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San Francisco's Japantown

Nihonmachi, or Japantown, near Post and Buchanan streets teems with noodle houses, sushi bars, and stores with traditional Japanese goods.

Japantown shopper with mother
Photo caption
Snacks jam the shelves—and please patron Rei Kobayahi—at Uoki K. Sakai Co.


The area around Post and Buchanan streets has been called Nihonmachi, or Japantown, since the early 1900s. Today, it is home to about a thousand Japanese Americans, and the walkable five-block enclave—which encompasses a rambling indoor mall built in the 1960s—teems with noodle houses, sushi bars, and shops selling bamboo baskets and kimonos. Here are some highlights. (Area code is 415.)

  • A one-stop shop for origami enthusiasts, the Paper Tree carries close to 300 books on the craft, from Sticky Note Origami: 25 Designs to Make at Your Desk to Kunihiko Kasahara’s sober Origami Omnibus. There’s excellent paper, too. 1743 Buchanan St., 921-7100.
  • Looking for kabocha squash or enoki mushrooms? Perfectly fresh tuna? Traditional cookware? Find them all at the cluttered 100-year-old Uoki K. Sakai Co. grocery and fish market. 1656 Post St., 921-0514.
  • Sushi, sure. But spaghetti with calamari and kimchi? Make its acquaintance at On the Bridge, a mod café specializing in yoshoku, the kooky, strangely delicious Japanese take on Western dishes. 1581 Webster St., 922-7765.
  • The superb Kinokuniya bookstore stocks English-language titles on everything from Japan’s gardens to its cinema, as well as a top-notch collection of translated novels and thousands of volumes in Japanese. 1581 Webster St., 567-7625.
  • For a splurge, look into Kappa, an unmarked 14-seat restaurant above Japantown’s Denny’s. Find exquisite multicourse meals featuring delicacies such as crab with green tea custard, fried stingray, and stewed baby abalone. 1700 Post St., 673-6004.
  • Devotees of the fluffy coffee-crunch cake at San Francisco’s late, lamented Blum’s will find the cherished dessert survives at Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop inside the Super Mira market. 1790 Sutter St., 931-8165.
  • Whether you’re on a quest for a handsome Meiji chest ($5,400) or a classic wood-block print ($120), or you just enjoy browsing through old furnishings, check out the selection at Genji Antiques. 22 Peace Plaza, No. 190, 931-1616.

Photography by Melissa Barnes


This article was first published in March 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.