The Kimpton Buchanan, San Francisco: Luxury Hotel In Japantown

The Kimpton Buchanan, San Francisco: Luxury Hotel In Japantown
| 6 min read

The Kimpton Buchanan is a superlative boutique hotel. Located in one of San Francisco’s most vital neighborhoods, Japantown, the Buchanan is a perfect oasis of comfort, culture and calm. Renovated from top to bottom and re-presented in June 2015, the contemporary, Asian-inspired décor welcomes and relaxes you. Clean lines, primary colors, dazzling art, perfect detailing and ease are present in every space. The crew at the Buchanan are unbeatable. Always welcoming and helpful, the attentive, professional staff are an important part of your Japantown experience.

Lobby art from local artists

Lounge seating in the Kimpton Buchanan lobby
Source: Mary Charlebois

Entering the lobby, you are surrounded by art. Local artist and craftsmen have contributed to the Buchanan’s collection. The reception area mural was inspired by the Bay Area landscape and Japanese illustration techniques. Even the walls and ceiling are art installations. The overhead lighting is an undulating sculpture made from whiskey bottles. The walls are covered with charred wood staves from Japanese whiskey barrels. They are arranged in angular and chevron patterns.

A quiet, casual meeting alcove in the lobby includes charging stations and Wi-Fi for electronic gear. It’s the perfect location to catch up on communications, get some work done or meet a friend.

Guest rooms with personality and loads of extras

Room 609 at Kimpton Buchanan
Source: Mary Charlebois

Spacious, bright and calm is the order of the day for all the Buchanan’s guest rooms. Restful beds, crisp white linens, superb art, unique and original furnishings have an individuality that is rare.

A flat-screen TV sits on a playful artist easel. An empty refrigerator is tucked in a cabinet, waiting for your treasures found at local markets and eateries. A small table with chairs holds coffee and tea pods for the brewing machine. Distinct touches are everywhere. A Shibori-print Kimono is provided for each guest. Shibori is a traditional method of fabric dyeing, making each kimono a distinct, wearable work of art. It is perfect for relaxing in your room, as a bathrobe, or a workout attire cover-up.

The bath and dressing areas are spotless and spacious. Black quartz countertops, pebble-tiled floors and art adorning the walls are enticing. Over-sized, thick white towels, spa toiletries and a magnifying, makeup/shaving mirror make your ‘getting ready’ routine a pleasure.

Most rooms have a stupendous city view. Looking out over San Francisco’s hills and architecture reveals a changing vista throughout the day and evening. TIP: Ask for a ‘city view’ room on an upper floor.

Smiling service from superior staff

Emily Glick, General Manager, Kimpton Buchanan, Japantown, San Francisco
Source: Emily Glick

More outstanding than the captivating décor, iconic views, comfort and quiet, is the Buchanan staff. Each guest is greeted with a genuine smile; every time, no exceptions. The professionalism, courtesy and personal warmth are infectious. I felt as though I was a remembered regular on my very first visit. Led by General Manager, Emily Glick, the staff is inspired by Emily’s ‘guest is always first’ passion. When asked why someone should stay at the Buchanan, Emily replied, “The best service, ambience and location.” I agree completely.

Extra touches make a special trip

Meeting alcove with Wi-Fi and charging stations
Source: Mary Charlebois

Kimpton hotels are known for their extras and the Buchanan is no exception. A wine and Sake hour in the late afternoon make a enjoyable transition into evening. The social hour provides a relaxed setting for getting to know others. In the lobby, complimentary bicycles with locks are available for guest’s use. Flavored water and tea are offered in chilled dispensers. Take advantage of in-room yoga mats and fittness programming. An umbrella is always handy in each guest room, just in case that famous San Francisco fog gets a little heavy. The parking garage has spaces reserved for electric cars. These are provided in cooperation with TESLA.

A printed App Guide is offered to each guest. This extremely handy guide lists dozens of Smartphone apps that will make maneuvering Japantown and San Francisco a breeze. An illustrated map of adjacent Fillmore District is especially handy for navigating the countless clubs, eateries and shops.

