East meets West: San Francisco’s Asian Persuasions
Once upon a time, San Francisco had one Chinatown. But in the early 70s it was joined by what locals claimed was a second Chinatown, which ran along Clement St. in the inner Richmond district. Asians and those who love dim sum and kung pao chicken have followed their appetites ever since to enclaves in the Sunset District along Noriega, and stretches of Mission Street between 16th and 29th streets.
With more than a third of the city’s population claiming Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, it’s no wonder that East meets West with such certainty. Across San Francisco’s 49-square-mile surface, burgeoning Filipino, Korean, Southeast Asian communities and a Japanese population that dates back to 1860 attest to San Francisco’s Pacific inclinations.
To visit some of San Francisco’s Asian communities at their most festive, keep these events in mind:Chinatown
- Visit the Chinatown Night Market Fair from May to November in Portsmouth Square. Entertainment and numerous merchant booths offer memorable souvenirs, unique arts and crafts and bargain knickknacks. For the latest information on the Chinatown markets, visit www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com.
- September brings the Autumn Moon Festival to Grant Avenue and a lantern village, moon cakes (a dense, small cake usually filled with salted egg yolk and a sweet bean paste), traditional lion and dragon dances are all part of the fare. For the latest information on the Autumn Moon Festival, visit www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com.
- With every rotation of the lunar cycle, San Francisco’s Chinatown explodes with firecrackers and lion dancing for two weeks in January or February (depending on when the holiday falls on the lunar calendar). The Chinese New Year is filled with two days of street fairs, which culminate in the Chinese New Year parade. For the latest information on Chinese New Year, visit www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com.
Japantown One of the last three remaining Japantowns in the United States, Nihonmachi, as it is known to more than 12,000 San Franciscans of Japanese descent, three square blocks are packed with sushi bars, restaurants, shops, art galleries, Japanese baths and a five-tier pagoda.
- The annual Cherry Blossom Festival unfolds in April with dual weekends of taiko drumming, martial arts, Akita dog shows, musical entertainment, food and community service booths. The grand parade climaxes each year with an exuberant crew of 100 individuals hoisting a large shrine (“taru mikoshi”) up and down to the beat of a shouted cadence. For a complete schedule of festival events (most of them free), visit www.nccbf.org or telephone 415-563-2313.
- Japantown hosts the Nihonmachi Street Fair in August. For more information, visit www.nihonmachistreetfair.org or call 415-771-9861.
Asian-inspired events across the City
- Music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, film and video are represented in the United States of Asian American festival. Produced by the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, the festival opens in April with everything from spoken word performances to original theatrical work. For a complete schedule of events and ticket prices, visit www.apiculturalcenter.org or call 415- 864-4126.
- Yerba Buena Gardens is the setting for numerous special events from May through late fall including Pistahan, the annual Filipino festival of arts and culture includes entertainment, crafts and food. For more information on this event and the full calendar of events produced by the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, visit www.yerbabuenagardens.com or call 415-820-3550.
- The San Francisco Aloha Festival is a celebration of the Pacific Islands, with a whole lot of hula as well as food, music, arts, workshops and Polynesian-themed merchandise. For more information, visit www.pica-org.org or call 415-281-0221.
- The Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival unfolds in January. Organized by the Vietnamese Community Center of San Francisco, the festival features music, dance and special activities for children who are in the spotlight this time of year when not only the past but also the future is honored. For more information, visit www.vietccsf.org or call 415-351-1038.
Asian Art Museum 200 Larkin St., 415-581-3500, www.asianart.org Open 10-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, extended hours every Thursday until 9 p.m. Famed architect Gae Aulenti has transformed the 1917 Beaux Arts building, which formerly housed the Main Library, into a showpiece for the Asian Art Museum’s permanent collection.
Chinese Historical Society of America Museum 965 Clay St., 415-391-1188, www.chsa.org Open 11-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 12-4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday Architect Julia Morgan created many buildings, including Hearst Castle and the circa 1932 former YWCA which is the new home of the Chinese Historical Society of America.
Chinese Cultural Center 750 Kearny St., Third Floor, (415) 986-1822, www.c-c-c.org Call ahead for hours
Pacific Heritage Museum 608 Commercial St., 415-399-1124, www.pacificheritage.citysearch.com Call ahead for hours # # #
More Recent Articlesview all
San Francisco is a cultural playground in many forms. Children (and parents) will find museums that encourage creative thinking and......more