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“Broad range of cultural experiences!”

Japantown (San Jose)
Ranked #25 of 137 things to do in San Jose
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Attraction details
Owner description: A quaint neighborhood with Japanese restaurants, shops and other attractions.
Reviewed 24 February 2014

My wife and I visited a couple times recently. We didn't eat at any of the restaurants, but we saw several, and a farmer's market, as well. There was a grocery store that's pretty typical of Asian markets. It's very small, though, so it's not the kind of place where you hand-pick your lobster or anything, but if you want pocky, ramen, and ramune, you're in luck!

There were some nice gift shops. One was actually Hawaiian-themed. Hawaii has a large Japanese population, so the store was kind of a mix of the two. It had some pretty dolls, lots of T-shirts, books about Japan, games, keychains, stickers, candles, notecards, and some CDs from Hawaiian singers and from a local San Jose taiko (Japanese drum) group. Another git shop was all-Japanese. They had tons and tons of geisha dolls, dolls of royalty and the elderly, Buddha statuettes, zodiac figurines, etc. They had some pop culture magazines in Japanese if you're into J-rock, as well as Japanese cookbooks in English. They had a lot of incense, chopsticks, chopstick rests, and chopstick cases, some cute with anime-character stickers and some elegant. There's a lot of glassware there, though, so you have to consider transporting the large, heavy pieces home. They are also expensive. But I picked up lots of cute notecards and magnets shaped like fans with geisha girls on them and those were nice, lightweight souvenirs.

There is a pretty large anime shop, though it's awkward to find. We passed right by and didn't notice it until we were on the other side of the street, gazing across. You have to enter a building and find your way upstairs. They have lots of DVDs, figures, and artbooks. I think they also had manga, but only in Japanese, no translated books. They had plushes, posters, wallscrolls, trading cards, and art cells/clear files, too, the kind of things you frequently see at anime conventions, and for the same prices.

You can also find some historical points of interest. There are a couple Buddhist temples and there is also a museum dedicated to the Japanese who were interred by America during WWII. The artifacts weren't that impressive to me, personally, but the tour guide was amazing. Beware the gift shop! It's run by volunteers and they had difficulty locating items for us and even working their registers. I wouldn't look twice because it is truly more hassle than it's worth.

Overall the stores were pretty deserted. We didn't see many other tourists or shoppers about. You can find some neat things but it seems like all the locals have been around for a while; most barely had a traceable accent if any at all, so it's not the kind of place where you want to try practicing your "konnichiwas" and your "arigatous." It's an interesting experience but not nearly so authentic as you would find in San Francisco's Japan Town, where the Japanese themselves actually shop and are willing to use some basic Japanese with tourists to give them a little taste of their culture. Still, it's a little area you can tour in a day and it's pleasant.

1  Thank ReviewerEastCoast
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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65 - 69 of 100 reviews

Reviewed 26 April 2013

I went to Ukulele Source at 599 N. 5th and enjoyed learning and talking with the owner...and over to Roy's Station Coffee and Teas for a fantastic special blend of ice tea and... on to Hukilau for really great poke salad dinner. This area is peaceful, full of interesting people and shops, good restaurants. Not the sort of place with exotic buildings or whatever you might imagine, just a variety of interesting places. Things to note, like the rows of beautiful koa wood ukuleles hanging, or the 1954 Coke machine in Roy's, and so on. Relax there after a busy day in downtown San Jose by just driving northeast a bit.

3  Thank MrsDDO
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 April 2013

San Jose's J-town is under transition. What was formerly a place for local Japan-philes to come and shop for nostalgic or cultural hard to find items, has now started to become a little trendier and hip. No doubt all the hype from 49er QB Colin Kaepernick and his ink-inspired clothing line hasn't hurt, the retail selection here has transformed from specialty to chic. But, and I can't emphasize this enough, find out when your fave place will be open because J-town doesn't seem to keep retail hours. Most are closed on Sun, and few are open later than 8 PM otherwise. Restaurants are generally good due to stiff competition and you'll find parking here non-existent on Fri or Sat nights. Check it out on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

3  Thank TR182Flyer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 February 2013

I have been to the yearly festival here several years in a row. The food is delicious and I love the Taiko Drummers. Wonderful.

2  Thank Holly R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 January 2013

Good restraunts and great shops with a Japanese "flavor". A nice quiet neighborrhood with plenty of nice people and establishments to occupy a few hours.

1  Thank SWEngineer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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