A handy list of things to do in Little Tokyo

Japanese village square in Little Tokyo. Photo by Christina Champlin.

Little Tokyo is one of only three remaining Japantowns in the country, and at over 135 years old, it’s also one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Here you’ll find a handful of heirloom family businesses nestled near hip dessert spots, Boba shops, Ramen restaurants, vintage shops, and cultural institutions.

Amid the eclectic (and ever-growing) mix, there’s plenty to see, do, and eat. Use the guide below to start your adventures.

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Best things to do in little Tokyo

Japanese American Museum in Little Tokyo
Exterior of the National Japanese American Museum. Photo by Brian Champlin/We Like LA

The National Japanese American Museum -> The Japanese American National Museum is the only museum in the United States dedicated to sharing the experiences of Japanese Americans and the role they play in the history of nations. Get more information here.

Explore the Japanese Village Square -> Built in 1978 and located in the heart of Little Tokyo, Japanese Village Plaza is home to Japanese-themed shops and a variety of authentic Japanese cuisine as well as classic street food. Also located in the east square Nijia Market a story of a Japanese grocery store that offers unique products such as matcha snacks, ramen and take-out food. –> Get more information here.

Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) -> Founded in 1971, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) is one of the largest ethnic cultural and arts centers of its type in the United States. The center includes the Aratani Theater where performances are held, a culinary space for food-focused events, the James Irvine Japanese Garden, and art exhibits. Follow the JACCC Instagram for updates on special events for the many Japanese holidays held each year, such as Hinamatsuri “Girls Day” and Kotohajime. Get more information here.

MOCA Geffen -> The Museum of Contemporary Art’s Little Tokyo Campus is the largest of MOCA’s branches, offering over 40,000 square feet of exhibition space. Currently, the museum is only open on weekends and visitors must book tickets in advance. If you find yourself in Little Tokyo on a weekday, you can always spot some art by walking to the north wall of the MOCA Geffen building to see LA-based artist Barbara Kruger. Untitled (questions). Get more information here.

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Try Mochi at Fugetsu-Do -> Fugetsu Do has been family-owned since 1903 and is the oldest Japanese-American-owned business in the United States. It offers a wide variety of handmade Japanese confectionery and a colorful selection of mochi. Some flavors, like Cherry Blossom and Ichigo Daifuku (mochi topped with a fresh strawberry), are seasonal while Chocolate and Red Bean are always in rotation. Get more information here.

Go for the Broken Monument -> The monument commemorates the heroism of Japanese-American soldiers who fought in World War II. He embodies the values ​​of courage, sacrifice, equality, humility and patriotism of Japanese-American veterans. Designed by Roger M. Yanagita and built in 1999, the monument is engraved with the names of more than 16,000 men and women who bravely fought so that future generations could live freely in the United States without fear of racial prejudice. Get more information here.

Double Tree Hilton Kyoto Gardens rooftop -> Located on the roof of the Doubletree Hotel is Kyoto Gardens, a half-acre oasis (seems bigger than it is) with trees, flowers, cascading waterfalls, tranquil ponds and views of downtown Los Angeles. Technically, the rooftop is for hotel guests only, but in our experience, you’ll likely head to the garden level with no hassle. Simply enter the hotel and head for the lifts behind reception. Take the elevator to the “G” floor for the garden. If possible, come on a weekday to avoid being turned away due to special events and weddings. Get more information here.

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A handy list of other little things to do in Tokyo

