Little Tokyo ~ Los Angeles, CA

This was our second time in LA’s Little Tokyo – my first ever to any Little Tokyo, for that matter. On previous trips downtown, this enclave filled with shabu-shabu restaurants, bakeries, and Hello Kitty adorned boutique windows had kept itself a secret. Our initial discovery had been by chance, on a Sunday, when the space was packed with people; finding such a bustling spot in the midst of the usual weekend slow-mo was unexpected and welcomed. Dodging the lines that snaked out of every doorway, we found ourselves in a supermarket, distracted at every turn. Sweet and savoury, the colourful packaged goods decorated in anime and Japanese writing seduced themselves into our carry basket. We left $50 richer in rice crackers, matcha, and mochi, and made a vow to return on a quieter day. So that’s how we found ourselves in the area on a Tuesday, ready to explore.

The Little Tokyo Watchtower

The Little Tokyo Watchtower

From Little Tokyo you can see the tops of the buildings that comprise downtown LA; you have the Arts District to one side of it, and the Japanese American National History Museum at its end. The area is made up of about 5 blocks in total.

Japanese American National History Museum

Japanese American National History Museum

The Japanese American National History Museum opened in 1992 – 50 years after Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the imprisonment of Japanese Americans. At the end of WWII, many Japanese returned to Little Tokyo; today however, most live in the surrounding cities of LA. We didn’t have time to explore the museum, but visited its store brimmed with Japanese knick knacks, art, and books.

Books in the Japanese American National Museum store

Books in the Japanese American National Museum store

Decorations at the museum's store

Decorations at the museum’s store

Good luck cat at the museum store

A lucky cat (?) at the museum store

Says Wikipedia…because of the global and local growth of overseas Japanese investment, Little Tokyo has resisted eradication and has continued to exist as a tourist attraction, community center, and home to Japanese American senior citizens and others…

On my visits, I haven’t noticed a distinct tourist vibe in Little Tokyo – a good thing, and while many Japanese Americans may have moved out of the area, it is obvious that they congregate here.

Art as seen through the window the of Cultrural Affairs building.

Art as seen through the window of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Quiet a and outlook onto the plaza and watchtower

Quiet a and outlook onto the plaza and watchtower

FOOD: red bean ice cream from Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream, pour over coffees at Dulce Cafe, a green tea Malaysian Roti pastry, and rows of sake bottles – from specialty stores to grocery aisles, the international influence is woven into a strong Japanese fabric.

Red bean, plum, and mango ice cream

DSC_0182PSDSC_0192PSFully prepared to suffer the consequences of another grocery trip of riches, we made our way towards Weller Court, the location of the supermarket we’d found on our first visit to J-town, as the area is nicknamed. What we weren’t prepared for was a greeting of yellow police tape.

A neighbourhood scare...

A neighbourhood scare…

Baffled and feeling as if we’d overstayed our welcome, we turned around and made tracks to the car. We did stop at a smaller Japanese supermarket along the way, though our state of mind was firmly rooted back in the US of A.

Rice crackers - made in Japan

Rice crackers – made in Japan




22 thoughts on “Little Tokyo ~ Los Angeles, CA

  1. A lovely post Marina and smashing photos as ever. Lots of familiar things to me. The lucky cat is called a Maneki-neko and you see them everywhere in Japan, outside restaurants and shops. They are supposed to bring the owner good luck as you guessed. πŸ™‚

    • Maneki – neko: that’s the spelling! I might have to go back and buy it for luck. You can never have enough. I hope these images evoked some great memories for you. I am glad you enjoyed them! Thank you.

  2. The Watchtower looks great from this angle, and I love the last black and white picture, and all the colorful shots in between, but especially the second one, of the museum.

    • Thanks Gabriele! That museum shot turned out on one take – I was happy as it could have meant multiple snaps πŸ˜‰ I am so happy to read your comment – I’m glad you liked these!

  3. Beautiful shots! My favorite is the Meineke Neko – we have a (real) cat that reminds us of the Meineke Neko so we’ve gotten a few figurines around the house.

  4. I’d love to go back to Little Tokyo and do some research on my ancestors. I’m told there are some records there. I’m also fascinated by all the shops and unique items, and just LOVE the food.
    Fabulous post and photos, Marina!

    • I hope you return to Little Tokyo. I am so glad to have discovered it. Are the records in the museum? It would be amazing to trace back for you. I love love love the food and cannot wait to return πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  5. Marina, fun to catch up on your adventures! Your visit to Little Tokyo takes me back to our time in San Fran’s Japantown. On the chilly days that we’ve been recently experiencing, a bowl of hot, soup certainly sounds divine. How have you made out with all your culinary purchases?

    • Hi Tricia!! Great to read from you. I do enjoy the Japanese culture and cannot wait to visit Japan itself. every time we buy anything edible, it is gone in 60 seconds! Hope you’re well!

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