The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Little Tokyo, LA

Sample Shabu Shabu hotpot in Little Tokyo
Sample Shabu Shabu hotpot in Little Tokyo | © Whitewish / iStock
Photo of Annette Lee
9 February 2017

Can’t fly out to Japan? If you find yourself in California, 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 on the west coast. As one of the three official Japan-towns in the United States, Little Tokyo offers an authentic Japanese American experience.

Japanese American National Museum

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The Japanese American National Museum offers a wide range of exhibits from modern art to historical research to provide its guests with an insight into the history of Japanese Americans. Past exhibits have included Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami, Marvel & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Image in US Comics, 1942-1986, and more. These exhibits inspire dialogues on important social issues and explore the relationship between Japanese and American cultures. The well-known HELLO! Exploring Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibit originated at the museum and it now travels to museums across the nation.

Shabu Shabu House

Restaurant, Asian, Japanese, $$$
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Shabu Shabu House is one of the oldest restaurant in Little Tokyo and serves its customers authentic shabu shabu – Japanese hotpot. The 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, and meat and vegetables can be ordered à la carte to be added to the mix. 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 perfectly compliments the flavor of the meat, and the ponzu sauce is ideal served with vegetables.

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 include 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 with something truly original. Be sure to check out both its locations in Little Tokyo: POP Tee Shop and Popkiller Second.

Japanese American Cultural and Community Center

Botanical Garden, Yoga Studio, Building, Park
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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 in which to relax, reflect and spend time with friends and family. The garden is the perfect spot for a stroll away from the hectic city. 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.

Tokyo Japanese Outlet

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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 brand’s 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, stationery, 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 or after a meal.


Restaurant, Ramen, $$$
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Daikokuya is a local favorite, and is famed for its tonkotsu (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 yakisobanoodles, 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, such as takoyaki: grilled pancake octopus balls. These are a popular snack in Japan and are the perfect starter to any meal.

Nijiya Market

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This is one of the few authentic Japanese markets in the area, and 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 the place for specialist items. 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.

MAX Karaoke Studio

Music Venue, Yoga Studio
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Come sing your heart out at MAX Karaoke Studio. This location consists of private rooms for you to rent, giving your group a more intimate karaoke experience. With the latest music choices and over 2,000 songs in its selection in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and 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.

Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream

Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream
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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 rice dough exterior protects the 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.

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