A Review of Hotel Kabuki’s $32M Renovation

San Francisco is an amazing city, poised on the Pacific Ocean, with so many great venues and vistas to enjoy. We have all seen pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Embarcadero area running from AT&T Park along the many piers and other tourist areas along the water. When visiting there, one challenge can be finding a quiet place to stay away from the bustling crowds. In a recent visit, I found a great venue at the Hotel Kabuki located in Japantown.

This is a sponsored post with the Hotel Kabuki where I received a complimentary stay.  I do not earn commission from any bookings or affiliate sales.  As always, my reviews remain honest, and all opinions are my own.

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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography

about Hotel Kabuki

Japantown in San Francisco was founded in 1960.  It is one of three historical Japantowns remaining in the United States (the others are both in California also – San Jose and Los Angeles).  The neighborhood spans a few blocks and celebrates Japanese culture especially during annual events such as the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, Nihonmachi Street Fair, and Japan Day to name a few.

In 1968, the hotel building was built and used as a community center for Japanese-Americans.  Fifty years later, the former community center and Japanese Consulate underwent a $32M renovation where it is now known as Hotel Kabuki and is the most iconic hotel in Japantown.

Located in this quiet historic area of San Francisco, the Hotel Kabuki’s combination of its classic external architecture along with its updated bohemian and Japanese-inspired interior gives it a unique feel in the city. This hotel lobby boasts of lofty 19-foot ceilings, antique factory casement metal windows (a plus for getting plenty of light), and a few custom-made murals (one of which is a historic map of San Francisco displayed at the reception area).   Integrating nature is key when it comes to Japanese design. You’ll find elements of wood such as Shou Sugi Ban wood (Japanese charred wood) and rough-hewn Douglas Fir beams incorporated throughout the lobby. The interior is finished off with an extensive collection of finishes in furniture and accessories, adding interest and depth to the design.  The lobby’s lounge feels more like being at your poshest friend’s chic living room complete with luxurious couches and chairs. It creates an ambiance that is both sophisticated yet low-key.

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Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography
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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography
Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography
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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography
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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography

the bar at hotel kabuki

The Japanese-inspired cocktail bar at Hotel Kabuki has a good vibe and relaxed yet fun atmosphere!  I noticed quite a few patrons who came in just to have drinks or grab a bite to eat, which I take as a very good sign!  Well, who can blame them?  It must be the great energy and inventive cocktails.  Or could it be the friendly service and knowledgeable staff? 

Don’t be fooled with the small yet remarkably-well stocked bar.  It has curated selections of Japanese drinks such as sake, whiskey, and beer.  Try the high-end sake or small eats like the Karaage Chicken (because who doesn’t like fried chicken with soy, ginger, and spicy kewpie?).

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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography
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Hotel Kabuki Bar.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography
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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography
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An assortment of small bites.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography
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Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography

Japanese garden

Right off the lobby, spend time at the Japanese Zen garden designed with essential elements of plants, water, and rocks. Here you’ll find various colors and textures of evergreens and ferns, koi pond, stones, and pea gravel – all put together with simplicity and clean lines in mind.

Sit, drink, and relax by the fire pit in the courtyard lounge and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the greenery and the sound of running water through the pond.

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All Zen Garden photos by Jessica Kay Photography
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fitness center

Guests of the hotel have free access to the 3,000 square-foot state-of-the-art gym, found in the lower level. Featuring high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, there is an abundance of light that enters the room (a welcome change from your typically enclosed gym).  There is plenty of equipment to choose from such as aerobic machines and weight stations. They have a boxing area where they offer a hand-eye coordination exercise program offered twice a week.  You can also use the 400-square foot yoga studio to increase flexibility and to strengthen and tone the muscles. Private training sessions are available with 24-hour notice (fees apply).

