Also referred to by locals as "J-Town" or "Nihonmachi," the section of San Francisco called Japantown is home to over 12,000 residents of Japanese descent. It is an area reflective of the Japanese lifestyle, marked by scores of sushi shops, Japanese restaurants, non-profit community organizations, two large hotels, and numerous Pacific-focused businesses.
Japanese immigrants first arrived in San Francisco in the early 1860s. Most of them lived in the Chinatown area until the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire drove many of them from their homes. They resettled in the city's Western Addition, building the churches, shrines, shops, and restaurants that would become Japantown.
At the heart of Japantown is a five-acre shopping, dining, and entertainment complex known as Japan Center. Its centerpiece Peace Plaza features a 100-foot-high, five-tiered Peace Pagoda designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi as well as a beautiful slate tile fountain. Kinokuniya Bookstore Building, the Kintetsu Mall, and the Miyako Mall are its primary buildings, along with the AMC Kabuki 8 cinemaplex.
Those interested in a self-guided tour of Japantown can follow the San Francisco Japantown History Walk, which consists of 16 interpretive signs placed along a 10-block route. Each April, Japantown hosts the Northern California Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. In winter, free karaoke and outdoor movies are featured in the Japan Center Mall.