In mid-2015, the former Hotel Tomo was taken over by Kimpton, a well-established and skilled name in San Francisco casual/upscale hospitality, which rejuvenated the eight-story tower with a simplfied-yet-cool charcoal look. Rooms are large and functionally unfussy—white walls are boldly unadorned, bedside lamps are intentionally mismatched—with plenty of thoughtful amenities such as umbrellas, yoga mats, minibars, and—you're in Japantown—kimono-style robes. There's an elevated west-facing courtyard for hanging out or excercising, and every evening from 5pm to 6pm, the lobby hosts a free wine-and-sake mixer for all guests. The location, opposite the ultra-authentic stores of the Japan Center and near both Lower Pacific Heights and Fillmore Street, is well out of the touristy fray, which makes this a good choice for those who want to approximate the feeling of living in a real neighborhood yet stay in a full-service hotel. Buses take just 10 minutes to reach the Union Square area, but the ambiance is immeasurably lighter here. Since it's in a relatively tall building on a hill, many City View rooms have a lovely view of the rolling topography (more expensive rooms have narrow balconies as well), and a few popular corner rooms come with spa tubs. The restaurant on its second floor, Mums, serves from morning to night and has been a busy shabu shabu joint for going on four decades now—the hotel may change around it, but locals wouldn't hear of changing Mums.
- Jason Cochran