photo by Jen Siska
In the lobby of San Francisco's Hotel Tomo, the Giant Robot vending machine does a brisk business in J-pop T-shirts, caps, and toys.
At nearby Bushi-Tei, the French-California fusion restaurant that won a Michelin star shortly after it opened in November, foodies enjoy an imaginative menu that manages to combine unlikely ingredients like miso-marinated Washugyu beef and camembert cheese.
Though it's 102 years old, Japantown suddenly feels new again.
A pop-culture center is opening here in early 2009, with manga (comics), anime (animation), and street fashion.
But - especially in spring, as cherry blossoms fall like pink snow - there's no need to wait to visit San Francisco's most improved neighborhood.
San Francisco's Japantown is on Geary Blvd., about 1 mile west of Union Square. INFO: japantownparking.com or 415/567-4573.