The Returning Visitor's Guide to Japantown
If you've been to Japantown before and think you've seen it all, think again. You haven't done it like a local. Here's what you'll want to do in the neighborhood when you return.
Take the Japantown History Walk with San Francisco City Guides
Start your day by working up an appetite with a walking tour of the neighborhood with San Francisco City Guides, a non-profit organization with more than 200 trained volunteers who lead free history and architectural walking tours in San Francisco. On this tour, you'll learn the real history of the neighborhood and see Japanese-style architecture next to classic Victorians. www.sfcityguides.org
Slurp down a bowl of ramen at Tanpopo or Ramen Yamadaya
Sitting next to each other on Buchanan Street, Tanpopo and Ramen Yamadaya are two traditional Japanese restaurants that serve a delicious bowl of noodles. Because they are right next to each other, one can only do a bang-bang to absolutely be sure which one is the better of the two. What's a bang-bang you ask? A second meal right after the first.
Relax at the Kabuki Springs and Spa
Once you're in a food coma, walk over to the Kabuki Springs and Spa for a little tender love and care. It's a five-minute walk to Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street from the ramen bang-bang you just indulged in. At the spa, you can either treat yourself to a professional massage or bath. If you don't want something private, you can just go to the spa room to enjoy saunas, steam rooms and hot and cold spa baths. Each day, the public rooms alternate between women-only, men-only and coed, so make sure you check the schedule before you go.
See a movie at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema
Before you totally disregard the rest of this article because we included a movie theater, hear us out. The Sundance Kabuki Cinema is no ordinary theater. It's one where you reserve seats, eat and drink in the theater (during certain 21-plus showings) and it's the perfect place to escape other visitors. That's a winning combination for someone who wants a local experience in Japantown.
Get the cutest crepe at Good Belly Cafe & Crepes
When a sweet tooth craving hits, a crepe will hit the spot. At Good Belly Cafe & Crepes, the delicious crepes come with edible animal faces atop them, perfect for an Instagram picture to make your friends have FOMO (fear of missing out).
End the night singing your heart out at Festa
There's no greater Japanese pastime and a culturally acceptable way to show off your horrible, yet smile-inducing, singing skills than with karaoke. Festa will make you feel at home and relaxed in their traditional karaoke surroundings. It's perfect for friends or a group.