(credit: Mark L/yelp)

(credit: Mark L/yelp)


Located in the heart of Downtown L.A., Little Tokyo is home to the largest Japanese-American population in North America. Also referred to as J-Town, Little Tokyo is home to some of the city’s best Japanese restaurants and authentic shops providing guests with a balance of both old and new shops. Home to a plethora of attractions, restaurants, museum, bars and other attractions, below are some of the best attractions and hidden treasures.

Best Brunch
(credit: Eric Shin)

(credit: Eric Shin)


JiST Café
116 Judge John Aiso St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 792-2116
www.jistcafe.com

Originally a mom-and-pop joint that first put its name on the map with its chashu shumai dumplings in the 1940s, for over 70 years, the Ishii family has kept this Little Tokyo gem alive throughout the generations. Since its opening, they have shifted from a traditional Japanese diner to a playful brunch spot with the melting pot of Asian and American flavors. One of their more popular dishes is the Chashu Hash Skillet. The pork belly chashu is deeply marinated in family history and each day its base is added to and cooked off, further deepening its flavors with each passing year. It’s served with with two 6-minute eggs and breakfast potatoes.

Best Clothing Shop
(credit: Roy Kuroyanagi)

(credit: Roy Kuroyanagi)


Japangeles
335 E 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(310) 920-2383
www.japangeles.com

Japangeles is a street-wear brand that combines Japanese culture with the Los Angeles lifestyle through unique and clever designs. Founded in 2009, their shop is a kiosk located in the heart of Japanese Village Plaza and nicknamed “The Pod”. With products ranging from tees to snapbacks to coache’s jackets, designed and screen printed in Los Angeles, Japangeles is a must pick-up when you are in Little Tokyo.

Best Free Activity
(credit: Dustin Hamano)

(credit: Dustin Hamano)


Tuesday Night Cafe
120 Judge John Aiso St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
www.tuesdaynightproject.org

Tuesday Night Cafe (TNC) is a free public arts and performance series highlighting new and original work from the Asian American and Los Angeles communities. Launched in 1999, TNC has since become one of the longest-running free arts series in DTLA and is the oldest currently running Asian American mic-series in the country. The outdoor space runs in the evening of every first and third Tuesday of the month from April through October, open-mic lottery at 7pm, show runs 7:30pm-10pm, and features multidisciplinary art including music, poetry, visual art, performance art, dance, and comedy, in addition to highlighting local community organizations and offering three open mic spots per show.

Best Japanese Sweets
(credit: Mikawaya USA)

(credit: Mikawaya USA)


Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream
118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 624-1681
www.mochiicecream.com

The Mikawaya company has operated a storefront in Little Tokyo for over 100 years, and while the current location isn’t its original location, they still adhere to their original recipes serving their two brands of mochi ice cream, as well as their regular premium ice cream and gelato. Popular flavors include green tea, coffee, strawberry and mango while traditional Japanese snacks and candies are also popular.

Best Sneaker Cleaner
(credit: Jason Markk)

(credit: Jason Markk)


Jason Markk
329 E 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 687-7060
www.jasonmarkk.com

Jason Mark Angsuvarn was born and raised in Southern California and his upbringing in the 80s was heavily influenced by hip-hop culture, sports and sneakers. After a stint as a successful DJ from 1996-2007, Jason founded Jason Markk in 2007, and it quickly became a haven for sneakerheads. Jason first introduced the Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner to the market and through a grassroots marketing approach gained much traction. The success led to the opening of the flagship store in Little Tokyo in May of 2014, becoming the world’s first drop-off shoe care service and retail boutique.

Best Fun Activities
(credit: Jay Chun)

(credit: Jay Chun)


XLanes Entertainment & Bowling
333 Alameda St #300
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 229-8910
www.xlanesla.com

XLanes is a family entertainment center with 30 LED LIT bowling lanes, 9 billiard tables, 7 state-of-the-art virtual dart machines, 4 up-to-date private karaoke rooms, and close to 80 arcade games. It also offers an Italian American kitchen and full bar. It is perfect for a casual stop by location, but it also has the space for private events. It is the perfect venue for corporate holiday events, birthday celebrations, bachelor/bachelorette parties, team-building events, and much more.

Best Group Activity
(credit: Real Escape Game Los Angeles)

(credit: Real Escape Game Los Angeles)


Real Escape Game Los Angeles
123 Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
www.realescapegame.com

Real Escape Game immerses players into a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In 60 minutes, players must find the clues, solve the puzzles and ultimately secure a way out relying on their team’s wits and cleverness. While the first ever game happened in Kyoto, Japan in 2007, SCRAP Entertainment brought the escape game genre into Little Tokyo in 2012. The unique and interactive live puzzle event immerses guests into the story and challenges them to escape from a place filled with challenging puzzles and obstacles.

Best Coffee and Pastries
(credit: Michelle Park)

(credit: Michelle Park)


Café Dulce
Japanese Village Plaza
134 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 346-9910
www.cafedulce.co

Serving up creative house made donuts and baked treats along with an extensive beverage and food menu, Cafe Dulce is a unique bakery and specialty coffee shop in Little Tokyo that is pretty popular. Known for their signature Vietnamese coffee, blueberry matcha lattes, green tea donuts and peanut kale salad, it has quickly become a destination cafe for tourists and locals to flock to. Recently, Dulce has expanded with their second location, Dulce Dos, at the ROW DTLA on 7th & Alameda just a few miles from Little Tokyo.

Best Vegan Spot
(credit: Val Blakely)

(credit: Val Blakely)


Shojin
Little Tokyo Shopping Center
333 Alameda St #310
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 617-0305
www.theshojin.com

Opened in Little Tokyo in 2008, Shojin has since opened a second location in Culver City. Don’t tell the owners of Shojin that sushi can’t be vegan, as this elegant, organic vegan and macrobiotic Japanese restaurant features creative vegan sushi rolls that are also macrobiotic, organic and natural. Using only the highest quality ingredients, organic whenever possible, all of their dishes are created originally and made from scratch. Their Green Forest Roll (pictured) is an avocado wrapped asparagus carrot roll, with tempura broccoli, yuzu mayo and chia seed ponzu sauce on top.

Best Museum
(credit: Japanese American National Museum)

(credit: Japanese American National Museum)


Japanese American National Museum
100 N Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 625-0414
www.janm.org

Established in 1985, the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in Little Tokyo in DTLA, JANM strives to provide a voice for Japanese Americans as well as a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and identity. In addition to ongoing and temporary exhibitions that range from historical topics to contemporary culture, the museum offers a variety of public programs and free family festivals throughout the year. Also on site are Chado Tea Room and the award-winning JANM Store, which features distinctive Asian American merchandise for all occasions and generations.

Article by Jarone Ashkenazi is a freelance writer who covers: restaurants, bars, dating, relationships, sports and other lifestyle topics. More of his work can be viewed at http://www.jaroneashkenazi.com. Connect with him on Twitter: @JaroneAsh.