- Annette Lee
Can’t fly out to Japan this weekend? Check out the next best thing in LA’s Little Tokyo. As a National Historic Landmark District, Little Tokyo has a unique variety of historical, cultural, shopping, and food destinations to give you a taste of Japan, as well as the Japanese American experience. As one of the three official Japan-towns in the United States, this is the hub of Japanese Americans.
Japanese American National Museum
The Japanese American National Museum provides its guests with a deep look into the history and culture of Japanese Americans. It offers a wide range of exhibits from modern art to historical documents that will satisfy the curiosity of its guests. Past exhibits have included Folding Paper: The infinite Possibilities of Origami, Marvel & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Image in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986, and more. These exhibits inspire dialogues on important social issues and the impact of Japanese culture in the United States. The well-known HELLO! Exploring Supercute World of Hello Kitty originated at the museum and it now travels to museums across the nation.
Japanese American National Museum, 100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, USA +1 213 625 0414
Shabu Shabu House
Shabu Shabu House is one of the oldest restaurant in Little Tokyo and serves its customers authentic Shabu Shabu, a Japanese hotpot. In Japanese, ‘Shabu Shabu,’ translates to, ‘Swish Swish,’ to signify the sound and motion of putting food in the boiling pot of water. With this traditional style of Shabu Shabu the flavor of the soup is created as you go, adding desired meat and vegetables that can be ordered a la carte. The Shabu Shabu House prides itself on the freshness of its food as your meat is sliced directly in front of you to preserve freshness and tenderness. The best part of this restaurant is their selection of house special sauces: the sesame sauce to complete the flavor of the meat and a ponzu sauce for the vegetables.
Shabu Shabu House, 127 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA, USA +1 213 680 3890
Nisei Week Japanese Festival
During the summer, Little Tokyo hosts its annual Nisei Week Festival to celebrate the culture and heritage of the Little Tokyo community. This Festival takes place in August and features free outdoor entertainment, music, cultural exhibits, food, and is an event for people of all ages. Highlights of the week includes, Taiko Drums, Dai Dengaku Street Dance, art displays and delicious food. Come and join the celebration to learn more about Japanese American Culture, meet new friends, and partake in the festivities.
Popkiller is a trendy clothing shop stocked with cool t-shirts and clothing. The wide variety of shirts includes designs with a heavy influence from Japanese art. In addition to its unique t-shirts, PopKiller also sells fun, vintage novelties, and popular products from Japan. Any item from this store is sure to make you stand out among your friends and give you a chance to acquire truly original Japanese products and clothing. Be sure to check out both its locations in Little Tokyo: POP Tee Shop and PopKiller Second.
PopKiller Second, 343 East 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 625 1372
POP Tee Shop, 349 East 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 613 9800
Japanese American Cultural and Community Center
The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center is the cultural and social hub for the community of Little Tokyo. It consists of spaces for events and activities, and is open and available to the public. Once you are at the center, make sure you visit the bottom level of the building to see the James Irvine Japanese Garden. This garden is also known as Seiryu-en or, ‘Garden of the Clear Stream.’ It gives its visitors a peaceful and zen paradise to relax, reflect, and spend time with friends and families. The garden is perfect for a quick stroll to take a break from the hectic city life. The cultural and community center also house the Aratani Theater which hosts a few exciting cultural or music events every month. To find out more about the date and time of the events, visit their calendar of events on their website.
Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, 244 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA +1 213 628 2725
Tokyo Japanese Outlet
Looking for something cute or a unique gift for someone? Look no further because this is the perfect shop to complete your mission! As one of the 32 stores in the United States, Tokyo Japanese Lifestyle, brings the latest Japanese products to you. Find hidden treasures and useful everyday items in its vast selection of products. This store has everything you have ever dreamed of, including life sized stuffed animals (Hello Kitty, Gudetama, Pokemon, Rilakkuma), Japanese movies, stationary, utensils, and delicious Japanese snacks. The store is located at the center of the Japanese Village Plaza Mall, making this the perfect place to browse before, after, or while you are waiting for your meal.
Tokyo Japanese Outlet, 114 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA, USA +1 213 626 2761
Daikokuya is one of the local favorite Japanese restaurants, and is famous fortonkotsu (Pork Bone) soup based Daikoku Ramen which is rich and creamy in flavor. It is a perfect balance between the stock, vegetables, meat, and noodles. Daikokuya also offers a variety of food options aside from ramen, including spicy mayo, yakisoba, rice bowls, and more. If you want to try its many options, you can get combination meals that pair its Daikoku Ramen with your choice of rice bowl. While you wait for your main dish, try one of their specialty appetizers, like takoyaki: grilled pancake octopus balls. These are a popular snack in Japan and are the perfect starter to any meal.
Daikokuya, 327 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 626 1680
As one of the few authentic Japanese markets in the area, you can find a great variety of Japanese goodies, snacks, drinks, and food in this quaint little market. Nijiya market imports its specialty goods from Japan, making it one of the only places where you can find them. It carries a wide selection of Japanese snacks, including green tea KitKat, Strawberry KitKat, Pocky, soda and more. To make life easier for its customers, there is a pre-made food selection of sushi, sandwiches, and bento (Japanese boxed meals). The gourmet Japanese food and goods of this market cannot be found anywhere else, so if you are craving Japanese snacks and are in need of fresh Japanese ingredients for cooking, this is the place to visit.
Nijiya Market, 124 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 680 3280
MAX Karaoke Studio
Come sing your heart out at MAX Karaoke Studio. This locations consists of private rooms for you to rent, giving your group a private and more intimate karaoke experience. With the latest music choices and over 2000 songs in its selection in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, you are bound to find your favorite song to sing. You are welcome to bring your own food and drink for a small fee.
MAX Karaoke Studio, 333 S. Alameda Street, #216, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 620 1030
Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream
Your trip to Little Tokyo would not be complete without a visit to Mikaway, the birth company of the infamous mochi ice cream treat. The chewy mochi exterior protects its refreshing ice cream filling, bringing a new twist to the ice cream experience. Try classic flavors such as green tea, red bean, and strawberry. Or, be adventurous other unique flavors such as plum wine, black sesame, and Kona coffee.
Mikawaya, 118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 624 1681