This past weekend marked the first annual Ramen Street Festival presented by Ramen Yokocho Association, which meant that I would have the chance to visit Japantown, located in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco. Even though the festival itself was a bit of a disappointment due to insane crowds on both days, I still got the chance to explore the area, which was teeming with rich history.
San Francisco’s Japantown is the oldest and largest Japantown in the country, spanning six city blocks and filled with plenty of Japanese shops, restaurants, and attractions. As I walked around the neighborhood, I took in the sights and sounds on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Although the area was filled with visitors that had arrived for the festival, it still gave off a peaceful vibe. I noticed popular Japanese stores such as Daiso ($1.50 for the win) and Books Kinokuyina, the largest bookstore chain in Japan.
As my roommate and I walked around a corner, we heard sounds of a concert and decided to check it out. We found ourselves in front of the famous Peace Pagoda, watching a J-Pop group performing for the J-Pop Summit. I continued to observe my surroundings, noticing the Japanese-styled buildings and bridges, and imagining the neighborhood in its heyday, which housed a bustling Japanese population and actually looked like a city in Japan.
Unfortunately, World War II saw the mass exodus of the Japanese population in San Francisco (and the entire country) to internment camps, and the neighborhood was never the same following the war. Still, I’m glad the Japantown of today preserves the history of its past while providing a wonderful place for people to enjoy and explore. My visit definitely helped me to appreciate all the unique neighborhoods in the city even more, and I hope that I’ll be back soon, especially to enjoy that $4 three-scoop sundae at Miyako’s Old Fashion Ice Cream Shop!