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Cool Shops in San Francisco's Japantown - A Japan-filled SF Afternoon

Updated on May 23, 2012
Japantown is one of my favorite spots in San Francisco.  Nestled around Webster and Post Street, Japantown is chock full of wonderful shops, restaurants, galleries, and theatres.  A lovely smattering of things can be seen in Japantown in the course of one afternoon- I’ll give you some suggestions to help you along your way.  Hopefully you will be inspired to pay this lovely area a visit!

Getting started...
Getting started...
Inside Super7!
Inside Super7!

Getting There

To be as uniform as possible, let’s say that you’re starting around Union Square. From there, simply hop on the 38 Geary and get off at Laguna Street. The ride takes less than 15 minutes (depending on traffic, it could take longer) and costs only $2.00 (NOTE: if you came to the city on the Alameda-Oakland Ferry, validate your departure and return ticket on board and use the validated stubs as bus tickets- it’ll save you $4.00!).

When you get off at Laguna, turn right onto Laguna and left onto Post. There you are!

Take a look at the map below as a reference point.  You can view directions on Google maps if you’d like more detail.

san francisco japantown:
Japantown, San Francisco, CA, USA

get directions

Japantown is easy to access and full of AMAZING finds. Check it out and if you haven't visited Japantown in a while, you're in for many new surprises

Where to Start

I love to start my Japantown visits by going along the right-hand side of Post and stopping into the Japanese grocery stores, as well as Super 7, which is a clean space elegantly accessorized with vinyl toys, cool shirts, amazing books, plushies, notepads, stationery, and amazing design in general (Star Wars wallpaper included- YAY).

New People

I then make my way over to the New People complex, a relatively new addition to this already lovely area.  New People, owned by Viz Media, is sort of like a tiramisu of Japanese culture, as it consists of delicious layers full of well-orchestrated complexity.  In the basement is a movie theatre.  An airy cafe embellishes the first floor.  On the mezzanine is the New People Store, which showcases carefully curated goods well worth their weight in drool.  On the second floor can be found Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, as well as Black Peace Now, SOU SOU, Tokyo Creators Garden, and a little nail booth known as Nail Art House which specializes in Calgel nails (those crazy durable, embellished nails that got their start in Japan and are picking up in the States).  On the third floor is an art gallery.  

Overall, New People offers a great experience to Japanophiles and Normals alike.  Everywhere you turn, there is something beautiful to look at.  Even the New People stairwell is overflowing with beautiful design.  Some of the most enjoyable features of the four-level complex are its visitors.  Baby The Stars Shine Bright attracts a good number of lolitas who make pilgrimages to this store- the only one in north America- and it is fun to see them in full-out regalia.

A Peek Inside New People

Click thumbnail to view full-size
New People!The cafeSou sou goods!A Baby, the Stars Shine Bright ensembleThe art gallery on the third floorArt in the stairwell!
New People!
New People!
The cafe
The cafe
Sou sou goods!
Sou sou goods!
A Baby, the Stars Shine Bright ensemble
A Baby, the Stars Shine Bright ensemble
The art gallery on the third floor
The art gallery on the third floor
Art in the stairwell!
Art in the stairwell!
Click thumbnail to view full-size

The Mall

After visiting New People, I recommend making your way to the mall that extends along the other side of the street. It’s best to start at the far end, so you’ll want to cross both post and Webster.

After entering the bottom floor, you’ll find yourself surrounded by more fascinating shops and little cafes, as well as the bottom floor of Kinokuniya, which is an exceedingly fabulous bookstore that could take up an entire afternoon on its own.

When you move your way up the staircase, you’ll be greeted head-on by Sophie’s Crepes- a wonderful source for a quick snack. All around you can be found additional restaurants and tea shops, as well as the second floor of Kinokuniya and Pika Pika, a purikura arcade (which is GREAT fun indeed, and very user-friendly).

When you’re done with this particular pavilion of the mall, make your way to the closed-in bridge that crosses the street. You’ll then find yourself in the largest chunk of the mall, which is home to more shops, as well as a bakery, informal cafes, and a more formal restaurant ‘street’.

The far end of this part of the mall empties out into the main open space of Japantown, where one encounters its iconic tower and can sit in the sun and watch the world go by. Take some time to enjoy the square- it’s a great place for people watching!

Ichiban Kan!!
Ichiban Kan!!
Inside Daiso
Inside Daiso

To Finish

At the other end of the square is the final section of the mall, which is more spare with regard to shops, but still houses some nice restaurants, a side entrance to the Kabuki Hotel, and more importantly in my opinion, the ultimate finishing points for an afternoon Japantown visit: Ichiban Kan and Daiso.

Why finish a visit to Japantown with these two shops? There are two very compelling reasons:

  1. These shops are full of nearly everything you have viewed in the afternoon’s previous gift shops- however everything in them is extremely reasonable in price. Indeed, most items in Ichiban Kan and Daiso are priced at $1.50. This means you can buy all of those charming Japanese products you so covet- without breaking the bank.
  2. After shopping at Ichiban Kan and Daiso, you’ll be so loaded with goods that getting around can be tough. That’s why it’s important to end with these shops and not begin! Nobody loves lugging things around all day.

What I’ve summarized above barely scratches all of the lovely treasures Japantown has to offer. I nevertheless hope that I’ve given you some ideas, and encouraged you to plan a visit!


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