San Francisco’s Japantown: vibrant, on-trend and fighting for its future

Japanese people started moving to J-Town after the city’s 1906 earthquake and the area still reflects its roots with festivals, food stops and arty stores but its small businesses face a battle against a real-estate boom

An elderly Japanese-American man is pruning the tiny pines in concrete planters on a pedestrianised section of the outdoor Buchanan Street Mall, ignoring the teens hunting invisible Pokémon around him and the drone buzzing overhead. San Francisco’s storied Japantown is where aspects of Japanese culture have taken root in America but it’s also, in this tech-mad, trendy city, a neighbourhood that not only keeps up with the latest trends but sometimes sets them.

Related: Local’s guide to San Francisco’s coolest neighbourhoods

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