Japantown, San Francisco

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references


  • History
  • To see
  • Shopping
  • Experiences to try
  • Events
  • Where to eat
  • How to reach us

Japantown, in San Francisco, is one of the last three typically Japanese neighborhoods in all of America. Located in the west of the city, approximately one mile from Union Square, its boundaries are bordered by Geary Boulevard and Laguna Street to the east and Fillmore Street and the adjacent Fillmore District to the west.

Far from the most glamorous and trendy neighborhoods, Japantown (or Nihonmachi), it is all to be discovered, with some hidden gems that cannot be missed, such as the large shopping malls of the Japan Center Malls and the Peace Pagoda.

You can binge on sushi and other typical Japanese specialties and participate in the long-awaited Cherry Blossom Festival in spring.


The history of Japantown begins around 1860, when the inhabitants of San Francisco began to move to the west of the city, which until then was completely deserted, and which took the name of Western Addition (made official with the Van Ness order of 1855). At that time the i first Japanese immigrants, who settled in various districts of the city, including Chinatown.

It was only after the terrible 1906 earthquake that many Japanese citizens, along with many other San Francisco residents affected by the earthquake and the ensuing fire, settled in this area. In a short time the neighborhood became a new Ginza, with typically Japanese buildings and shops, known as Nihonmachi or Japantown.

Until the beginning of the Second World War, the neighborhood stretched for about 30 blocks; when the war broke out, all the Japanese living in America were uprooted from their neighborhoods and locked up in some sort of ghettos. At the end of the conflict, many Japanese citizens returned to live in Japantown, the area of ​​which was however limited to only 1o blocks.

To see

Japantown is a real shrine of Japanese culture, full of symbolic places and monuments, all to be explored.

Japantown History Walk

The Japantown History Walk is a self-guided walk that winds through the neighborhood's 10 blocks and includes 17 permanent symbols of the historical and cultural importance of the Japanese American community.

The route starts from San Francisco Japantown Sensu, a fan-shaped monument, located on the median of Webster Street, between Geary Boulevard and Post Street, and is a bit of the "gateway" to Japantown.
The Japantown History Walk continues with several billboards, located in some historic buildings and places in the neighborhood, which trace the history of Japantown and the Japanese American community.

Origami Fountains

Located in the heart of Japantown, on Post Street, near the Peace Plaza, these two Cor - Ten steel fountains, created by the sculptor Ruth Asawa, are inspired by the art of origami and are shaped in the shape of lotus flowers.

National Japanese American Historical Society

At 1684 Post Street there is the National Japanese American Historical Society, a non-profit organization, established in 1981, which collects and preserves artifacts and testimonies of Japanese American culture. The company periodically organizes exhibitions both in its Peace Gallery and in other locations, and still has several traveling exhibitions active.

Round tables, workshops and screenings of films and documentaries are also held within the organization's headquarters.

Peace Plaza & Peace Pagoda

The Peace Plaza, located in the heart of Japantown is a bit of a symbol of the neighborhood. Here people stop to take a break and to admire the beautiful Peace Pagoda, designed by Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, which was donated to Japantown in 1960 by its sister city, Osaka, as a sign of peace.

New People

New People is the ideal place for art lovers: this complex includes an art gallery, a cinema showing Japanese films, and hosts various events, including some fashion shows.


Japantown is the ideal place for shopping lovers: here is located one of the largest shopping centers in the whole city: the Japan Center Malls.

Located in the heart of Japantown, near Peace Plaza, Japan Center Malls, with its East and West Malls, is a true shopper's paradise. The shopping center, which develops both outside and underground, is home to an infinite number of shops: here you can buy typical Japanese objects and products, stroll and enjoy traditional Japanese delicacies.

Nigeria Market

The Niji-ya Market, on Post Street, is in effect a supermarket, but as soon as you walk through the doors, you find yourself in a Japanese market. Inside, in fact, there is an almost infinite variety of typical Japanese products: sweets, sauces, Bento boxes. It is a chain that has 10 stores in California, 1 in New York and 1 in the Hawaiian Islands.
This is the official site.

Experiences to try

You cannot say that you have visited Japantown without having experienced the thrill of singing in one of the many Karaoke bar that dot the streets of the neighborhood.

If, on the other hand, you want to spend a few moments in total relaxation, the right place for you is the Kabuki Springs & Spa, which offers various spa treatments and public baths, according to the Japanese tradition.


There are several really cool events taking place in Japantown throughout the year. Among the main ones we mention:

Cherry Blossom Festival

This festival, which has been held every year for forty years in the month of April, celebrates the traditional cherry blossom. During the two weekends of celebration it is possible to attend a spectacular parade, musical events, martial arts demonstrations and much more.

Nihonmachi Street Fair

A fair held every year in mid-August, in which numerous vendors participate and during which performances of various kinds are held. The fair is meant to be a time to take note of the differences and difficulties faced by Asian Americans today.

Asian Heritage Street Celebration

A fair held every year, on the third Saturday of May, to celebrate all the cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Where to eat

Tanpopo. Among the specialties for which this restaurant is famous are ramen e yakisoba (dish made with noodles, mushrooms, carrots and pork)… And a fantastic Happy Hour from 17:30 pm to 19:30 pm.

Waraku. Waraku restaurant is famous for its Windows, which can be enjoyed in a restaurant with a romantic and refined atmosphere.

Ino Sushi. Ino Sushi is famous for its excellent Sushi and for the  Omakase menu (it is not the customer who chooses what to eat, but the chef).

Isobune. Isobune is not only famous for the quality of its food, but also for the particularity of its service, with sushi that is presented to customers in small boats that sail inside a canal that goes around the chef's station.

How to reach us

By car: Coming from the Golden Gate Bridge, take the Lombard Street exit, turn right onto Webster and then continue onto Post Street.

By bus: from Union Square, take bus n. 38 from Geary Street, or No. 2, no. 3 from Sutter Street. Get off at the Laguna or Buchanan stops.

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