At just six blocks, Japantown is a walkable neighbourhood west of San Francisco’s downtown. Thanks to trendy spots beckoning younger crowds—and established family businesses—this district always stays fresh.

1. Shop at the Akabanaa

Photograph courtesy


Specializing in regional products from the subtropical island of Okinawa in southern Japan, Akabanaa is one of the specialty shops and restaurants that make up the Japan Center Malls, which span two city blocks. Find Ryukyu glass, books, noren (traditional Japanese fabric dividers) and more.

 2. Relax in the sauna at Kabuki Springs & Spa

Soak in a warm pool at Kabuki Springs & Spa or sweat it out in its tiered sauna. A sea salt scrub in the steam room and relaxing massages are just a couple of ways you can enjoy this Japanese-style communal bath.

3. Enjoy a bowl of noodles at Hinodeya Ramen

Photograph courtesy Hinodeya

Join the out-the-door lineups at Hinodeya Ramen, which distinguishes itself from the neighbourhood’s other noodle joints with its house ramen—made with hearty pork belly, whole wheat noodles and an umami-rich broth of seaweed and scallop.

4. Browse for deals at Soko Hardware

From ultra-sharp sushi knives to handmade sake sets and paper lanterns, Soko Hardware stocks a number of Japanese imports. You never know what treasures you’ll find in its narrow aisles filled with ceramics, calligraphy brushes, artwork and other goodies. (415-931-5510)

5. Take in a concert a The Fillmore

Catch a concert by indie bands such as Yo La Tengo, or rocking bluesmen like Gary Clark Jr., at live music venue The Fillmore, which is more than 100 years old. The inside of this former dance hall is covered with posters, handbills and newspaper articles embodying its colourful history.

6. Sing with your friends at Playground

Photograph by Jin Kim

Channel your inner pop star at one of the many karaoke joints, like Playground. Gather friends and sing your hearts out before tucking into some bibimbap, delivered straight to your  private karaoke booth.