That picture postcard view from Alamo Square
Western Addition is a mostly residential area of San Francisco, stretching west from downtown's Civic Center area to the Arguello Boulevard, north of the Panhandle parkway that extends east from the Golden Gate Park between Oak and Fell Streets, and south of California Street.
Nihonmachi, also known as Japantown, the Japan Center, and Little Osaka, is a neighborhood of the Western Addition that is roughly within the confines of Sutter Street to the north, Geary Street to the south, Fillmore to the west and Laguna to the east. It is one of only three Japantowns left in the continental United States — others are in Los Angeles and San Jose. Nihonmachi was formed after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Most Japanese immigrants entered the United States through San Francisco and many settled either south of Market Street or in the Chinatown area. With the 1906 earthquake, Nihonmachi, for a time, became home to the largest Japanese-American community in the United States.
When World War II broke out, U.S. government took Japanese Americans into custody and interned them in concentration camps. As many large sections of the neighborhood remained vacant, the void was quickly filled by thousands of African Americans who had left the South to find war-time industrial jobs in California. Following the war, some Japanese Americans returned, and the city made efforts to rejuvenate the neighborhood. Most former Japanese-American residents of San Francisco chose not to return after the World War II related relocation, and the largest Japanese-American community in San Francisco today can be found in the Sunset neighborhood.
Japantown was also negatively impacted by redevelopment in the 1950's with the widening of Geary Boulevard resulting in the destruction of dozens of Victorians. During the massive redevelopment initiated by Justin Herman in the Western Addition in the 1960s through the 1980s, large numbers of African Americans were pushed west towards the Fillmore neighborhood, east towards the Tenderloin, or south towards Hunters Point where the majority of the city's African American population resides today. Some Japanese returned, followed by new Japanese immigrants as well as investment from the Japanese government and Japanese companies. Nihonmachi remains a social and shopping center for the city's Japanese-American population.
Hayes Valley is generally considered to be the area around Hayes Street from Fillmore Street on the west to Gough, Franklin, or Van Ness on the east. Northward and southward, it extends a few blocks away from Hayes Street in either direction.
Hayes Valley is getting rapidly gentrified. It has a curious mix of boutiques, high end restaurants, hip stores, condominiums, and Victorians coupled with public housing and some mixed, probably one-time rough, neighborhoods.
At one time the Central Freeway ran though the neighborhood, but it was closed and later demolished after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In 2005, a section of the freeway branch from US 101 was rebuilt to exit at Market Street, with a boulevard running north from the exit at Market Street through the Hayes Valley along Octavia Boulevard to Hayes Street.
This part of town is very accessible by car and public parking lots are abundant compared to the surrounding neighborhoods. When coming by car from U.S. 101 towards the Golden Gate Bridge one gets on Octavia Boulevard after Market street. It is important to escape the main traffic flow by turning east or north. There are also taxis readily available at almost all hours on Fillmore and Geary Streets. Though street parking can be slightly easier to find than many other areas of the city, you should still allot 5 or more likely 10 minutes to your search for a space. There is abundant public paid parking at the Kintetsu Mall garage (discount with validation from mall and Japan Center merchants) - and limited street parking. To park your own car it may be wise to go a few blocks further to the Civic Center just to the north and east, where there some parking garages and lots. Most restaurants provide valet parking.
Several bus lines  from downtown run through Western Addition, including the 2-Clement, 3-Jackson, 5-Fulton, 21-Hayes, 31-Balboa and 38-Geary (and the 38L Geary Limited) bus lines. Running north-south through the neighborhood are the 22-Fillmore, 24-Divisadero, and 43-Masonic lines.
The Peace Pagoda in Japantown
- Alamo Square Park, between Steiner, Scott, Fulton and Hayes Streets. This park is best known for the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses on its east side along Steiner Street, which is often the subject of many a San Francisco postcard. There are also many other pretty Victorians encircling the lovely park. The 21-Hayes bus route goes along its south side, the 5-Fulton bus passes by a block north of the park, or if you enjoy walking and don't mind modest grades you can get there by walking west from Hayes Valley or north from the Haight.
