San Francisco is home to many different cultures; however, one notable community located just one mile west of Union Square is Japantown, which has served as home away from home to the local Japanese community and an awe-inspiring destination for those looking to learn more about the Japanese culture.
Located in the heart of Japantown are Japan Center East and West Malls, both of which are authentic Japanese shopping destinations filled with general merchandise shops like Asakichi, Daiso Japan, Katachi, Moritaya, Nippon-Ya and Yumi Boutique. A number of restaurants call the East and West Malls home as well, including Benihana, Isobune Sushi, Izakaya Umai, Kui Shin Bo, Mifune Don, Mitsu Teahouse, and Osakaya.
Those looking for a serene shopping break need not go far when it comes to Japantown. In between the Japan Center East and West Mall is Japantown’s Peace Plaza, which is an outdoor court that is host to many community celebrations, such as the Obon Festival, Aki Matsuri, and Children’s Day. The plaza is also home to one of Japantown’s most recognizable landmarks, the Peace Pagoda, a five-tiered concrete stupa given to San Francisco by its sister city Osaka, Japan as a gesture of goodwill in 1968.
One notable event that takes place at the Peace Pagoda every year is the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. Now celebrating 50 years, the festival has brought in hundreds of thousands of guests for its amazing display that showcases Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese American community . This year’s festival is free and open to the public and will take place over the course of two weekends: April 8 through April 9, and April 15 through April 16. For more information, visit sfcherryblossom.org.
The Japan Center East Mall is located at 22 Peace Plaza and the Japan Center West Mall is located at 1737 Post Street. For more information, visit japancentersf.com. For more information on Japantown San Francisco, visit sfjapantown.org.