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Originally the neighborhood of Los Angeles' Japanese community, this Downtown spot has been deserted by many of its founding immigrants, although it still remains only one of three official Japantowns in the country, all of which are in California.
However, the area has recently begun to blossom again thanks to the next generation of Japanese-Americans setting up small businesses here mixed with an influx of foot traffic coming in from neighboring redevelopment projects and newly built condos.
Little Tokyo has dozens of sushi bars, tempura restaurants, karaoke bars, and trinket shops selling electronic toys, lanterns, and Hello Kitty tchotchkes.
On 1st Street you'll find the only strip of intact buildings from the early 1900s. Look down when you get near San Pedro Street, to see the art installation "Omoide no Shotokyo" ("Remembering Old Little Tokyo").
Embedded in the sidewalk are brass inscriptions naming the original businesses, quoted reminiscences from Little Tokyo residents, and steel timelines of Japanese-American history up to World War II. Nisei Week (a nisei is a second-generation Japanese) is celebrated here every August with traditional drums, dancing, a carnival, and a huge parade.
What to See
Aside from the restaurants and shops, there's a lovely garden at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, a good resource for ongoing local events. There's also the Japanese American National Museum, which maintains its original site, a renovated Buddhist temple from 1925 that has an ornately-designed entrance.
Little Tokyo is bounded by 1st, San Pedro, 3rd, and Central streets.
Best Time to Go
The area tends to get a bit deserted at night, so it's best to come in the later part of the afternoon on weekdays.
Because of its location right near other top attractions Downtown—including the Geffen Contemporary—it's the perfect spot to stop for an inexpensive and interesting lunch. Grab some sushi and pick up a bag full of authentic Japanese sweets to keep you going while sightseeing.
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