camp to explore, not only Japantown, but many other SF neighborhoods. //1800 Sutter St.,


Hotel Kabuki
With traditional Japanese accents, a koi pond and a Zen garden, Hotel Kabuki is a boutique hotel to enjoy with all senses. The in-room soaking tubs and spa services let you unwind from oh-so exhausting exploring. // 1625 Post St., 415.922.3200



Kinokuniya Bookstore
Enter to a world full of Japanese books, comics, stationery, toys and lots of gifts. Non-Japanese speaker won’t be able to read a single word, but Kinokuniya’s shelves are full of magical illustrations worth the flip time. // 1581 Webster St., 415.567.7625


Daiso Japan
The Japanese counterpart to the dollar store. Here you can find almost everything and mostly for only $1.50. We can spend hours browsing the aisles. // 22 Peace Plaza, 415.359.9397


Aloha Warehouse
A small slice of Hawaii in the middle of Japantown, Aloha Warehouse is the place to find Hawaiian sweets, hula supplies, apparel, and a huge selection on ukuleles. You know you need one. // 1731 Buchanan St., 415-346-7553


Katsura Garden
Challenge your inner Mr. Miyagi and get yourself a bonsai tree and all necessary accoutrements. Happy pruning!  // 1825 Post St. 415.931.6209

Paper Tree
Pick up some elegant paper, whether for origami, high-end gift wrapping, or classic scrapbook-making. Paper Tree also offers origami classes for everyone interested in the ancient Japenase art. // 1743 Buchanan St., 415.921.7100


Ichiban Kan
For all your zany home supply needs, fill up at this smaller and more manageable dollar store. Washing dishes is so much more fun with Hello Kitty sponges, right? // 22 Peace Plaza, 415.409.0472



(Photo via

Cherry Blossom Fest
If you happen to be in SF during April, the Cherry Blossom Festival is a quintessential moment to experience the splendid colors and grace of local Japanese culture. Find out when, what and where at the official Cherry Blossom Festival site.

Kabuki Sundance Cinema
This is a movie theater with class, where you can make reserve your seats and enjoy grown-up drinks while watching the newest blockbusters or independent films.  // 1881 Post St,


Kabuki Springs & Spa
A wellness oasis situated in the heart of the bustling city, Kabuki Springs offers a menu of spa treatments such as massages and facials, but really this is a bathhouse beloved for its signature Japanese bathing rituals, hot tubs, and steam rooms.  // 1750 Geary Blvd.,



Peace Plaza
Home to the five-story Peace Pagoda, which was built in the 1960s and given to SF by sister city Osaka, Japan, Peace Plaza is the center of Japantown and an iconic spot to stop and rest. // 1610 Geary Blvd.,


Japantown Malls
It may seem odd, but in Japantown, a lot goes down inside the malls. Kitschy stores, coffee shops, jewelry chains, and restaurants are hidden within the Japan Center and Nihonmachi malls.  //

For more local resources, don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to San Francisco Bay Area Neighborhoods here.


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