A day in Japantown San Francisco

*This is part of our series this week on San Francisco.*  Japantown San Francisco is one of my favorite places. And my teen son loves it too, so when we were spending our spring break in San Francisco, that was first on his list to see. Japantown is basically the Japantown Center, an indoor mall, though there are some stores outside there as well.

Japanese Kit Kat. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Here were some of the highlights:

Tenroku sushi – conveyor belt. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Conveyor belt sushi

We found out the Isobune Sushi, the restaurant where the sushi goes around a moat on boats, closed last fall. Fortunately there is a sushi conveyor belt restaurant – not quite as charming, but it did the trick. It’s Tenroku Sushi. If you haven’t tried this before, you sit around the outside of an island, with the sushi chefs inside. They prepare various sushi items and put them on different color dishes. They put them on a conveyor belt and you pick the dishes that you want, when you want them, and eat them. Each color plate has a price, and the waitress adds up the prices at the end. It’s fun to try a few pieces at a time, and it’s easy to share.

Conveyor belt sushi at Tenroku at Japantown Center. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
The bill is broken down by plate color. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Dragon’s breath

We were intrigued by all the liquid nitrogen smoke emanating out of the Chocolate Chair ice cream store. They also make liquid nitrogen ice cream. Dragon’s breath is basically sweet cereal balls (like giant Trix), served with liquid nitrogen. So when you eat them, you blow out smoke. It’s novel. We got one cup for $5 to share, and we didn’t eat the whole thing. It’s kind of gross to eat, but fun. A warning: my friend who is a pediatrician treated a kid who injured his throat after eating these. I looked it up – and it’s a thing. So be careful.

Dragon’s breath. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Dragon’s breath cereal balls in liquid nitrogen. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Manga and anime

My son and his friend spent way too much time in the manga and Japanese anime store. Actually there is a big bookstore, Kinokuniya, there as well, and he bought some new books. If you’re a manga fan, you’ll love the Japantown Center. Plus they had lots of stores with cute and weird things.

Lots of fun things to look at and buy. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan


Benkyodo is known for their mochi. Buy it by the piece, or by the box – choosing your own flavors. They’re closed Sundays and Mondays.

Mochi in Japantown. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Paper Tree 

If you like origami or paper in general, go to the Paper Tree, right next to Benkyodo. They have beautiful papers and lots of origami. They even have an origami dragon created out of a six foot uncut piece of paper. It’s amazing.

Origiami paper from the Paper Tree. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Paper from the Paper Tree. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Here are a few fun photos of what else you can see in Japantown.

One of the fun signs at a Japantown restaurant. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Cosplay contact lenses. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Items in a window in Japantown. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
The Auto Freak store at Japantown. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

This is part of our San Francisco series:

Four fun things to see in Japantown

A day at Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco CityPASS review

Walt Disney Family Museum

Dandelion Chocolate Factory and Cafe

Smitten Ice Cream (there’s one in walking distance of Japantown)