Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Lunching at Japantown in San Francisco
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Lunching at Japantown in San Francisco

Iroha ramen and gyoza

I just had a great meal at our favorite restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown, Iroha. It’s a noodle house that serves up a great deal: A lunch combination special of ramen topped with a couple slices of pork, and gyoza dumplings on the side.

The restaurant is more crowded than usual, and filled with lots of non-Japanese who are here for the first time. That’s because J-Town in general is hopping this weekend. It’s the second weekend of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, or Sakura Matsuri. There are vendors with booths selling everything from junky trinkets to high-class jewelry, lots of food and stages of performers and martial arts demonstrations, all with a Japanese focus.

But there’s also a Japanese American undercurrent, with young people flocking to stores that specialize in anime and Jpop music. It’s a cool mix of traditional and contemporary — much like J-Town itself.

I wish Denver’s annual Sakura Matsuri, which also features booths, food and performances, could fill a number of city blocks like here.

In both cities, and anywhere else that has a festival like this, I imagine lots of folks go home having learned a little more about Japanese culture, and hopefully they’ll learn that Japanese Americans are a little bit different from Japanese. It’s a subtle distinction, but JAs may practice some traditional arts of Japan, but they’re just… American. You can tell in their gait, their language and hey, the “speak English so well”!

SF Cherry Blossom Festival.