Bunkado gift shop in Little Tokyo
Bunkado gift shop. Photo by Christina Champlin.
  • The “Home is Little Tokyo” mural depicts 100 years of Little Tokyo’s history. Find it across from the Japanese American National Museum along Central Avenue.
  • Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple located on East 3rd Street is affiliated with the Denomination Shinshu Otani-ha, based in Kyoto, Japan. The beautifully constructed temple is open to all and is a peaceful place that hosts many events and festivals throughout the year.
  • Non-profit, LA Artcore aims to advance the careers of visual artists from diverse backgrounds. Admission is free and exhibits change monthly.
  • East-West Players is the largest and oldest Asian American theater in the country.
  • Open since 1945, family owned bunkado is a kitschy shop that sells unique gifts, homewares, books, kitchenware, and other Japanese trinkets.
  • pop killer wears fun trinkets, vintage clothes, cool t-shirts and loads of gag goodies.
  • For an extra dose of sweetness, stop at Sanrio store to check out the latest Hello Kitty products.
  • Little Tokyo Gallery is an indoor mall with a Japanese market, a few restaurants, and independent shops.
  • Sing your heart out Max Karaoke located inside Little Tokyo Galleria.
  • Weller Court is home to restaurants, shops and the Marukai Japanese Market. Walk through the court’s neon tunnel to see a lighting installation. It is also a great place to take a picture.
  • Weller Court is also home to a memorial dedicated to astronaut Ellison Onizukawho perished in the Challenger disaster in 1986.
  • Kinokuniya is a chain of Japanese bookstores founded in 1927 in Tokyo. The store sells Japanese books and magazines.

Where to eat in little Tokyo

Sushi Gen Deluxe Sashimi
Sashimi Deluxe by Sushi Gen. Photo by Christina Champlin.
  • Open since 1991, Shabu Shabu House is the first Shabu Shabu restaurant in North America.
  • Hama Sushi This is where you will find fresh fish made into rolls and sashimi. Simple and delicious, the food makes up for the long wait time.
  • Opened in 2009, TaNoTa Takoyaki serves takoyaki, the most popular street food in all of Japan.
  • Taste traditional Japanese dishes and beautifully presented sushi boxes at Sushi Komasa. There is always a wait at this place so come early.
  • from Hiroshima Chinchikurin found a home in Little Tokyo. Serving Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, the savory omelet features 11 layers of ingredients.
  • In business for over 40 years, Sushi Gen is one of the best places for sushi. Deluxe sashimi is the most popular item here.
  • Taste Japanese-Italian style pasta at PASTA and PASTA by Allegro.
  • Enjoy Hawaiian comfort food from Aloha Cafeyou can find items like Loco Moco, Kalua Pork and spam musubi here.
  • Popular ramen restaurant Daikokuya is where you can enjoy a strong Tonkotsu broth.
  • RAKKAN Ramen is an award-winning ramen restaurant straight out of Japan that serves delicious vegetable broth.
  • Marugame Monzo prepares freshly cut udon by hand in front of the guests. Fresh, fluffy noodles are served Japanese style or Italian fusion.
  • Order a Japanese beer at Far bar. Drink companions such as wasabi fries, Asian-inspired tacos, and a burger are also on the menu.
  • French and Japanese brasserie Azay offers classics like kakuni omurice alongside beef bourguignon, duck confit and a full-service Japanese breakfast.
  • Discover imaginative macrobiotic vegan sushi at Shojin.

Annual and continuous events

Delicious little Tokyo
Photo via Delicious Little Tokyo
  • Nisei week is a summer festival that celebrates Japanese and Japanese American culture. The week-long celebration is filled with live performances, activities and a grand parade. The 80th Nisei Week Japan Festival will take place from August 13 to 21, 2022.
  • Natsumatsuri Family Day is an annual summer celebration featuring cultural performances, crafts, and activities for families and children at the Japanese American National Museum. This year, the festival takes place on August 13, 2022.
  • Oshogatsu is a New Year’s Eve celebration held in Little Tokyo that includes traditional activities like mochi, cultural entertainment, and activities for all ages at local stores, malls, museums, and the JACCC.
  • Each year, the public is invited to take a culinary journey through the historic district with the help of Delicious little Tokyo. Pass activities include a food tour of Little Tokyo’s history, pop-up shops, workshops, live demonstrations, and special culinary meals.
  • Carnival of Zenshuji Obon honors ancestors with cultural ceremonies, performances and traditional dishes. Held in the summer at Zenshuji Soto Mission.
  • Not a traditional Japanese party, Haunted Little Tokyo is a spooky new month-long event held in October. Last year’s edition included film screenings, a pumpkin patch, a block party and a candy or treat night.

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