Japantown is a real treat for art and design lovers. With unique imported finds at great prices, happy animal faces everywhere, and a singing toilet that offers polite greetings in the New People building, I find myself seeking refuge there at least once a week. For the Instagramer in me, the lighting at the Japan Center mall is phenomenal. Visit it in the late afternoon and the place simply glows, making the minimal 1960s architecture and neo-traditional Japanese motifs pop. It’s pure eye candy on so many levels.

These are just some of Japantown’s shops and offerings that keep me coming back.


Kinokuniya Bookstore is a must. It houses one of the best international design book sections in the city. You can also pick up amazing Asian-inspired cookbooks, anime journals, and, my personal favorite, reusable furoshiki gift wrapping cloths.



An independently owned hardware store, Soko Hardware (Japanese for “San Francisco”) hosts every Japanese cooking tool, décor item, or gadget you could ever possibly need. This is the place to get your paper lanterns, wooden floor mats, rice cookers, and chopsticks.Soko_images


New People is a retail, cinema, food, and art emporium all wrapped into one three-story building. The lobby plays host to the sun-filled Cinema Café that serves Blue Bottle coffee and delicious treats – don’t skip the matcha latte. Visit the main floor and you’ll find the New People store stocked with one-of-a-kind books, gifts, and designer wares. On the second floor you’ll find authentic Japanese apparel and my favorite new shop, Utsuwa Floral Design, which is overflowing with beautiful succulents and garden pieces.


Pika Pika is like an arcade filled with every kind of Japanese photo booth imaginable. It’s bright and noisy and fun. All the instructions are in Japanese, but the helpful staff are on hand to walk you through the process of getting your picture taken and creating a custom (and slightly insane) work of art. It’s not just about stickers here. Where else can you put your face on a panda keychain?

Tucked in a quiet corner of the west mall building of Japan Center, Kohshi is the go-to place for incense, teas, and well-designed wares. It’s almost impossible to walk out of here without discovering a new favorite scent.



Take a day trip in Japantown, which runs along Post Street between Laguna and Fillmore Streets. You can start with a vegan donut and green matcha at New People, browse the stunning design books at Kinokuniya Bookstore inside the Japan Center mall, and pick up a new meat cleaver at Soko Hardware. There is so much to see and explore.