The heart of the Japanese-American community in Los Angeles.
Little Tokyo is the heart of the Japanese-American community here in Los Angeles. It still lives and thrives right where its always been, hugged up right against Downtown Los Angeles. The Japanese-American community for the most part, doesn’t live there anymore. They’ve moved on to other areas like the South Bay (Hawthorne, Rancho P.V., Torrance), West Covina, or in and around Sawtelle in West Los Angeles. Still, the businesses are still there, the older residents are there, more than a few restaurants, and of course, the memories.
Wikipedia put it like this:
Land use has been a contentious issue in Little Tokyo due to its history, the proximity to the Los Angeles Civic Center, the role of Los Angeles as a site of business between Japan and America, and the increasing influx of residents into the Artist District. Unlike a traditional ethnic enclave, there are relatively few Japanese residents in the area because of evacuation and internment. Consequently, Little Tokyo, like other ethnic urban enclaves, is constantly threatened with development that could eradicate it. Conversely, because the Japanese American community was politicized by the internment and subsequent Redress and Reparations effort, and because of the global and local growth of overseas Japanese investment, Little Tokyo has resisted eradication and has continued to exist as a tourist attraction, community center, and home to Japanese American senior citizens and others.
Like the Wikipedia piece said, like Chinatown, Little Tokyo is part tourist trap. There is a small collage of souvenir shops and restaurants down along Little Tokyo’s main drag along First Street. The food’s pretty good there (and includes the original site of Orochon Ramen).
Like Chinatown, Little Tokyo also has its share of bad memories, of the racial codes that kept Japanese immigrants restricted to certain blocks or streets in town. It was also the embarkation point for one of America’s last tragic experiment in racial paranoia, the Interment of Japanese-Americans (stressing: Americans) in Concentration Camps scattered throughout America. Fortunately, the Internment has politicized the Japanese community to keep Little Tokyo Japanese-American. That status was cemented in 1992 when the original Japanese American National Museum opened, followed up with its new state-of-the-art Pavilion just across the way in 1999.
PARKING: Scattered. There are a bunch of private garages scattered throughout. They’ll all be a little expensive. You’re still Downtown, after all.