NFT San Francisco Pacific Heights / Japantown

Pacific Heights / Japantown

Dogs, children, and sunbathers love Lafayette Park, the crown of this part of Pacific Heights. The Japan Center Peace Pagoda anchors the few blocks that make up Japantown. Sluggish Van Ness Avenue marks the eastern border of the neighborhood. The modern interior of St. Mary's Cathedral makes for a study of light's visible spectrum.

Van Ness Avenue is a giant, traffic-packed big box strip. Alternatively, head to Post Street in Japantown, where seemingly nondescript buildings hold an interior treasure of Japanese grocery stores, noodle shops, sushi, imported furniture, and the largest Japanese language bookstore in the US (Kinokuniya Books).


This Neighborhood Featured in...
High Culture Trifecta for Cheapskates!

By Catherine Wargo
Who needs money when you have opera... symphonies... and ballet? In San Francisco, all these things can be had on the (relative) cheap. So come, partake of these treasures before the tide turns.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Peter Malfatti
Photo:  Peter Malfatti

Tommy's Joynt
Speaking of having dreams about meals, this place has it all. Famous for it's amazing Turkey (and it's damned amazing), people sometimes forget that pretty much everything on the menu is fantastic...and the prices can't be beat. Billed as a San Francisco Haufbrau and featured on the Food Network, Tommy's Joynt combines cafeteria/deli style ordering and seating with the wood decor (and ceiling cotchkies) of an amazing local dive bar. Stand in line, order your favorite sandwich (no frills, got it? meat, sauce bread, done), or platter (don't forget the sides), they make it right there (Turkey plate is a classic, the meatball sandwich is ridiculously good). Pay for it, grab a seat. Waitress comes around to take your drink order, pay as you go. Don't forget: Waitress's tip on the receipt tray, busboy's tip on the table. Be generous, they deserve it!

Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Soko Hardware
I have an unhealthy obsession with the butcher knife I just bought at Soko hardware. It's shiny, it's strong, it's sharp, and it even makes one of those sword-like zinging sounds a la Prince Valliant when it so much as grazes something. Along with good deals on quality cutlery, Soko carries all your typical hanging paper lamps, colorful sake sets, cute little chopstick holders, and beyond. I didn't so much as enter one of the aisles with hardware, but I hear they've got all that boring stuff too. Kind of like Ace Hardware dressed in Harajuku, with a staff of cute little, wise ladies who know a lot about slicing and dicing.

Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Koko Cocktails
Koko is one of those spots you might walk by in broad daylight and hesitate to go in. The neon signage out front looks vaguely Korean, and peering through the window you find there isn't much to look at except a few afternoon drinkers who seem to melt into the bar stools. Walk by after dark, however, and you might be drawn in by the sound of oldies reggae and rocksteady, or smooth soul, blues, and jazz. Those who know about Koko's don't talk about it much, out of fear it will lose its laidback, not-trying-too-hard coolness. The drinks are strong and cheap, the bartenders affable, and the lighting just dim enough to watch the samurai films projected on the back wall. The vibe at Koko is hip without being overrun with hipsters, and artsy without being edgy and obscure. On a recent visit, however, two paintings displayed on either end of the back wall can only be described as cryptic cubist goth nudes. Koko's is a sure reminder that in San Francisco, anything goes.

Posted By:  Eric Saxon
Photo:  Eric Saxon

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
The longer I remain in the San Francisco Bay Area, the more it becomes apparent that Marin County resident George Lucas took most of the designs for Star Wars from whatever was around him. Bury your face into the moss of Muir Woods and you can almost hear the crisp chitter of Ewoks ruining the third movie. St. Mary's Cathedral, a giant off the oft-traveled Geary Avenue, looks like something from the second movie. What it actually is, however, is a power and celebration zone for the Catholic Faith. Inside, people pray with the aid of a scintillating light-reflecting kinetic sculpture by Richard Lippold. Large windows face a generous spread of the city's four corners—somewhat like the observation tower of another Star Wars-esque building (this time a Jawa transport vehicle), the DeYoung Museum. The true test of the structure's modified Pope Hat was: would it bring in a real Pope? It did, in 1987: Pope John Paul.

Posted By:  Ben Bleiman
Photo:  Courtesy of Jim Fassbinder

Queen Anne Hotel
When you look at the old mansions in Pacific Heights, you can’t help but wonder if they might be haunted. Well they are. At least that’s what Jim Fassbinder, leader of San Francisco Ghost Hunt, claims. And for a mere $20 ($10 for children under 16), Fassbinder will take you on a one mile walk through the historic and notoriously haunted Pacific Heights. You’ll see spectacular views, hear one heck of a ghost story, and even learn how you can catch a ghost along the way. And Fassbinder is no kook. He’s been seen on the Travel Channel with Haunted Hotels and is a reference source in many ghost books. Ok, he still might be a kook. No reservations are necessary. Just be present in the lobby of the Queen Anne hotel any night at 7 pm. You will most certainly be informed, edified and enchanted. And who knows? You might even soil yourself in the process.

Posted By:  James Wigdel

San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
Each week, dotted around Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero, and Union Square over 400 street artists and craftspeople sell their creations to locals and visitors alike. Their art ranges from the simple-but-elegant to one-of-a-kind high-end pieces. Shoppers can be assured their purchase is going to support the artist and support the Street Artist Program because each crafter is vetted through the San Francisco Arts Commission to whom they have demonstrated they “create and sell their work unaided.” The SFAC licenses the street artists to sell their wares and in return uses the fees to support its mission of encouraging artists and giving them a safe space to sell their items. Artist Geoffrey Vorlaza ( personifies the mission of the SFAC. For three years, he has made his living selling his art each weekend around the city. He said it’s not easy but it’s his passion. Each piece of his art, described as contemporary mixed media, is unique and meditative in nature. He and other artists like the freedom of being able to create their work and having a place to display and sell it. Founded in 1972, the San Francisco Street Artist Program has served as a model for similar programs throughout North America and Europe.

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