Travel · Travel Tips

London, Paris, maybe… Little Tokyo?

For those of you who don’t know me too well, here’s a fun fact about moi — I’m part Japanese. I don’t know how small or big the percentage is, but it comes from my mother’s side of the family. I am looking into taking a DNA test to discover more about my roots, but until then here’s a small post about my adventures in Little Tokyo…

Long before I understood or knew about my Japanese roots, I was obsessed with anime, Japanese merchandise, Japanese fashion, Japanese FOOD, home decor, paintings, history, etc.

My favorite anime and manga series? Inuyasha.

My favorite food? Sushi. But come on? That’s not original. Many people love sushi.

Places I want to visit? Hiroshima, Tokyo, and a couple of Japanese Villages that are famous for their history and beauty.

Favorite Japanese creation? Kingdom Hearts- My husband and I are HUGE fans of the game.

Thanks to Japanese creators, my childhood has some pretty sweet memories. I love you, Nintendo!

I even had the wonderful opportunity to work for Nintendo a few years back.

On set of The Talk, December 2015, with Jibanyan.

But I’ll tell you now that as much as I love almost everything about Japan, I have yet to pay it a visit. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t share my love and fascination for it.

In fact, I’ll share a summarized version of the glimpses I’ve experienced in one of my favorite Downtown L.A. spots- Little Tokyo.

(I’ll be providing tips which I hope will be helpful to any of you who choose to visit Little Tokyo. Links will also be provided.)

Little Tokyo is a gem.

While I’m dying to experience the REAL Tokyo, there’s plenty of reasons to enjoy the replica.

I stumbled upon this place, that had gone unnoticed for many years, a few years back (2013). I was dying for an adventure so I made a spontaneous trip to Downtown L.A.; I wasn’t sure what I’d find but I took a risk.

The rest is history.

I ate sushi and mochi, got my picture taken with several people who were dressed in costume (if you’re an anime and/or cosplaying fan or cosplayer, Little Tokyo is the place to be/go. Go online and check for cosplay events or simply show up in your favorite costume!), and vowed to continue going back for more adventures.

About a year later, I returned with my husband-then-fiancé.

Last weekend, we returned for what was his second/my third trip to Little Tokyo.

And why do I recommend Little Tokyo?

There’s ramen and sushi restaurants, costume and wig stores at the Little Tokyo Mall, games stores, souvenir shops, food markets, and plenty of sight seeing. (And plenty of corgis)

I haven’t gone into every single store and I definitely haven’t eaten at every restaurant, but I’ve enjoyed shopping & having some tasty treats at the Japanese Village Plaza and the Little Tokyo Galleria Shopping Center.

I’ve gotten a pair of chopsticks and an adorable Totoro mug, along with a Trunks (from DBZ) action figure thanks to the hubby. When we were in the mood for a tasty treat, we treated ourselves at Cafe dulce ( I enjoyed some good ole milk tea while my husband gobbled up a bacon donut, which yes… they have in Little Tokyo).

Tip: Take cash. Some places require a $10, $15, even a $30 minimum purchase, restaurants especially. So unless you don’t mind spending more than the minimum, withdraw cash before your trip. Check or ask what the minimum purchase is before you decide to use your credit/debit card at any restaurant or store.

The Entertainment Hobby Shop Jungle (Anime Jungle), Bunkado, Shinyodo, Blooming Art, and Pop Killer are my personal favorite stores.

There’s also a variety of restaurants to choose from. My husband and I experienced difficulty choosing where to eat because we wanted something affordable but with variety. We settled with Suehiro Cafe and were happy with the results.

Tip: Here’s a list of the recommended/best restaurants in Little Tokyo. Suehiro Cafe is on the list and there’s a variety of things to choose from from the menu, from sushi to ramen to teriyaki bowls.

🚨 If you enter a restaurant & it smells funky, GET OUT. Research the reviews online, preferably Yelp- this will help you A LOT. 🚨

Be prepared to be placed on the waiting list. If you don’t have to wait, consider yourself lucky. The best restaurants usually have a waiting period of 15-30 minutes, depending on the time of day and the day itself as well as whether you want a booth, table, patio table, or bar seats. Bar seating doesn’t have a waiting period, unless of course it’s also filled.

If you love Hello Kitty, prepare to spend money because there’s Hello Kitty merchandise in almost every store.

Funko pops, manga, anime action figures, ancient video game consoles & games, playing cards (like Yu-Gi-Oh!), anime posters, and other collectibles can be found in Anime Jungle, which is inside the mall. And these are SO MANY OF MY FAVORITE THINGS!

A girl could spend herself to debt here!

If you’re looking for Tea Sets, kimonos, kitchenware, maybe even some candles or lanterns then I recommend Bunkado & Shinyodo. They also have greeting cards, origami, calligraphy sets, chef knives, and other home decors in stock. Shinyodo is where my husband bought me my Totoru mug, which, by the way, if you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli movies, prepare to squeal your way through Little Tokyo.

I plan to purchase all my japanese home and kitchen decor/kitchenware in these shops little by little. I still have yet to purchase my first authentic japanese tea set and fortunately some of the stores have beautiful tea sets on sale. The sale prices here are better than sale prices I’ve seen in tea shops such as Teavana.

If you’re burnt out from all the walking, or heat, then take a break at the Japanese Village Plaza Mall. Cafe Dulce, Yamazaka Bakery, Mikawaya, & HoneyMee are some of the positive review cafés in the area, but there are others that are across the street from the plaza, including Starbucks if you prefer sticking to something familiar.

Some cafes have no outdoor seating, some do. Indoor seating for some is extremely limited due to little space, but if you don’t mind standing then that’s little sacrifice in exchange for a nice treat and a break from the outdoor heat.

I recommend taking a short break near the plaza’s wishing tree, which is right in front of Shabu-Shabu House Restaurant and Blooming Art.

Hopefully you can find a blank piece of paper (if not bring paper) to write and tie your wish onto the wishing tree.

I didn’t find any paper, but I got my picture taken and I can always pray to God so that’s good enough for me.

Since my spouse and I only have time to go to Downtown L.A. on the weekends, we aren’t able to score certain lunch specials that are only available during weekdays. We also have to practice patience with the large weekend crowds and traffic. Parking is terrible and you’re fortunate if you can find good parking at a decent price.

Tip: I recommend you check for parking before you get to Downtown L.A.

Sites like: DowntownLA.com, Spothero.com, and Bestparking.com may come in handy. Park Whiz, which can be found in the app store for both iPhone and Android, can also be of help.

Expect traffic! Expect crazy drivers! Expect the unexpected!

Another way to know what kind of crowd to expect is by checking for local events/festivals which you can view on golittletokyo.com.

Other than a few inconveniences, the trips are always worth our time.

I hope I’ve shared enough with you [the reader] to inspire you to give Little Tokyo a try. Whether you choose to go just for the food, drinks, attractions, or the anime stores, enjoy it!

Tip: Take sunglasses, drink plenty of water, & wear sunscreen. Unless you’re just going to eat or stay in one place, take comfortable walking shoes! If it’s too hot or sunny for comfort, there are plenty of parasols to choose from… that is if you’re willing to spend money. The last thing you want to experience is a heat stroke on what’s supposed to be a fun day!

Have you paid a visit to Japan? If so, did you go to Tokyo?

In comparison to Tokyo, does Little Tokyo offer a glimpse of the beauty of Tokyo, or is it simply a cheap replica?

Leave your comments below!

Thank you for reading!

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