I have visited the SF J-town multiple times in the last two years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t nearly as large as Chinatown, but there are plenty interesting stores and restaurants there. I will definitely visit it again.
So any stores you particularly like near the J-town?
I will start. I like:
Belly Good Cafe & Crepes, Juban Yakiniku House, Ramen Yamadaya, Izumiya.
My favorite restaurant in Japantown was Ino Sushi, but he has retired. For reasonably priced conveyor belt sushi I like Tenroku in the Kinokuniya building. Benkyodo on Sutter St. has good mochi and other pastries. I especially like their mochi with fresh strawberry inside.
It’s located a few blocks northeast of the Japantown mall, within Super Mira Market, which sells Japanese groceries and some prepared foods like take-out sushi. The coffee crunch is their most famous, but the lemon crunch and chocolate crunch cake are great too.
The Kabuki Theater often brings me to Japantown and they sell Humphrey Slocumbe ice cream on the second floor (and chocolate covered gummi bears). Wine and beer too. Before a film a few months back, I had surprisingly decent conveyer belt sushi at Tenroku Sushi in the Japantown mall. For beer and wine beforehand, Fat Angel a few blocks south is the place to go-- the draft selection is small, but curated with obscure and delicious finds.
An okonomiyaki at Izumiya, I think it’s called the “modern yaki,” mixes noodles in the Japanese pancake. Heavy, and full of mayo, but has its merits!
San Wang has good hand-pulled noodles if you’re in the mood for Chinese food.
Benkyodo’s hours are 8-5pm, and closed Sunday so I don’t get there often for the mochi. They were founded in 1906, and survived both the WWII internments and the later redevelopment of the area. Do any other food businesses in Japantown pre-date the 1960s?
If you want to try Japanese style pasta you can go to On the Bridge. It’s just a cafe - not a special place - but there aren’t many places in SF where you can get mentaiko spaghetti or natto spaghetti.
The Nijiya market on the corner is a pretty good grocery store and has items to go.
I usually go to Tanpopo for ramen in Japantown, but I’ve heard Waraku might be better. In general the best sushi places and ramen places in SF are not in Japantown. (For sushi that’s especially the case now that Ino sushi is closed.)
Probably not for sushi since most sushi places I noticed in J-town are either conveyer-belt sushi or relatively low end sushi. Since the J-town is like a concentration of various different stores and restaurants which is like a stop fun place.