- Japantown. Peace Plaza and shopping mall; Ruth Asawa's incredible wrought and cast bronze origami fountains on the Nihonmachi Pedestrian Mall. At the center entrance to the Japan Center is a five-tiered Peace Pagoda, it was designed by world-famous Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi. The Center opened in 1968.
- Sundance Kabuki 8 Theater, 1881 Post Street (between Fillmore and Webster), ☎ +1 415 346-3243, . Home to the annual San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, this state of the art theater features foreign and independent films, with beer and wine served in two of the theaters, and a bar with appetizers on the top floor. The Kabuki is at the western most end of the Japan Center mall, and the Kabuki Springs and Spa is at the other end, just a block from the Fillmore Auditorium on the other side of Geary Boulevard. The Miyako Hotel at Post and Laguna has a picturesque Japanese garden.
- Webster Bridge, on Webster Street over Geary Boulevard. The bridge's design was inspired by traditional Japanese pedestrian walkways. In addition to providing a safe passage over the traffic on Geary Boulevard, the arched bridge has views of Japan Center and Western Addition.
- Fillmore Auditorium, 1805 Geary Boulevard (at Fillmore), ☎ +1 415 346-6000, . Hosts concerts and contemporary bands.
- Kabuki Hot Springs, 1750 Geary Blvd, ☎ +1 415 922-6000, . Daily 10AM-9:45PM. Traditional Japanese-style onsen with full spa services. Communal baths are co-ed only one day per week, see calendar for details.
- University of San Francisco Dons, University of San Francisco campus, ☎ +1 415 422-2873, . Various college sports including baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball. General admission for any game: $7-$10 adults, $5-$7 seniors, $3-$5 children.
- Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, ☎ +1 800 310-6563, . The jazz festival happens the first weekend in July, with several music stages and a street arts fair to Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy.
- Juneteenth Festival, in Kimball Park, at Geary and Steiner, ☎ +1 415 931-2729, . San Francisco joins towns and cities across the US in celebrating the arrival of the news of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1863. Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American culture as well as a celebration of freedom from slavery and remembrance of what it is to be free.
- Cherry Blossom Festival, . In Japantown in the spring (April) since 1967, this popular festival includes a parade from the Civic Center to the Japantown mall area, a street fair, music and a lot to do. Great event to take kids to.
- Nihonmachi Street Fair, . This mid-August street fair has been celebrating San Francisco's Asian cultures and raising funds for community organizations since 1973.
- San Francisco International Film Festival, . Many of the screenings are shown at the Sundance Kabuki 8 Theater on Post Street (see above) every April and May.
- Soko Hardware, 1698 Post Street (at Buchanan), ☎ +1 415 931-5510. M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM. Has everything from copper rain chains and iron cabinetry findings, fine woodworking tools to bulk nails, porcelain to everyday kitchenware; just what you want in a longstanding hardware store.
- Kinokuniya Stationery, 1581 Webster Street (at Post), ☎ +1 415 567-8901. Daily 10:30AM-8PM. Has a huge collection of washii decorative papers that is only surpassed by their incredible collection of pens, stationery and gift items.
- Kinokuniya Bookstore, 1581 Webster Street (at Post), ☎ +1 415 567-7625, . Daily 10:30AM-8PM. If you're into Japanese books, magazines, or comic books (otherwise known as manga), then this is your place to be. The only San Francisco branch of the famous Japanese chain, Kinokuniya carries thousands of titles, including dozens in English. So a crash course in Japanese is not essential to shop here.
