One of just three official Japantowns in the U.S., San Francisco’s hub of Japanese culture is brimming with original restaurants, quirky shops, and unique community vibes.
Beyond the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, which blooms every April, there are a slew of things to do, eat, and see, especially for young people seeking quirky Instagram ops.
Here’s where to hang out while you’re in the ‘hood.
Sure, Japantown’s neighbors in Pac Heights and the Western Addition get all the attention when it comes to dining—Dosa, State Bird Provisions, and Octavia are all within walking distance. But Japantown proper offers plentiful affordable, authentic eats that are well-suited to casual meals before or after a movie or a spa treatment at Kabuki Springs.
Sushi, Noodles + More
There’s nothing to hate about the fried chicken ramen at Suzu Noodle House (1825 Post St.), a spare yet comfortable eatery for soba noodles and other Japanese delicacies. // Opened in 2014, Udon Mugizo (1581 Webster St.) 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. // Often crowded, Mums Home of Shabu Shabu (1800 Sutter St.) 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. // We love Kui Shin Bo (22 Peace Plaza), a cozy and laidback place, for its simple, homemade Japanese food at super affordable prices. Must try: takoyaki. // For okonomiyaki pizza and 23 types of Japanese pasta, visit On the Bridge (1581 Webster St.), a casual Asian fusion restaurant situated on the bridge between Japantown East and West. Featuring an extensive anime collection, the longtime establishment got a bunch of buzz when punk icon Patti Smith raved about it in January.
Sweets & Snacks
When hanging around Japantown, matcha seems like a must. Enter the city’s first cafe dedicated to the popular green tea. Opened in early April 2018, Matcha Cafe Maiko (1581 Webster St., Japan Center) serves up a taste of Japan in the form of shaved ice, ice cream, lattes, frappes, and floats—every last one so photogenic that the place is already an Instagram darling. // Also sending IGers into a tizzy is Uji Time (22 Peace Plaza, #440), a Japanese fusion dessert spot best known for its soft ice cream served in cute fish-shaped taiyaki cones, each one made fresh in about 15 minutes and filled with satisfying swirls of matcha, sesame, or tofu flavored froyo. // Get your hands on mochis of all flavors at Benkyodo Co. (1747 Buchanan St.), includingpink habutai, red bean, and peanut butter. //Sophie’s Crepes (1581 Webster St.) offers a genius mix of cones and crepes filled with exotic and traditional ice cream flavors and topped with everything you can imagine. // Hidden inside the Super Mira Market, Yusukochi’s Sweet Shop (1790 Sutter St.) 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 coated in candy. To get a taste, go early before they sell out, usually by 11:30 am. // Belly Goods Coffee & Crepes in the Kintetsu Mall (1737 Post St.) 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. // When cocktails are in order, ask for yours in a Lucky Cat mug at The Bar at Hotel Kabuki (1625 Post St.), inside the recently renovated Joie de Vivre hotel. Here you’ll find a selection of Japanese whiskeys, sake, and beer, as well as light bites—don’t miss the okonomiyaki and karaage chicken.