Right in the center of the city, hypermodern updates are taking hold in this century-old district.
Rooms at the geek-chic Hotel Tomo pair minimalist furniture with anime murals by Japanese artist Heisuke Kitazawa. The two Players Suites, each of which sleeps five, come with PS3 and Wii gaming consoles, LCD projectors with eight-foot-wide screens, and oversize beanbags. In the lobby, a vending machine dispenses silk-screened Giant Robot tees. 1800 Sutter St., jdvhotels.com, rooms from $99, Players Suites from $400.
The 2-month-old New People cultural center houses a split-toe tabi-style shoe retailer from Kyoto, a theater that screens Japanese films, a café that sells bento boxes, and a gallery that shows work from artists like Final Fantasy designer Yoshitaka Amano. 1746 Post St., newpeopleworld.com.
Dinner & drinks
At Dosa on Fillmore, inventive, spice-accented cocktails like the Batsman, made with gin, Darjeeling tea cordial, lemon juice, and ginger beer, play off the flavors in the restaurant's South Indian dishes. 1700 Fillmore St., dosasf.com, cocktails from $9, entrées from $9.50.
There's often a wait for the communal sento-style baths at Kabuki Springs & Spa, but guests who book a treatment—options range from facials and massages to acupuncture—can skip the line for the hot and cold pools, steam room, and sauna. 1750 Geary Blvd., kabukisprings.com, one-day access to the baths from $22, treatments from $65.
Underscoring the neighborhood's rise, Yoshi's, a Bay Area institution since 1973, chose to open its newest jazz-and-sushi joint just outside Japantown. The outpost has consistently drawn crowds with its big-name performers (Cassandra Wilson, Herb Alpert, Mos Def) as well as chef Shotaro Kamio's adventurous recipes, like sashimi with grapefruit, julienned potatoes, and lemon oil. 1330 Fillmore St., yoshis.com, sushi rolls from $6, cover from $5.
Fashion gold mine
Floral minidresses, playful graphic-print tops, and edgy structured jackets from hard-to-find women's clothing labels fill the racks at Boutique Harajuku, in the Miyako Mall. Warning: The mostly European and Asian designs run small. 22 Peace Plaza, Suite 522, boutiqueharajuku.com, tops from $65.