Bring the serenity and peace of Japanese culture home from the Japan Center in San Francisco. The landmark shopping center — with its East Mall and West Mall — has fun and fabulous trinkets, noodle houses, sushi bars, Asian bakeries, a destination bookstore, and a peek into Japanese culture
The vast five-acre Japan Center is actually three shopping areas — Kinokuniya, Kintetsu, and Miyako, and is anchored by Books Kinokuniya and the Sundance Kabuki Cinema. Buchanan street, which leads to the main entrance, has been converted into a block-long pedestrian mall with flowering plum and cherry trees and cobbled streets to resemble a Japanese mountain village.
Located in the Kinokuniya Building, the international bookstore chain has an extensive selection of Japanese-language books, manga graphic novels and English-language translations and books on many Japanese topics. Founded in 1927 in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, Books Kinokuniya started importing English books in 1949. Twenty years later they opened their first overseas store, in San Francisco.
Sundance Kabuki was the first multiplex in San Francisco and has been an important venue for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. It was acquired by Robert Redford's Sundance Cinemas and completely revitalized with reserved seating only.
More recently, it was sold to AMC Theatres, a Chinese group, but it's business as usual with regular film screenings. It's still a venue for the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the SF Independent Film Festival. The multiplex is a complete entertainment center with karaoke, a restaurant & bar, and an art gallery.
In the tradition of Japanese public bathhouses, Kabuki's communal baths include a hot pool, cold pool, sauna. and steam room. There are individual bathing areas and a full selection of bath products like sea salts, chilled face cloths, and green teas. The communal baths are a peaceful place to rest, restore. and reconnect. There are also a complete list of East/West spa treatments — acupuncture, massage, facials. and a unique sushi & satori package for groups.
Follow cool Japanese teenagers to PikaPika, where you step into a photo booth and then use magical effects to create unique photo creations. There are seven color photo booths to choose from. Each one has its own special features. Photos can be customized with different backgrounds — you can sit on an elephant, leap out of a washing machine, or turn into a sumo wrestler. Much like that other Japanese invention, karaoke, PikaPika allows people to be silly in a group setting.
Asakichi, the Japanese antiques and arts specialty group, includes four stores dotted through the malls. Shop for lightweight cotton or fine silk kimonos for men, women, children, and even special wedding kimonos. There's also a tiny Asakichi incense shop where you'll find tinkling wind chimes and Japanese cast iron tea pots. The main store carries a fine selection of of Noren (fabric room dividers or curtains), Shoji screens and Tansu (traditional cabinetry). Ask to have your purchases gift-wrapped in traditional Japanese washi paper.
Visit this delightful Japanese dollar store where you'll find fun Japanese kitchenware, toys, stuffed animals, tote bags decorated with hedgehogs, clear food storage systems in the shapes of fish and erasers shaped like sushi. You'll also find a complete range of cosmetics, unique storage systems and food items all imported from Japan.
Between the Miyako Mall and Kintetsu Building is the landmark, five-tier, 100-foot-tall Peace Pagoda. The pagoda draws on the 1,200-year-old tradition of miniature round pagodas. It was designed in the late 1960s by Yoshiro Taniguchi to convey friendship and goodwill from the people of Japan to the people of the United States.
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