Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, also known as Little Tokyo Historic District, is among three official Japantowns in the United States. Located in the Japanese American district in Downtown Los Angeles, Little Tokyo covers about five pedestrian-friendly city blocks. Read on to learn of the plethora of authentic Japanese eateries, shops, and museums in LA’s Little Tokyo.
10 Reasons to Take the Kids to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles
When my family is in the mood for the best Japanese ramen and sushi, we go to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. Spanning about five blocks, Little Tokyo is an authentic Japanese neighborhood. It’s where visitors can discover Japanese culture in Southern California. Here, you’ll find Japanese cultural attractions, historic shopping centers, and an assortment of Japanese restaurants.
In addition, Little Tokyo hosts the annual Nisei Week Festival. This popular annual event celebrates the culture and heritage of the Little Tokyo community. This year, the festival takes place Aug. 10-19, 2019. Among LA’s best festivals, the event features Japanese entertainment, music, food, and cultural exhibits. Parking is plentiful on Central Avenue, between 1st and 2nd Streets. If it’s your first visit, stop by the Little Tokyo Koban. The traditional Japanese information center has brochures, maps and flyers for special events. 307 E. First Street.
Fugetsu-do in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles
Since 1903, Fugetsu-do has been the place to go for traditional Japanese treats. These include mochi (rice cakes) and manju, (a chewy, pounded rice mound filled with various flavored paste). In addition, enjoy shave ice and sembei (Japanese rice crackers). For just $1.50 or $1.75 you can get one good-sized mochi that’s big enough for two to share. The delightful shop is the longest operating family business in Los Angeles. 315 East First Street, L.A.
Japanese American National Museum
This must-see museum depicts the story of Japanese American ancestry in the U.S. During WWII, many Japanese living in California were forced to move to relocation camps. Others fled to nearby states. The ongoing Common Ground: The Heart of Community exhibition features hundreds of objects, documents, and photographs. These important items chronicle 130 years of Japanese American history.
Before leaving the museum, relax with a cup of green tea in the downstairs Chado tea room. The cafe features 260 varieties of tea as well as sandwiches, cakes and scones. An outdoor Japanese water garden provides an ideal setting for an afternoon cup of tea.
Museum admission: $12 adults, $6 seniors (ages 62-plus), and ages 6 – 17. Free admission for ages 5 and younger. 369 East First Street, L.A.
Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles
The gateway to the Little Tokyo Historic District, the Japanese Village Plaza is a gathering place for locals and visitors. The shopping center has authentic Japanese eateries, shops, and entertainment. Many plaza restaurants will validate your parking ticket for the structure on Central Avenue, between First and Second Streets.
Founded in 1971, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center is the largest Asian American cultural center of its kind in the United States. The cultural and social hub for Little Tokyo, the venue has spaces for events and activities. In addition, the Aratani Theater presents enriching cultural and music events every month. Due to construction, the lovely zen garden on the bottom level is closed in 2019. When completed, the Toshizo Watanabe Culinary Cultural Center will feature Japanese exhibits. 244 S. San Pedro St.
Shinyodo Kimono & Japanese Gifts
Situated in the popular Japanese Village Plaza, Shinyodo Gifts sells imported items. These include colorful kimonos, Japanese dolls, delicate tea sets, shoes, paper lanterns, and handbags. 129 Japanese Village Plaza, L.A.
Located inside the Little Tokyo Mall, Daiso is the Japanese version of the 99 cent stores in Los Angeles. It’s the kind of place where you’ll buy things you didn’t even know you wanted. Imported Japanese items include paper goods, streamers, notebooks, fans, key rings and magnets. 333 S. Alameda Street #114.
Oomasa Sushi in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles
Featuring a large sushi bar, Oomasa has been one of Little Tokyo’s most popular eateries since 1972. Locals line up for sushi and lunch plates prepared the traditional Japanese way. In addition to sushi, the menu includes udon noodles, tender pork cutlet, chicken and beef teriyaki. The reasonably-priced eatery also serves vegetable rolls and sushi for kids. 100 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, L.A.
Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream
Named after the Mikawa province of Japan, Mikawaya serves traditional mochi ice cream. This delicious Japanese chilled dessert is available in many flavors. The strawberry mochi is a great starter if you’re not sure what flavor to sample. $1.50 per mochi. For kids, try a serving of the rainbow twist ice cream. In addition, the shop sells a nice variety of wagashi (Japanese desserts), which include cookies and cakes. Mikawaya has been serving wagashi since1910. In 1994, the pastry shop introduced mochi ice cream. 118 Japanese Village Plaza, L.A.
Koyasan Buddhist Temple
Learn how spirituality is a big part of Japanese culture at the Koyasan Buddhist Temple. Located in LA’s Little Tokyo, the temple is open to the public. However, note that taking photos is not allowed. Inside, you’ll find spiritual items like the ofuda. Japanese people place these papers in their home for protection. For the Japanese, the New Year is one of the most important holidays. If you visit during the Japanese New Year, you’ll experience the custom of Hatsumode, which celebrates the first temple visit of the year. 342 East First Street.
Hilton Hotel Downtown LA
For a few minutes of zen, stroll along the half-acre rooftop Kyoto Garden. The Japanese garden has stone pathways leading to tranquil ponds, plants, and a cascading waterfall. The garden is a mini replica of a 10-acre Japanese garden garden in Tokyo. In addition, the hotel is centrally located for exploring Los Angeles. 120 S. Los Angeles Street, L.A.