Exploring San Francisco’s Japantown

Nandita Radhakrishnan/Staff

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Last Saturday, my friends and I spontaneously decided to spend the evening in San Francisco’s Japantown. We hopped on the BART at Downtown Berkeley and got off at Montgomery station seven stops later. A 15-minute bus ride dropped us off in the heart of Japantown.

We spent some time walking around Peace Plaza, a central square where most of Japantown’s annual events and festivals are held, which is also home to a massive peace pagoda sculpture. On this particular day, the plaza was calm and relaxing, with families scattered around, little children playing tag and pigeons hopping about. Time seemed to come to a standstill. The serenity of the square was in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of San Francisco or the energy of Berkeley.

Now refreshed, we decided to explore the Japan Center — which consists of three interconnected, two-story malls. Once inside, the scene completely transformed. We were transported to Osaka with long lines at food stalls and rows of little shops selling a variety of things from general housewares to DVDs and books. Our first stop was Daiso, a place that needs no introduction. This one was about 20 times larger than the one we have in Berkeley. We lost track of time as we browsed the aisles that seemed to extend indefinitely, and stopped at every item that appeared even remotely interesting.

It was still too early for dinner, so we settled on trying the famous Sophie’s Crepes. We all ordered the Japanese special that came with red bean paste and matcha ice cream. Without a doubt, it was one of the best crepes I’d ever tasted — the combination of the red bean paste with the matcha ice cream is a match made in heaven.

Nandita Radhakrishnan/Staff

If you’re into manga or anime, Japantown will be a paradise for you. Every other shop seemed to be selling a wide range of anime posters and DVD videos. At the Kinokuniya bookstore, you can find a whole floor dedicated to manga.

If you ever find yourself bored during the weekend or not knowing what to do after a midterm, Japantown is the place to be. You can try some authentic Japanese food, get lost in the anime stores, buy some plushies or just simply browse and have a great time with friends.

Contact Nandita Radhakrishnan at [email protected].