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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 Street 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 47-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.

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. Visit www.moonfestival.org.

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.

For more information, visit www.sfvisitor.org.

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 call 415-563-2313.

Japantown also hosts 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 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, 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 call 415-543-1718 or visit www.ybae.org.

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.

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(Updated: 07/02/08 HC)


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