With roots dating to the 1880s, Little Tokyo in Los Angeles is a major hub for Japanese Americans living in Southern California. In fact, it’s one of just three official Japan-towns in the United States.
From museums to the many Little Tokyo restaurants and bars, it’s one of L.A.’s most historic and popular multicultural neighbourhoods. Here’s our pick of the top things to do while you’re here.
Best Things to do in Little Tokyo, Los AngelesHow do these rankings work?
1. Visit the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)
This fascinating museum in Little Tokyo LA promotes appreciation and understanding of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. There’s hundreds of objects, documents, and photographs on display at the Japanese American National Museum.
It’s a powerful and interesting place to spend an hour or two.
2. Eat some of the city’s best sushi
Looking for the best sushi restaurants in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles? Sushi Gen has long been a favourite amongst the locals. This is clear on any given night of the week by how packed it is.
Visitors love the sashimi lunch special, but we suggest ordering off the menu to find something you like. Regardless of what you get, you really can’t go wrong. This is sushi as good as you’ll get in Japan itself.
3. Wander around Japanese Village Plaza
The main hub of Little Tokyo is this pretty plaza with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants. There’s colourful lanterns hanging across from many of the shops. Check out Japanese clothing and retail stores and a delicious Mochi ice cream stall. Be sure to stop off at Cafe Dulce and order the wildly popular green tea donuts.
4. Pick up some cool merch at Japangeles
Designed and printed in LA, the popular Japangeles streetwear line has some great pieces. It remixes traditional Japanese iconography like Mt. Fuji, geishas, bonsai, and maneki-neko (“waving cat”) with a modern SoCal aesthetic. You’ll want to buy pretty much everything in the entire store.
5. Check out Nisei Week Japanese Festival
This great festival takes place over two weekends every August. Nisei Week is one of the nation’s longest running ethnic festivals of its kind. There’s free Japanese cultural events, activities and exhibits, including dumpling eating contests. You can also join in with Japanese street dancing and other fun events.
6. Stock up on snacks at a Little Tokyo market
Nijya Market is one of the most authentic markets in Little Tokyo, with a great selection of Japanese drinks and snacks. You know all those amazing snacks you see on social media? You can find them here: green tea KitKats, strawberry KitKats and pocky.
There’s also a pretty delicious sushi aisle where you can mix-and-match fresh sushi rolls and sashimi to takeaway. Perfect for a picnic on a balmy summer day!
7. Eat your bodyweight in amazing Japanese food
There’s something for everyone to eat here! Our top picks? Tea Master of Little Tokyo‘s matcha soft serve is a must-try for matcha lovers everywhere. Fresh mochi ice cream, Japanese vegan food and ramen are other tasty bites. MEN OH’s signature Tokushima-style ramen is one of the best ramen bowls in L.A. Yum.