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Exploring Little Tokyo: Fun Things to Do

Lanterns in Little Tokyo
Tracy Givens
Tracy Givens
November 3, 2023

There are plenty of fun things to do in Little Tokyo. For first-timers, though, it can be hard to know where to begin. Even repeat visitors to Los Angeles might not know where to find all the hot spots.  

A Guide To Exploring Little Tokyo

Japanese Village Plaza

Japanese Village

Locals consider this the gateway to the Little Tokyo District. As soon as you arrive at 335 E. 2nd Street, you'll understand why.

Japanese Village Plaza offers a rich history and a plethora of shopping and dining opportunities. The Blooming Art Gallery stocks exotic and unique gifts from Japan, while Sanrio is the perfect place to pick up gifts for the kids back home.

When you get hungry, stop by Shabu Shabu House. They serve wonderful bento and curry at lunch, but you'll have to wait until dinner to sample the authentic delights of their namesake dish. For something sweet, try Yamazaki Bakery or Little Tokyo Ice Cream & Yogurt.

You should be able to find parking on Central Avenue between 1st and 2nd Street. It's possible to spend a whole day here, so make sure to carve out enough time in your schedule to explore as much as you can.

MOCA Geffen

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

The MOCA Geffen (formerly known as the Temporary Contemporary) is housed in an eye-catching building that sets the tone for the modern art housed within. It was once a warehouse for police cars, but renowned California architect Frank Gehry gave it a sleek makeover for its opening in 1983. As you might expect, the resulting exhibition space is enormous, offering 40,000 square feet for you to explore.

MOCA is located at 152 North Central Avenue. If you're unsure how to get here, use the Metro Trip Planner—Los Angeles has a solid public transportation system that makes it unnecessary to drive yourself. The Metro station at the corner of Alameda and 1st Streets is known as the "Little Tokyo/Arts District" station and serves as the ideal starting point.

Also note that while general admission is free, you'll have to fork over $18 per person ($10 for students and seniors) if you want to see any of the special exhibits.

Japanese American National Museum

This is a must-do for anyone who wants to get a real sense of the Japanese-American experience while visiting Little Tokyo. The thought-provoking exhibits are sure to evince a range of emotions, from exhilaration to sadness to pride.

For example, until December 2024, JANM is offering guests the opportunity to stamp the Ireichō. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this artifact, it's a book that holds the names of over 125,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry who were imprisoned in internment camps during World War II. While this is a somber pursuit, it's one that you're sure to remember when other memories of your trip have long since faded.

The museum is accessible at timed intervals, which begin at the start of each hour of operation. You can reserve your spot up to four weeks in advance; check the website for more detailed instructions.

Gloria Molina Grand Park

Grand Parks Fountain

There's always something going on at Gloria Molina Grand Park. Whether you want to take part in a joyous Dia de los Muertos celebration, enjoy some live music, or simply take your dog for a run, these 12 acres are waiting to welcome you.

The park is open daily from 5:30 AM until 10 PM, so it should be easy to find a time to visit. Take a selfie in front of the fountain, then spread out on a stretch of grass and enjoy a picnic with provisions from the nearby Panorama Cafe.

In Closing

When you want to take a break from people-watching at the rumored celebrity hangouts in Hollywood, take a trip over to Little Tokyo. The blend of history, natural beauty, and culture will make it one of the highlights of your trip. So, the next time you're looking for fun things to do in Little Tokyo, consider one of these enticing options.

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