- Thread Lounge Designer Sample Sales, 381 Hayes Street (at Gough), ☎ +1 415 717-3957, . M-Th 12PM-7PM, F-Sa 11AM-8PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Men's, women's, and kid's clothing at wholesale prices. Inventory changes constantly. Styles ranging from evening wear to yoga wear. Also a great place for jewelry, hats, purses, bags and gifts.
There are many, many noodle shops and restaurants to explore in Japantown. There's also some fabulous BBQ along Fillmore Avenue south of Geary, in this traditionally multicultural part of town. The Japan Center is packed with restaurants, particularly in the Kintetsu Building. More Japanese restaurants can be found along Post St and in the Buchanan Mall, across Post Street.
- Absinthe, 398 Hayes Street (at Gough), ☎ +1 415 551-1590, . Tu-W 11:30AM-midnight, Th-F 11:30AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 11AM-10PM. Restyles the rustic foods of southern France into sleek urban classics. Wonderful (expensive) cocktails based on 100-year old recipes. Not the cheapest place in town, but affordable and the quality of the food is an excellent value. A pretty, white-tablecloth setting and excellent service make this a lovely lunch spot. Avoid weekend evenings before 8PM, when crowds from the nearby theater district can mean a wait. And they now serve absinthe.
- Cafe Kati, 1963 Sutter Street (at Fillmore), ☎ +1 415 775-7313, . Tu-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. Asian Fusion was a passing fad, but Cafe Kati has made it a trend with 15 years of service to local diners.
- Citizen Cake, 399 Grove Street (at Gough), ☎ +1 415 861-2228, . Tu-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, 5PM-10PM, Sa 10AM-2:30PM, 5PM-10PM, Su 10AM-2:30PM. Reasonable light California style meals. Outside of dinner and weekend brunch times you may just want to indulge on their deserts. Mixed service reviews.
- Frjtz, 581 Hayes Street (at Laguna), ☎ +1 415 864-7654, . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-Midnight, Su 11AM-9PM. A diminutive and funky Belgian fries place.
- Fuku-Sushi Restaurant, 1581 Webster Street (at Post), ☎ +1 415 346-3030. Open 11AM-11PM or later. While Fuku can be pricey, the quality of the sushi is excellent and well worth it. This is one of the best sushi restaurants in a city packed with hundreds. The atmosphere is low key and if you can sit at the bar, Nobu is wonderful to chat with. The service is exceptional and more in line with a traditional Japanese sushi house.
- Iroha Restaurant, 1728 Buchanan Street (between Post and Sutter), ☎ +1 415 922-0321. Su-Th 11:30AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10PM. Iroha serves a variety of familiar Japanese dishes such as ramen, tonkatsu, gyoza, etc. The interior is somewhat dim and starkly decorated with dark wooden partitions that divide sections. The restaurant is on the second floor, so a window seat is prime perch for people watching.
Floating sushi boats at Isobune
- Isobune, 1737 Post Street (between Buchanan and Webster, in the Kintetsu Mall), ☎ +1 415 563-1030. Daily 10:30AM-10PM. As the floating sushi bars so popular in Japan, the sushi chefs at Isobune prepare food and place it on wooden boats that sail around the inner perimeter of an oval counter. Patrons seated at the counter simply lift the dishes they want off the bobbing boats. Your bill depends on the number of empty dishes you're left with. It's fun, cheap, and delicious.
- Little Star Pizza, 846 Divisadero Street (between McAllister and Fulton), ☎ +1 415 441-1118, . Su-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM. The Chicago deep dish here is among the best in the city.
- On the Bridge, 1581 Webster Street (at Post), ☎ +1 415 922-7765. Daily 11:30AM-10PM. This ultra-cute little eatery, on the bridge connecting the Kintetsu and Kinokuniya Buildings, specializes in an intriguing Euro-Japanese and Indo-Japanese hybrid cuisine called yoshoku, which has been popular in Japan for more than 100 years. Japanese 'pastas' and curried rice plates take on unexpected but delightful flavors.
