San Francisco’s Japantown

Spending even a small amount of time in the neighborhood surrounding the condos at Fulton 555 makes clear that Hayes Valley offers world-class cuisine and a thriving entertainment scene, and a very special element of the global culture is only a short walk away.

A few blocks north of your Hayes Valley home is Japantown, the largest and oldest designated community of Japanese Americans in the United States. In these communities, the Nikkei—emigrants and their descendants who form the Japanese diaspora outside of Japan—celebrate and preserve the traditions of their homeland while enriching their cities with diverse offerings of food, art, and other cultural expressions. Here are our recommendations for a day spent in San Francisco’s unforgettable Japantown:

Begin your visit with the right mindset by pausing for reflection at the Peace Pagoda in Peace Plaza. Gifted to San Francisco in 1968 by its sister city—Osaka, Japan—the five-tier concrete stupa or shrine is a monument designed by Japanese modernist architect Yoshio Taniguchi that seeks to inspire peace in all people, regardless of creed or race. In this same vein of harmony, Peace Plaza regularly hosts numerous traditional rites and events. People from all over the Bay Area converge throughout the year to celebrate Cherry Blossom Festival, Nihonmachi Street Fair, the Summer Obon Festival, and the Year-End Festival, and these gatherings and pursuits of community are integral to San Francisco’s long and storied history in the 20th-century peace movement.

As an important gateway from Asia to the United States, San Francisco has always been a prime spot for the introduction of new food. While “sushi” may be the first word that springs to mind when we think of Japanese cuisine, ramen is challenging it in popularity, and the place to find the best ramen ‘round the Bay is at Ramen Yamadaya. The food here is serious: the restaurant boils pork bones for more than 20 hours to produce the rich tonkotsu broth for their noodles, which are then topped with sumptuous slabs of tender, seasoned pork, eggs, and fresh scallions. Be it a cold day in the winter or a summer afternoon, any time is a good time to enjoy the comforting flavors of this traditional and hearty dish. Fear not, vegetarians and lovers of vegetarians, for this is still San Francisco. While traditional ramen broth is meat-based, Ramen Yamadaya offers a vegan version to rival their carnivorous offerings, so bring along the meatless advocates in your life and indulge together.

With your mind at ease from your stroll in the park and your stomach full, it’s time to settle in for some serious entertainment. If you’re passionate about film, then there’s only one place you need to go in San Francisco: The Dine-In Kabuki 8. With a full bar and restaurant, Kabuki is a great place to mingle before taking in a show. Over-21 events allow you to carry your cocktail, beer, or wine into the theatre, and the art gallery provides stimulating diversion before viewing award-winning and cutting-edge cinema like no other. And best of all, not only can you purchase your tickets online, but you can reserve your favorite seats, too, so that you can catch that new foreign flick you’ve been dying to see, before returning home, full of peace, ramen, and culture, to your luxury condo at Fulton 555.