My mom had to renew her passport so we went for an adventure in Little Tokyo.
Lunch: The Curry House. We miss this place terribly. We had a location in Convoy, but they closed. They serve lots of curry dishes that you would typically find in Japan. Omrice, which is an omelet with fixings of rice and topped off with some Japanese curry. They serve hamburg, which is a Japanese hamburger patty that is served with a side salad, and corn pottage. I usually get the chicken curry set. It comes with rice, curry with chicken, corn pottage and a salad. I love their tropical iced tea, but most people order the green iced tea.
Tonkatsu Curry set. Tonkatsu is breaded pork cutlet. Just watch the calories on this one
Weller Court: After we had a reminiscent Japanese curry lunch at the Curry House, we walked to Onizuka Street. In case you are not familiar with with the last name, Onizuka street was named after Ellison Shoji Onizuka, the astronaut from Hawaii that lost his life in the Challenger explosion back in the 80’s. I remember being a little kid going to the multipurpose room to watch the Challenger take off into space, only to see the Challenger explode. Us little kids were confused and were quickly asked to leave the multipurpose rooms to go back to our classes. I remember Christa McCauliffe being one of the first school teachers to go up in the Challenger. As for Ellison Shoji Onizuka, he was one of the first Japanese Americans to go up into space. He had been to space before, but his second expedition did not serve him well. The Japanese American Community made a memorial street for him in Little Tokyo.
Go check out Kinokuniya Book Store in Little Tokyo. If you are looking for books like Japanese folk tales, anime, manga, how to learn origami or Japanese cook books this is the place to go. Be prepared to shell out a little more money, but these are books that are difficult to find. They also sell cute stationery items and various types of Japanese gifts.
While you are in Little Tokyo, also go check out the various shops around. You can find your signature Hello Kitty Items along with fake samurai swords, chopsticks, Japanese dishes, Japanese festival wear and crazy t-shirts. Walk around to find a few bargains. Most all of the shops carry the same type of souvenirs, so focus that bargain eye of yours.
So the locals say that Daikokuya has the best Japanese ramen. The only way I discovered this place is when my mom and I stayed in Little Tokyo. We saw a line that was at least an hour, so we waited. The interior felt like a Japanese diner for ramen. The hipsters were definitely showing up in their trendy clothes and we knew that there would be good food here.
My favorite type of ramen. Chashume Ramen. Chashume is the small pork cutlets that are placed in your ramen.
Coffee: When you get tired, go check out a place for coffee. I yelped this one: Demitasse Coffee Shop. It’s on the corner of Onizuka Street. If you like good coffee, then this is the place to go. This place fits the bill of serving designer coffee in small setting that reminds me of Europe. The Japanese are coffee snobs, so it seems appropriate that it is located in Little Tokyo. What I love about this place is that there is a coffee bar. I saw at least 5 customers come in, sit down, bust open their newspapers, sip their coffee, talk to the coffee barista and then leave to go back to work. My mom and I sat on a couch, relaxed and rested.
Japanese American National Museum: I didn’t get to go this time, but I used to work there. Go check out this museum because it is essential to the community of Little Tokyo. The presence of the museum serves a great deal for the community in Little Tokyo and for the outer community of Japanese Americans. To make a long story short in history, the Japanese Americans lived in this area and thrived in the 1920’s-1940’s. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was intense racism and prejudice that ran through Japanese American communities. In the U.S. Japanese Americans were forced to go to internment camps. The once bustling community of Little Tokyo was taken over by African Americans and became a pretty popular jazz community. After internment camps were closed by the government, the Japanese Americans wanted so bad to come back to their beloved community. They fought blood, sweat and tears to gain back their community and took some legal issues to court. They won and received Redress and were given $20,000 for their their losses in WWII. Each Japanese American family received money from the government, but most decided to help their kids with education or gave their money to help educate people about the injustice that took place. The lessons that I learned from Internment camp survivors will forever be etched into my brain. I met some amazing people and worked with them.
Of course there are so many other things to see and do, but give it 1/2 a day to go and explore Little Tokyo. Other places in Los Angeles to go check out are Sawtelle Street and Torrance for a good Japanese experience. Matta Ne! (translates to again, some other time)
Before you head home: Grab some Japanese groceries at Marukai or Nijiya. These two grocery stores have all the Japanese essentials from dashi (Japanese fish sauce), goma (sesame seeds), shoyu (soysauce), rice crackers, various Japanese produce to rice cookers, tofu, natto (fermented soy beans). I know that a lot of people are really into mochi ice cream and you can find many different varieties.