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2022 Best San Francisco Japantown Guide, Things to Do & See

2022 Japantown, San Francisco, California

Japantown San Francisco, Los Angeles | Japanese-City.com
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Welcome to San Francisco, California

Explore Historic San Francisco Japantown

There are three official Japan towns in the US, and San Francisco largest of them. The town is known as the hub of Japanese culture, and it is easy to see why this is so.

Japan is not different from other Asian countries where culture is highly held. And if you have ever come across these cultures, you should know how important they are. They are represented in every country as unique.

San Francisco stands as one of the best tourist attractions in San Francisco. It is there vital that you understand the town to get around with ease. Getting the best out of your vacation here will depend on how best you understand the town. This guide will make your visit worth the time and the money.

Where Are the Four Official Japantowns in the United States?

There are four official Japantowns in the United Sates.

 •  Little Tokyo Japantown, Los Angeles, California
 •  San Francisco Japantown, California
 •  San Jose Japantown, California
 •  Sawtelle Japantown, West Los Angeles, California

More Japantowns (Japanese Areas) to Visit in the United Sates.

 •  Seattle, California
 •  Seattle Japantown (Not Designated)
 •  Bainbridge Island, Seattle

Where is San Francisco, California Japantown Located on a Map?

Map of San Francisco, California, Japantown


Don't Forget To Bring the Following if Traveling to San Francisco Japantown

 •  Metro FastTrak Transponder for Car
      Access to Freeway Lanes to bypass traffic (Los Angeles, San Francisco)
 •  Phone Holder for your car
 •  Phone Charger, extra phone cables
 •  Camera, batteries, video camera
 •  Clothing: Jacket & pants (Fall Weather), walking shoes
 •  Cash: some places only accept cash (Bridge tools in San Francisco, if you don't have FastTrak)
 •  Coins: street parking meters

History of San Francisco Japantown

The writing of San Francisco dates back to as old as 1855, starting with Van Ness Ordinance. The now Japantown (Nihomachi) was not always a habitat for the Japanese from the beginning. The neighborhood stands about one mile west of the Union Square and is part of the San Francisco's Western Addition. This subdivision also started appearing at the same time.

Before this, the land was barren and sandy. There were no people in the area, and the only sign of life was small animals like bobcats, rabbits, quail, and chaparral. In the 1870s, San Franciscans started occupying the area. Slowly by slowly, more people started finding the place worth of occupation.

The first signs of human life and development started with different types of homes. But the Victorian influence was predominant in the region. The Western Addition was bordered to the East by the Van Ness Avenue was served as the breakpoint of the 1906 fire caused by the great earthquake witnessed then. That was one of the biggest tragedies of hit the neighborhood, causing the displacement of very many people.

The Western Addition, fortunately, remained intact. It was completely unaffected by the fire. And for that reason, it served as a haven for the bulk of those whose homes were burned. At this time, the population was even thinner since most had perished in the fire. The nearby parks served as a great area for erecting tent villages to provide emergency accommodation for the victims. The following few months saw these crowded families moving into small apartments built by the Western Addition homeowners. They took on in the attics, basements, and wings of their homes making the place overcrowded. Property owners started raising their houses and added stores under them. Apart from the homes, the need for commercial building created a business community alongside the homes.

People from different places came in to stay with this community that was already too crowded. This is where the mixed land use started from. Later, restaurants, theatres, saloons, and hotels started coming up in the area. As it was to be expected, the area was now fully functioning as a business hub. This attracted more visitors to join the community which never stopped growing after that.

When Did the Japanese First Come to San Francisco?

This is the most important question when unveiling the history of this Japantown. Why is it called Japantown? The Japanese refer to San Francisco as Soko, and the first person from Japan arrived here in the 1860s. At that time, Chinatown served as the home for most Asians. The neighborhoods south of Market Street, which includes South Park and the whole area surrounding the current San Francisco Shopping Centre, were also a place for the Asians. Most Japanese who came to the US become more acquainted with these areas.

When the earthquake broke in 1906, the aftermath was so devastating that they were forced to move from their homes and occupying the Western Addition. More and more Japanese started moving here, building churches and shrines. They typically opened Japanese shops and restaurants which soon established roots. Because of this, the neighborhoods become more Japanese, taking on the character and style of the Japanese culture. Before long, the area becomes a miniature Ginza called Nihonmachi, otherwise Japantown. The San Francisco's Japanese American community established its roots here since then.

Japanese and World War II in San Francisco Japantown

The World War II happened that brought turmoil to everything. All the Japanese Americans in San Francisco and from other West Coast communities were uprooted as a result. This was the darkest moments in the history of the US.

