San Francisco’s Japantown (Nihonmachi) spans only six square blocks, yet is a real retreat and a cultural escape within the city. The oldest of only three Japantowns in the U.S., it offers many options for eating, shopping, relaxation and entertainment. What Japantown lacks in size, it certainly makes up in quality. One can spend hours browsing and exploring different parts of this neighborhood.

The complete list of all that Japantown has to offer is long. While we could go on and on naming our favorite places, here are five most popular spots to take pictures in this hub of Japanese culture in San Francisco.

Festivals. Throughout the year Japantown hosts numerous cultural events and street fairs. The crown jewel of all celebrations is North California Cherry Blossom Festival which spans two weekends in April.

This famous springtime festival brings together people from all the corners of the city and beyond. Some visitors even come from Japan!

It is the second largest Cherry Blossom festival in the U.S., and it celebrates rich Japanese heritage, and reinforces Japanese-American community. The festival’s program is highly varied, filled with traditional and contemporary performances and cultural activities for everyone. Feel free to take as many pictures as you want there, and do not forget to tag them with #NCCBF50 on your social media.


Monuments. The Peace Pagoda, the main landmark in the heart of Japantown’s Peace Plaza, was donated to San Francisco by its sister city Osaka, Japan in 1968.

Designed by Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, this five-tiered concrete structure is a symbol of peace and unity. It is rightfully one of the most photographed spots in Japantown.

Food & Dessert. Besides street lined storefronts, Japantown also has Japanese-oriented shopping centers with plenty of places to eat.

The large amount of food images taken on social media in Japantown are its ramen dishes. Big bowls of silky noodles simmered in a flavorful broth have conquered various social media platforms. Do not forget that the Cherry Blossom Festival also has its own food area, where you can buy your favorite Japanese dishes from different nonprofits.

When it comes to the sweet tooth, Belly Good Cafe & Crepes is one of the most photographed spots on Instagram. This shop makes creative and cute Japanese-style crepes, which can be customized with a wide variety of ice cream options and toppings. Yummy!

Entertainment. Beyond the eateries and arts & crafts shops, Japantown is also worth visiting for a karaoke night, a movie or an interactive escape game.

To experience a bit of Japanese pop culture, come to Pika Pika hidden in the back of the Japanese Center West Mall.

It is not the usual photo booth: after taking your photos, you get to edit, add stickers and decorate them as much as you want.

Pika pika #ピカチュウの日

A post shared by christine ri (@pikazardchu) on

Relaxation. The Kabuki Springs & Spa is an oasis of relaxation, and Japanese style bathing experience in Japantown. This is a place to go if you seek to unplug from the hustle and bustle of our busy life and enjoy the variety of spa services.

Yes, people take pictures at the spa. Just do not forget to out your smartphone in silent mode while staying there.

Me time 😌🍵🇯🇵

A post shared by Cynthia (@cstar515) on

What is your favorite place in San Francisco’s Japantown? Let us know in the comments!

The 50th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival will take place on April 8-9 and 15-16, while the Grand Parade will be held on April 16th. Do not forget to tag your pictures with #NCCBF50, while you are out and about.

Halyna Yakubovich
NCCBF Guest Blogger