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All gym photos courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. All gym photos by Aubrie Pick Photography
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Another perk unique to Hotel Kabuki’s fitness center is an open-air tea garden, where you can enjoy the benefits of meditation.  Meditation cushions, essential oils, body mists, earplugs, and iPads (which come loaded with relaxing music) are available for checkout.  Clearly, there is something for everyone!  

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Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography

the room

The rooms stay true to the Japanese theme of the property. The room we stayed in was a nice size for a San Francisco hotel (215 sq. ft). The king-size bed was very cozy and warm for a great night’s sleep. You will find modern and traditional Japanese-theme artwork on the walls, an open closet featuring a background of black and white Japanese newsprint wallpaper, a desk (with a 55″ flat-screen smart TV above it), and a comfortable leather chair. The gray accent wall draws you in and makes the room feel very inviting. The bathroom comes with a large walk-in shower with porcelain tiles, again quite large compared to most hotels.

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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography
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Photo by Jessica Kay Photography
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Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography
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Photo courtesy of Hotel Kabuki. Photo by Aubrie Pick Photography

It was a pleasant surprise to have a walkout balcony with a wide open and unobstructed view! While too narrow for a table or chair, it provides a chance to enjoy the fresh evening air and partake in magnificent views of the City by the Bay!

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Hotel Kabuki balcony photos by Jessica Kay Photography
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Things to do nearby

Right next door to the hotel is the three-building Japan Center Mall with restaurants and shops, mostly relating to Japanese culture.  For example, you will find Japanese beauty products, food, artwork, fabrics, and pottery (don’t forget to purchase an authentic teacup set as a souvenir for that special someone or your own collection).

Treat yourself to Kabuki Springs and Spa for a relaxation treatment.  The establishment has been around for 50 years and offers a holistic approach to services like Eastern and Western massage, all-natural facials, reiki, acupuncture and many more!  Hotel guests may also access the communal baths.

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Photo via Kabuki Springs and Spa

Fans of Japanese cuisine will enjoy the wealth of options in and around Japantown.  You will find classic dishes like ramen served at Marufuku and Hinodeya and fresh sushi at Oma San Francisco Station and Tenroku SushiSophie’s crepes offer not too soft yet crispy crepes with all sorts of possible toppings imaginable – fruits, Nutella, ice cream or gelato, and red bean paste to name a few!  It’s a cash-only establishment, but they have an ATM inside in case you forget to take some with you.

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Photo via Hinodeya Ramen

For those craving other cuisines, dine at the Roam Artisan Burgers or Jane the Bakery for a casual and relaxed atmosphere or Michelin-star rated SPQR, The Progress, or State Bird Provisions for an upscale dining experience.

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Photo via The Progress

The great thing about Japantown is how central it is to other areas you may want to visit. The Hotel Kabuki is about one mile away from Union Square with all its terrific shops and restaurants. Similarly, The Painted Ladies (the homes made famous on the Full House TV show) is also within one mile. Golden Gate Park is about two miles away which has a lot of outdoor things to do (by the way, since we’re highlighting appreciation for Japanese culture, you’ll find the pristine Japanese Tea Garden inside the park, complete with pagodas, a moon bridge, and a Buddha statue). You are about three miles away from the Embarcadero area where you can take in a ball game at AT&T Park, walk the many piers with shops and restaurants, or enjoy time out by the water with those great bay area views!

the review

As soon as you enter the lobby, you immediately notice this is no longer the 1960’s building of the past but rather an updated and contemporary building of 2019! The $32M renovation has done a fantastic job of tying in Japanese interior design aesthetic with a lot of natural lighting and organic elements. The decoration is simple yet elegant adding to an overall Zen feeling.

The next time you are in San Francisco and are looking for a unique hotel with its own interesting story and is centrally located in a more quiet section of town, Hotel Kabuki in Japantown is a wonderful choice!

The hotel is located at 1625 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94115. Book your reservation by calling them directly (415) 922-3200 or booking online here.

You can reach Jessica at Jessica Kay Photography or follow her on Instagram @jessicakay_photo

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