After the War in San Francisco Japantown

After the war, many Americans of the Japanese origin started coming back to the city trying to reestablish their lives. They picked up the pieces to build we know today as San Francisco. At the time of this writing, there are more than 12,000 Japanese Americans in the town while about 80,000 have established their lives in greater Bay Area.

Future Changes in San Francisco Japantown

Even though San Francisco is known as Japan town, most of those who dwell here are not Japanese. Due to multi-culturalism, the town is now a home for people from different cultures and nationalist.

Development has taken center stage as new and ultra-modern building keeping coming up each day. Recent years has seen great changes taking place here. Perhaps the most recent and noticeable change is the opening of bona fide, elegant hotels, great neighborhood and a lure for tourists.

The best thing is, the Japanese culture is still held and practiced highly even though most are born here an speak English. Different initiatives like special weeks to observe the culture have been set up to remind the current generation of where they are coming from.

The revamp of Hotel Kabuki along the 1625 street is clear evidence of the revolution taking place here. The town is becoming more and more westernized. People are shifting further from cultural ties and becoming integrated into modernity.

Despite these changes, San Francisco is bound to remain a Japantown. The beauty of the town originates from the Japanese culture. It will continue to thrive and develop but with a hint of the Japanese culture.

San Francisco - Where Did All the Japanese Go?

Development is happening everywhere. As time goes by, people start moving to different places trying to make ends meet. A single place becomes unaccommodating forcing the people to move out.

San Francisco is no different as many Japanese have left to look for work and other things elsewhere. It is only the best way to keep up with the changing times.

Modernity has fully taken over culture. Apart from this, it is important for people to find another source of livelihood elsewhere if they are not getting it from a single source. But this does not stop the town from shining on beauty and glory of the Japanese people.

What is San Francisco Travel Tips?

Going to San Francisco can be both exciting and exhausting. You are in luck, as we have highlighted the best travel tips you can ever find.

Understand the Weather in San Francisco

San Francisco is very cold in summer. Those who travel here without understanding their weather often end up in trouble. Many cheap sweatshirt shops are thriving because most tourists don't take weather consideration very seriously.

Find the Right Place to Stay in San Francisco

We can tell you for free that hotels along Van Ness and Lombard streets are good but not ideal. They are sometimes very noisy. The best place would be the Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf.

Ways To Save Your Money While in San Francisco

Know how to save money in San Francisco. There are different aspects include transportation, attractions, tours, and hotels you should keep in mind.

Don't Wait Till Last Minute for Reservations

Two weeks before the trip is enough time to make a reservation. Tours fill up first especially during the pick seasons. Visit hotels' concierge or try out ticket offices to avoid disappointment at the last moment.

Get a Helpful Tour Guide or Check Our Tips

You are going to need a tour guide for you to enjoy your visit to San Francisco. Though you can go alone, it is better to have someone showing you the best places. Many tour guides promise greatness but deliver less. Use a small, local company for a private tour.

Are There Japanese Restaurants in San Francisco Japantown?

This is a Japantown full of restaurants that are top rated. But they are not all fancy; some can be quite disappointing. Look at our lists and look for the word "Authentic" for our picks.

The Ultimate Best Tips for Visiting San Francisco Japantown, California

Are you planning on visiting San Francisco Japantown? We have the ultimate tips and secrets to save you time in what to eat and where to go. We have selected the top San Francisco Japantown tips to help you enjoy your time to the fullest. There are places in San Francisco you don't want to miss.

San Francisco Japantown is pretty large area of streets compared to San Jose Japantown. San Franciscao Japantown is one area that can be broken into many areas.

Where to Park in San Francisco Japantown?
If you are coming to San Francisco by car you need to find parking. You can park on the street and pay a meter, private garages or go to the mall and park at the Japan Center Garage.

 •  Japan Center Garage, 1610 Geary Blvd, San Francisco - Mall Parking

1) Japantown Peace Plaza

You can really start anywhere in San Francisco Japantown. One of our recomendation is to start at Peace Plaza and the where the mall entrace says Japan Center - West Mall entrace.

Peace Pagoda. This historical monument has been a great inspiration from the pagodas in Nara, the ancient Japan capital. It is a donation that was made by the city of Osaka as a gesture for generosity. Each year, different Japanese event celebrations are held here.

 •  Peace Plaza, Peace Pagoda - A monument to inspire peace, Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi

2) Kintetsu Mall (West Mall) Next to Japantown Peace Plaza

Once you enter the West Mall entrace, you will see a map that shows where you are. Also it will show you a "Self-Guided History Walk" of San Francisco Japantown. This will be one of the easiest ways to see the area. Make sure you take a photo of the Map so you can remember where to stop.

West Mall has the following stores to check out.

