Wednesday, November 2, 2011

San Francisco Bookstores — Lower Fillmore: Mix of African American and Japanese Culture

This is part of an ongoing series of short articles about San Francisco’s bookstores. While their numbers are dwindling, there are still many one-of-a-kind shops in various one-of-a-kind San Francisco neighborhoods.

The area is variously described as the Lower Fillmore, Lower Pacific Heights and Japantown. Whatever you call it, the neighborhood is richly supplied with restaurants, bakeries and shops, with high-end shops getting higher as you go north on Fillmore. Going south means jazz and jazz clubs. Two bookstores with a focus on specific cultures are within a couple of blocks of each other. One is a small, intimate shop specializing in African American literature and the other, a gigantic store featuring books specializing in all things Japanese.

Marcus Books — They bill themselves as “the oldest black independent bookstore in the country,” and have stores in both San Francisco and Oakland. You might find a little jazz just outside the door. Inside you’ll find a warm and welcoming atmosphere with comfortable places to sit. They have an extensive children’s section, shelves full of books on black history and culture as well as African American romances and mysteries. The store is located in an area that appears to be re-establishing its legendary African American and jazz roots in great style. The famous Yoshi’s is a few blocks south on Fillmore as are other jazz clubs.

1712 Fillmore Street, (415) 346-4222,

Kinokyniya Bookstore — We’re bending the rules a bit here. This huge, two-story bookstore specializing in Japanese culture is part of an international chain that has, in fact, seven stores in the US alone. However, it is the only store of its kind in the city. Located in the Japan Center, the main entrance is on the second level, amidst all sorts of Japanese shops — sweets, stationery, furniture, flowers, gifts — and restaurants. The store has a wide selection of Japanese language magazines, music, DVDs, novels and other books as well a lower floor dedicated to anime and manga. For those who do not speak Japanese, there is an ample supply of books in English as well, especially those covering architecture, interior design and Buddhism. One could easily spend the day in the Japan Center complex, but wandering east on Post will provide an even greater range of neat shops and restaurants throughout the Japantown neighborhood.

(415) 567-7625, 1581 Webster,

No comments: