San Francisco, CA
Soko Hardware is so much more than a hardware store.
Sure, if you need keys copied, or nails or a glue gun, the Japantown institution can help you out. But you only need a minute in the store to see that the store is more an adventure, a treasure hunt, than your local Ace will ever be.
Upstairs there's traditional hardware, tools, fruit and vegetable seeds -- and there's also a wide selection of Japanese paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Looking for tansu hardware, fine woodworking tools, origami and rice paper, puzzle boxes, kites? You've come to the right place. And just wait until you go downstairs.
You can easily lose a couple of hours wandering around the basement level. There are shelves of ordinary gardening supplies, wall hooks and bathtub appliques, cleaning supplies, everyday kitchen items, rice cookers, biodegradable bags to use when walking your dog. Aisles full of lovely Japanese tea sets and bowls, chopsticks, funky kitchen tools you didn't know you needed until you saw them. What doesn't Soko Hardware have? Not much.
This description from a review on Yelp perfectly sums up the Soko Hardware experience: There is something zen-like about buying hammers, incense, fancy tea pots and hand-made paper all on the same stop.
Image: Yahoo Travel