Kintetsu Mall or West Mall - Highlights
 •  Amiko Boutique (Authentic)
 •  Sakura Sakura Boutique (Authentic)
 •  Benihana Restaurant (Authentic)
 •  Nijiya Market - Japanese Market (Authentic)

Kinokuniya Mall or East Mall - Highlights
 •  Asakichi Incense (Authentic)
 •  Kissako Tea (Authentic)
 •  Marufuku Ramen Restaurant (Authentic)
 •  Kinokuniya Bookstore - Japanese Books (Authentic)

3) Miyako Mall Next to Japantown Peace Plaza

If you are standing and looking at the Peace Plaza, on your left you will see Miyako Mall.

 •  Daiso Japan - Japanese 99 cent store (Authentic)
 •  Union Bank - ATM, cash may be needed at some businesses.

 •  Hotel Kabuki - See small Japanese Garden (walk through lobby)

4) Across the Street from Japantown Peace Plaza

Walking across the street from Peace Plaza, you will see Soko Hardware on the right.

 •  Soko Hardware (Authentic)
 •  Benkyodo Co, started in 1906 - Manju shop with coffee show (Authentic)

5) Outside of Japantown, San Francisco

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, California, endures as one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, featuring classic elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden. Cherry blossom trees bloom throughout the garden in March and April.

 •  Japanese Tea Garden - Must see (Authentic)

Places to Go Shopping in Japantown

Japan town has great quirky shops filled with great finds which makers and lovers of creative works find intriguing. These include the Kinokuniya bookshop, Daiso Japan dollar shop, Aloha Warehouse for Hawaiian sweets, hula supplies, apparel, and ukuleles. The Katsura garden is a nice place to find yourself a bonsai tree. And for all your home supply needs, visit the Ichiban Kan.

Hotels & Places to Stay in Japantown

Japantown has been hit by a wave of modern structures with great, fashionable hotels. Hotel Kabuki along 1625 Post Street is one of the most contemporary hotels. It has a great design; open spaces that lure will lure anyone in and fresh cocktail bar & restaurant serving great drinks.

But that is not the only place with goodies and everything attractive. Hotel Buchanan along the 1800 Sutter Street is another site to behold. You find the tchotchke styling of the hotel showing a unique style of interiors by Nicole Hollis. There is plenty of whiskeys here.

The secret here is to find a place convenient enough to access the city as well as all the right place you wish to visit.

Top Things to Do in San Franisco, Japantown

When you get to Cisco, don't just look at the Golden Gate Bridge, get your foot on the ground and walk on it. Before you even get there, visit the top attraction for those who love excellent meals in the city-the ferry building marketplace.

For recreation, get to the Golden Gate Park and have enjoyed your time. This is a popular place with the locals.

Visit the Exploratorium, the hands-on, laboratory where children and adults alike can learn something. This is an excellent museum with over 600 interactive exhibits on a wide range of historical subjects.

Cable cars are a great attraction in San Francisco. If you have been only seeing them in movies, this is your time to experience in real life.

Japan town is full of top rated restaurants. Get into the mood for some Sushi, noodles and more. Visit places like Suzu Noodle house, Udon Mugizo, and Kui Shin Bo.

What is the Most Popular Japanese Events in San Francisco Japantown?


The San Francisco Buddhist Church will be holding its annual Ginza Bazaar & Bon Odori in July. The Ginza Bazaar will feature many food booths such as teriyaki chicken, sushi, udon, BBQ ribs, curry, and homemade baked goods. In addition, silent auction, children's games, a boutique featuring many homemade crafts and clothing, tea salon, and bingo. On Saturday afternoon, there will be a kendo (Japanese martial art of swordsmanship) demonstration and Japanese kamishibai (storytelling) performance.

 •  Annual Ginza Bazaar & Bon Odori Street Festival - Buddhist Church of San Francisco (2 Days)

Transportation Tips in Japantown

The best way to get around Japantown San Francisco is to go car-free. It is not only an environmental statement, but it is also the best choice you can ever make. Parking fee in San Francisco is quite expensive. Hotels charge a fortune for parking, yet most of the attractive places are close together, you don't need a car.

Use public transport, Uber and Taxis - it is more convenient. And if you must use a car, then get a rental car for a day or so.

And if you want to avoid all of that, then pick a good tour guide. That will save on cash as well as time.

What Other Japan Towns Can You Visit and See

Apart from San Francisco, there are two other Japanese Towns in the US. They are Little Tokyo and San Jose. When you finish checking out San Francisco, these are two other places you may want to put on your list. Enjoy your visit. We will have complete guides tips to help you.


2022 San Francisco Japantown - Top Things To See & Do Guide

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Total: 36
Little Tokyo San Francisco San Jose Sawtelle, West LA Seattle Seattle Historic Seattle Bainbridge Island
San Francisco Japanese Events
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