- Mifune, 1737 Post Street (between Buchanan and Webster, in the Kintetsu Mall), ☎ +1 415 922-0337, . Su-Th 11AM-9:30pm, F-Sa 11AM-10PM. Wheelchair Accessible. Looking like a '60s movie-set depiction of a Japanese house, Mifune is one of San Francisco's most popular noodle parlors. A mere $5 will set you up with a hearty bowl of udon or soba noodles, either in a bowl of hot broth or served cold with a dipping cup of sauce. Many delicious vegetarian selections are available.
- Sapporo-Ya Japanese Restaurant, 1581 Webster Street (at Post, in the Kinokuniya Building), ☎ +1 415 563-7400. M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 11AM-10:30PM. Excellent Japanese noodles served dozens of ways. Open very late, and a good place to warm up on a cold foggy day.
- SPQR, 1911 Fillmore, ☎ +1 415 771-7779, . M-Tu 11:30AM-2:30PM and 5PM-10PM, W-Th 5PM-10PM, F 5PM-11PM, Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 11:30AM-10PM. Beautiful European stylized restaurant with a great menu of Italian cuisine and wine, serving walk-ins only - keeping the clientèle local and less stuffy than reservation only dinning.
- Suppenkueche, 525 Laguna Street (at Linden), ☎ +1 415 252-9289, . M-Sa 5PM-10PM, Su 10AM-2:30PM and 5PM-10PM. For casual German food and service, beer -- of course -- served at shared tables.
- Thai Stick 2001, 2001 Fillmore Street (at Pine), ☎ +1 415 885-6100, . Affordable and delicious traditional Thai food right at the corner of Fillmore and Pine.
- Absinthe (see above), Hayes and Gough. Has fine French wines, that can be tasted in its bar or on its sidewalk tables, and also can be purchased next door.
- Boom Boom Room, 1601 Fillmore St. (at Geary), . A super fun bar with live blues, rock and funk bands.
- Fritz (see above), on Hayes between Franklin and Gough. Has a wide collection of Belgian Beers.
- Suppenkuche (see above), Hayes and Laguna. Has a busy bar where German beers dominate.
- Yoshi's Jazz Club, 1330 Fillmore Street (at Eddy St.), ☎ 415.655.5600, . The newer version of the famous Oakland club, featuring famous jazz performers as well as hip hop and latin music. Yoshi's restaurant serves excellent though unusually expensive Japanese food in an elegant setting.
- Days Inn, 465 Grove Street (between Gough and Octavia), ☎ +1 415 864-4040 (fax: +1 415 552-4914), . A typical Days Inn with few frills; free breakfast and wireless internet.
- Hotel Tomo, 1800 Sutter Street (at Buchanan), ☎ +1 415 921-4000 (fax: +1 415 563-1278), . Each room has anime-style murals and views of the city. Fun stuff like gaming suites, bean bag chairs and glow-in-the-dark desk blotters.
- Hayes Valley Inn, 417 Gough Street (between Ivy and Hayes), ☎ +1 415 431-9131 (fax: +1 415 431-2585), . European Style. Extremely cute, homey, and comfortable. $84-$105.
- Miyako Hotel, 1625 Post Street (between Laguna and Buchanan), ☎ +1 415 922-3200 (fax: +1 415 614-5498), . A Japanese-style hotel with a calm ambiance.
- Queen Anne Hotel, 1590 Sutter Street (at Octavia), ☎ +1 415 441-2828 (email@example.com, fax: +1 415 775-5212), . The Queen Anne provides a real San Francisco experience, being an 1890 Victorian Hotel between Pacific Heights and the Civic Center, and near Japantown. Some rooms have fireplaces, and afternoon tea is served daily.
- San Francisco Public Library - Western Addition Branch, 1550 Scott Street (between Post and Geary), ☎ +1 415 355-5727, . Su 1-5, M 1-9, Tu 10-6, W 1-9, Th 10-6, F 1-6, Sa 10-6.
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