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Where to shop in San Francisco’s Japantown for the holiday season

San Francisco Japantown's Osaka Way with the Pease Plaza in the background.
Tourists shop in the shadow of Japantown’s Peace Plaza pagoda. | Source: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Since the pandemic, Japan has become a popular travel destination—but you don’t have to book an international trip to experience the country’s world-renowned foods and high-level craftsmanship first-hand. Since 1906, San Francisco’s Japantown—the oldest Japantown in the U.S. and one of only three left in America—has long been a bastion of Japanese culture and community.

The compact, six-block stretch on Post and Sutter streets, anchored by the Peace Plaza pagoda, Japan Center Malls and a pedestrian-only block on Buchanan Street, may be small, but it’s positively filled with shops.

Whether you’re new to Japanese-style gift-giving or feeling nostalgic for home, here are a few ways you can bring the spirit of Japan to your holiday festivities.


📍1758 Buchanan St.
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People typically come to SF76, formerly known as “Sanko,” to stock their kitchens with upscale cookware and knives, but the 40-plus-year-old Japantown shop is also filled with beautifully designed artisanal objects sourced straight from Japan or made by local artists.

Ceramics, plates and bowls fill a Japanese cookware shop in San Francisco's Japantown.
Japantown's SF76 sells everything from ceramics to high-end cookware, all sourced from Japan or made by local artists. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

Inside, you’ll not only find hand-painted porcelain from Arita—the birthplace of Japanese pottery—but also intricately woven cotton scarves from Nishiwaki, or “the navel of Japan.” 

Colorful Japanese tenugui cotton clothes lay on display inside a shop in Japantown, San Francisco.
Japanese tenugui cloths are often printed with colorful patterns and can be used as gift wrapping, a hand towel or even a headband. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

While most of Sanko’s wares veer toward the higher end, there are plenty of affordable gifts that can make for a cute or thoughtful stocking stuffer. Grab a pair of chopsticks and a whimsical chopstick rest in the shape of a baguette or broccoli for around $20. Pick up a glazed mame-zara—or “tiny dish”—for condiments by everyday Japanese dinnerware brand Lakole for around $14. And wrap it all up with a tenugui cloth, those versatile cotton towels that can be used to wrap up a present in the traditional Furoshiki-style and then reused as a headband, table runner or cleaning cloth. 

Kohshi Master of Scents 

📍 1737 Post St. #335, Japan Center Malls 
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A beautifully scented candle or diffuser can make for a memorable gift, and Kohshi Master of Scents inside Japantown’s mall is packed with items perfect for aromatherapy, including essential oils and incense from over 30 different Japanese companies. 

Small incense dishes and holders in the shape of paper cranes lie on display on a red table cloth in a shop in San Francisco's Japantown.
The proprietor of Kohshi Master of Scents in Japantown recommends pairing seasonal scents like pomegranate or narcissus with a small dish and whimsical incense holder for a small yet thoughtful holiday gift. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

If the recipient is new to burning incense, the proprietor recommends a few simple items for a small yet thoughtful starter pack. Pair a dainty decorated dish with a tiny incense holder—such as a ceramic paper crane or metal lotus flower—and complement them with a seasonal scent such as pomegranate or narcissus. 


📍 1825 Post St. #250, Japantown Center Kinokuniya Building
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A shop window is filled with colorful, Japanese-style tea pots and a statue of a red cat.
ChaTo tea shop inside San Francisco's Japan Center sells an array of colorful teapots and serving accessories. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

ChaTo is a tea lover’s paradise, so head there to find something special for this type of drinker in your life. The family-owned shop partners with small producers in Japan to offer an array of leaves and brews from oolong and jasmine to hojicha and sencha. Chato also sells various brands of matcha powder as well as an array of serving tools and accessories, from cherry bark tea scoops to gorgeous teapots.  


📍 1737 Post St., Japan Center Malls

Colorful hard candies sit in rows and baskets on display at a Japantown sweets store.
In addition to mochi, Nippon-Ya also sells Japanese hard candies in a variety of flavors. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

A double mound of mochi with an orange on top known as “Kagami Mochi” is traditionally eaten during Japanese New Year. To explore more treats in the mochi family around the holidays, head to Nippon-Ya in the Japantown Center, which offers the traditional Japanese rice cakes in an assortment of flavors from matcha to chocolate. You could also take home strawberry mochi by Tokyo Mochi Company, which comes in a limited edition San Francisco Japantown box with images of the Golden Gate Bridge and Japantown Peace Plaza’s pagoda. 

Boxes of strawberry mochi lay stacked on a shelf in a Japantown sweets shop in San Francisco.
For the 2023 holiday season, Nippon-Ya is offering limited-edition boxes of strawberry mochi in San Francisco-style packaging. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

Paper Tree

📍 1743 Buchanan St.
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Finally, you can find the perfect paper to wrap up your buys at Paper Tree. The specialty shop not only sells a variety of sheets for origami, or the art of folding paper, but also elegant gift wrappings from Asia.

Origami paper earrings hang in a display in a Japantown paper store.
In addition to selling elegant paper wrappings, Paper Tree also sells delicate handmade origami earrings made by a local artist. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The San Francisco Standard

Package a beginner’s origami book and fold-by-numbers kit in a festive yuzen chiyogami print from Japan or swath a hand-painted glass ornament in a marbled momigami or handmade mulberry paper from Thailand. Gift wrapping is complimentary with an in-store purchase.

Paper Tree retail associate Hitomi Silver holds up a Japanese "Happy New Year" stamp.
Paper Tree retail associate Hitomi Silver holds up a Japanese "Happy New Year" stamp. | Source: Christina Campodonico/The Standard

But paper isn’t just for wrapping here. The shop, which also displays elaborate origami creations as part of a mini-museum in the store, also sells intricate origami necklaces and paper crane earrings made by a local artist, as well as origami star ornaments that can hang or top a tree. If you buy a house-made greeting card, you can also get it stamped with a “Happy New Year” message written in Japanese to add an additional thoughtful touch.