The Mission District, the Castro, North Beach, Chinatown…San Francisco has no shortage of fascinating neighborhoods to explore, and while tiny–spanning only six square city blocks–Japantown is mighty in terms of neighborhood history, community involvement, and culinary and cultural offerings. It is also more than 100 years old and one of only three remaining Japantowns in the country.
The San Francisco Japantown Foundation was created in 2006 with the mission of supporting cultural, community, and educational activities in the neighborhood. This is accomplished in large part by providing financial grants to qualified local organizations and events, ranging from the Cherry Blossom Festival to smaller cultural performances to programs that support and empower youth and the elderly, in addition to critical civic preservation work.
Joie de Vivre Hotels spoke with Don Tamaki, President of the foundation’s all-volunteer Board of Directors whose family ties to Japantown can be traced back for several generations.
When asked what makes Japantown a great place to visit, Tamaki responds with a laugh: “The parking! Not many San Francisco neighborhoods can say that!” Then he elaborates, “The neighborhood is walkable and very well situated within the city. There are so many restaurants, it’s fun to go out eating and drinking. The stores sell Japanese pottery, art, things that you can’t find anywhere else outside of Japan. Plus, the historic aspect makes Japantown a meaningful destination.”
The annual New Year’s Celebration Dinner with Osechi Ryori, hosted at Hotel Kabuki, is the foundation’s largest fundraiser, featuring food and drink from local restaurants, music, speeches, and performances. At the 2017 event, Hotel Kabuki presented a check to the foundation for more than $34,000. The hotel and neighborhood foundation have been philanthropic partners since 2013, and the hotel also raises funds year-round by soliciting donations from hotel guests.
“It is always wonderful to partner with Hotel Kabuki,” said Tamaki, “The hotel honors and respects the local tradition and has been so supportive of the community over the years.”