This afternoon I went in search of something to read. I'm currently reading two books*, but they're both short and I could easily finish them off with a couple of hours of concentrated reading. There are many books I'd like to read right here at the apartment where I'm staying. But today I was looking for a Japanese book, and for that I had to go to Kinokuniya in Japantown.
San Francisco is home to the largest- and oldest- Japanese enclave in the United States. At the heart is the Japantown Center, which covers two full city blocks and contains the above-mentioned Kinokuniya, many restaurants, bakeries, and shops selling Japanese goods. Besides the wonderful book store (lots of great books in both Japanese and English), I recommend Hashi no Ue, On the Bridge, a real Japanese-style kisaten or cafe. It crowded, with a counter and just a few tables, and has Japanese newspapers and a good collection comic books. The menu consists of kisaten favorites like Japanese-style curry and rice, gratin and doria, and a great selection of wafu (Japanese style) spaghettis: kimchi, mentaiko, sansai (mountain vegetables)...
Nowadays there's a strong Korean presence in Nihonmachi, particularly at the Eastern end. Elsewhere there's a Denny's with an Asian menu. Soko Hardware sells a broad range of Japanese household goods and is always fun to browse. For low ticket items, from snacks like the ever-popular Pocky and cute lunch boxes to plain old cleaning implements, try Ichibankan. And if you've tired of eating and shopping, there is a place for Japanese language study and a branch temple of the Nichiren school of Buddhism.
I departed Japantown with Miura Shion's Mukashi no Hanashi and a Chococat fob for my new mobile phone.
*Don't think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff, and Twenty Days on Route 20 by Michael Czarnecki.