Hotel Tomo, Hotel Kabuki, and Japan Town – San Francisco


Japan Town is a charming corner of SF that obviously dates from the ’60s. Hotel Kabuki, one of the more highly-searched hotels in SF, is of the same era. Chih-Yu and I stayed at the Kabuki’s sister hotel, the Tomo, and had plenty of time to explore both, since they’re around the corner and the Kabuki is part of a larger Japanese mall/shopping structure that houses some fun little shops and…you guessed it…looks like it went up in 1966. (One pictures a young Frank Abagnale, fresh off a 707 into LAX, entertaining a gaggle of waitresses in one of the cocktail bars.)

Lucky for you, the Kabuki is (mostly) renovated. It’s no wonder the two J-town hotels get so much traffic – they’re a good deal nicer than comparable “western” hotels in the area for the price, which is mostly reasonable. Japan town is an easy 20 minute drive from SFO. Street Parking there, as anywhere in SF proper, is a nightmare, with meter rates more than double what they are in most New York neighborhoods. The Kabuki has a garage with adequate capacity, and the $40-per-day valet rate allows unlimited entry/exit. The Tomo also has a garage for a lower rate, but space is limited.

Japan Town itself is worth an afternoon’s exploration – the most memorable features we found were a Korean/Chinese restaurant on Laguna and Post, across the street from the Kabuki, and the Blue Bottle Bar in the Cinema further down Post St – but it sits adjacent to some of the best neighborhoods in SF, including Nob Hill, Richmond, Haight Ashbury, and the Mission, not to mention the Presidio and Crissy Field.

Hotel Kabuki ($$$)

1625 Post St
(between Buchanan St & Laguna St)
San Francisco, CA 94115


Photo by Michael Ocampo

A room at the Kabuki will run you between the high $200s and the low $500s, depending on the season. (Avoiding the tourist season seems to be more important for SF than booking particularly far in advance.) The Yelp score is a respectable 4.0, with most of the lower scores coming from reviewers who found conditions shoddy or service lackluster. Having been in the space I can comment on the former, and say that the Kabuki is like many things Japanese – surprisingly well-maintained for its age, and impeccably clean. Ceilings are a bit low, and things are on a bit smaller scale than you’re used to.

Bottom line – if you can get a better deal at the Kabuki than you can at a competitor, unless that competitor is top notch (which includes renovated in the last 3 years), go with the Kabuki.

Hotel Tomo

1800 Sutter St
(between Buchanan St & Webster St)
San Francisco, CA 94115


Photo by Neeta Lin

The Tomo is what we’ve termed a Yelp Sleeper – a business that underrates on Yelp due to bad market positioning, misunderstanding, or simply coincidence. The good news is, less competition for you!

With rooms starting at $175, and averaging mid $200s during tourist season, the Tomo is your “hack” – the reason we tossed up this website in the first place – your budget way into San Francisco staying like a Boss, instead of like a down-and-out kidnapper in a bad roadhouse movie. Couple of things you should know-

-There’s this little item of the anime theme. Maybe that’s not your thing. But people’s aversion to is is keeping the prices low for you. (And if you ignore the cartoon characters the rooms look like something from a Swedish textiles magazine.) (I don’t know that for sure.)

-As with the Kabuki, this building dates from the 1960s, and has been very well renovated. The windows are still…vintage…and the air, at least in our room, was a tad on the mild side.

I can’t comment on the experience of others, but service we received at both the Tomo and the Kabuki was prompt and courteous, if…casual. The Tomo is staffed by a small rotating cast of middle-aged folks, all of whom are extremely helpful but who will not likely join you in flying into a panic over a minor issue.

Tomo is right around the corner from Kabuki. Of the two, we feel it’s the better deal – both are great, but at the Kabuki you’re really paying to feel more like an adult, even though overall quality, size of rooms, etc is comparable between the two and Tomo is roughly half the price.

At any rate, we recommend both strongly if you’re staying in Central SF.


1 Comment

  1. New York Beyond Manhattan – The NU Hotel | Smart Getaways for Couples
    May 11, 2013

    […] than those in, say, Dubuke. But Chih-Yu and I suspected there must be a spot in Brooklyn like the Tomo, San Francisco’s hip, budget, anime-themed Japan Town lodging house, and to our delight, […]


Leave a Reply