Amenities are plentiful

Kimpton Buchanan courtyard
Source: Mary Charlebois

A fitness center provides workout space. It opens to a private outdoor courtyard. Relax by the fire pit or play lawn games on the divine grass. Enjoy 24-hour front desk and onsite, secure, self-parking. Complimentary Wi-Fi and newspapers help you keep in touch. Don’t want to carry a paper around? The Press/Reader App and its over 5,000 titles are available to all guests. A concierge is available and eagerly helps with suggestions, recommendations, reservations, tickets, or other needs.

Eating and drinking while a Kimpton Buchanan guest

Shabu-Shabu ready to be cooked at Mums, Japantown, San Francisco
Source: Mary Charlebois

Mums, a restaurant in the Kimpton Buchanan building, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and has a full bar. They offer American and Japanese cuisine. Mums specializes in Shabu-Shabu. The traditional Japanese meal is perfect for groups or can be enjoyed by one or two diners for lunch and dinner. Slices of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables are cooked by you at your table. You season a bubbling pot of broth to your liking using minced garlic, sliced green onions and minced Japanese radish. Smooth peanut and tangy lemon, soy sauce may be added to the broth and are traditional for dipping. The friendly staff will guide you if it’s your first Shabu-Shabu experience. You can enter Mums from the hotel lobby or from the Buchanan Street entrance.

If you feel like venturing outside, Japantown is a foodie’s haven. There are abundant restaurants, sushi bars, noodle bars, bar bars and markets. They cover the gamut from national corporate chains to tiny Mama and Poppu (Mom and Pop) operations serving authentic, delicious Japanese food.

It may be hard to choose, but disappointments are rare. The hotel front desk will help you select exactly the right place for your Japanese eating adventure - or - head out on your own with new food horizons in mind.

Edible Excursions Japantown Food Tour

Edible Excursions Japantown food tour
Source: Lisa Rogovin

Besides eating, you can also spend time on an Edible Excursions Japantown food tour. You will not only taste a variety of authentic Japanese foods, but you will also see the neighborhood and learn about its history and culture. The tour is led by a friendly, warm, and knowledgeable expert in food, culture and history. The small casual group walk takes you to local eateries that offer authentic Japanese food, expertly prepared with fresh ingredients. This is not a sampler-sized tasting. You receive full-sized servings while seated at reserved tables in each establishment. TIP: Don’t eat breakfast or lunch before this 11 am adventure.

In addition to the food and learning, you’ll get to know the other folks in your tour. They might be San Francisco locals or international visitors. The tour meets in Peace Plaza, just one block from the Kimpton Buchanan.

Plenty to see and do just one block away

Japan Center Mall
Source: Mary Charlebois

San Francisco’s Japantown is one of only three remaining Japanese communities left in the United States. The compact 4-block area is filled with Japanese culture, history, food, shopping and most importantly, Japanese people. Just one block from the Kimpton Buchanan, Peace Plaza and Peace Pagoda are prominent attractions in Japantown. The Peace Pagoda was gifted to Japantown in 1968. The gesture of goodwill came from San Francisco’s sister city, Osaka, Japan. The plaza is the site for many community celebrations such as the Cherry Blossom Festival, Obon Festival (to honor the spirits of ancestors), Aki Matsuri (Autumn Festival) and, Children’s Day (to celebrate children and honor mothers).

Japan Center Malls is located on either side of the Peace Plaza. It is home to authentic Japanese culture, shopping, eating and entertainment. Books, clothing, video, cosmetics and food from Japan abound here. There’s even a Taiko Dojo (drum school).

The starting point for Japantown History Walk is just one block from the Kimpton Buchanan. This is a self-guided walking tour. Sixteen interpretive panels along a 10-block stroll illuminate Japantown’s history and culture. Walk, wander and enjoy the quiet neighborhood filled with Japanese culture and history. Adjacent Pacific Heights and Fillmore Districts offer nightlife and classic Victorian buildings.

Immerse yourself in Japantown while staying at Kimpton Buchanan

The Kimpton Buchanan is located at 1800 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California, on the corner of Sutter and Buchanan. The hotel is situated in a safe and quiet neighborhood that’s steps from public transportation. Your stay will be unforgettable, enriching your experience of San Francisco’s Japantown.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Mary Charlebois is a Northern California Freelance writer, photographer and videographer. Her career in publishing technology fulfilled a lifelong dream, traveling the globe. Now retired,...Read more

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