Looking to explore one of L.A.’s most diverse and intriguing neighborhoods? Set aside time to check out Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. Stretching from the Los Angeles River to Highway 110, the neighborhood is home to the largest Japanese population in the United States and offers visitors a wealth of Japanese culture and history, just waiting to be explored.
L.A.’s Little Tokyo is home to many museums like the Japanese American National Museum, Instagrammable ice cream shops, and the city’s oldest (and tastiest) sushi restaurants and authentic ramen joints. Wandering the street, you’ll feel as though you’ve teleported to Japan as you spend the day eating, shopping, and learning more about one of Los Angeles’s lesser-known cultural districts.
Want to learn more about Japanese culture in the heart of California? Dive into Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood with this handy guide on what to see and do, where to eat, and where to stay.
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What to see & do in L.A.’s Little Tokyo Historic District
Wanting to escape the city bustle? Pencil a walk in Grand Park into your L.A. travel itinerary. This 12-acre civic park offers visitors tons of green space to relax and hosts a variety of programs throughout the year.
Nestled between the Music Center and Los Angeles City Hall, Grand Park s a great place for a mid-day nap or a quick break from exploring Los Angeles. With clean and modern amenities like washrooms, cafes, libraries, playgrounds, and more, you can even plan to stay all day in this popular L.A. attraction.
Listen to the Sunday music scene with specially-curated with DJs and dance the day away. If you’re looking for something more down to earth, try a morning yoga class to boost your mind, body, and spirit.
Taste delicious food from the most popular food trucks in Los Angeles, parked near Olive Court, and enjoy a picnic in the park without the hassle of planning.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
Shake up your day in L.A. with a visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, this modern Roman Catholic cathedral was built in 2002 by Spanish architect Professor José Rafael Moneo. He designed the cathedral with no right angles, adding to the uniqueness and mystical feeling of the church. You can easily wander in and enjoy this modern masterpiece right across from Grand Park.
Step through the monumental set of bronze doors to find more modern architecture and design, from the lamps that dangle from the ceiling to the alabaster windows. Bask in milky white light as you marvel at the cathedral’s beautiful interior.
A must-see at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is The Crypt Mausoleum, located just one level below the church. The stained glass windows illuminate the room with colors reflecting on the Spanish limestone.
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA is a modern art museum bursting with exciting and intriguing art collections. It’s one of the largest of 3 MOCA branches in the United States, housing over 6,000 works of art. Get lost amongst the galleries of paintings and marvel at larger-than-life exhibits like Mark Thompson’s Airplane Parts, which is made up of over 1000 pounds of stainless steel.
Visit many intriguing art collections throughout the art museum that tell a tale of local artists in Los Angeles and their stories and experiences. Eye-opening galleries will give you an insight into the minds and perspectives of Japanese immigrants coming to America.
Rotating exhibits keep The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA fresh and interesting; each visit will offer visitors something new.
Japanese American National Museum
Immerse yourself in the Japanese-American history and culture at the Japanese American National Museum. This museum has grown from a small endeavor without funding to the modern Smithsonian affiliate museum it is today. Wander the halls and galleries to learn more about Japanese-American history and culture and the experiences of Japanese immigrants.
Immersive and thought-provoking exhibits provide a great insight into Japanese culture. Works like Under a Mushroom Cloud and Don’t Fence Me In tell the turbulent experiences of the Japanese people who first came to America.
Mixed in with the solemn exhibits are bright and cheery works, displaying Japan’s love for the kawaii aesthetic. Many exhibits feature larger-than-life TV characters like Hello Kitty and other Japanese toys.
Los Angeles City Hall
One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, Los Angeles City Hall was built in 1928 and stands as a testament to the American architecture of the era. It’s not only eye-catching but is a fascinating place to visit to learn more about the history of L.A. Free tours of City Hall are available from 10 am to noon Monday through Thursday, and self-guided tours are available all other times.
Climb to the top of the 138m tower, where you can get a 360-degree view of Los Angeles. The observation deck floor also features small exhibitions that’ll give you an insight into the different buildings in L.A. You can see paintings of past L.A. mayors and admire the beautiful architecture. Outside on the observation deck, you can catch a peek at the Hollywood sign in the distance.
The Music Center
Located across from Grand Park, The Music Center is one of L.A.’s hottest venues for performing arts, concerts, and more. Bringing together artists from all over the country, The Music Center holds performances of all different kinds each week. See many types of shows featuring thought-provoking contemporary dance, classical music, cultural performances, and more.
Become awash with delightful music, or get an insider’s look into cultural dance and performances through The Music Centers’ weekly performances in their indoor or outdoor theatre.
If you can’t catch a show, hop on to one of the center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall tours that’ll shed new light on its music and theatre performances. Enjoy the sights and sounds of talented local musicians and artists and get an in-depth experience of American culture and cultures worldwide at The Music Center.
Japanese Village Plaza
Located in the heart of Little Tokyo, the Japanese Village Plaza is a unique two-floor shopping center that houses many different kinds of Japanese shops. From souvenirs to clothes, you can find everything you’re looking for here.
Wander through the aisles and feel transported to a market in Japan as you browse the Sanrio Japanese Village. Or try the latest Japanese street fashion at boutique stores like Japangeles and Kools.
In addition to toys and clothes, the Japanese Village Plaza also hosts pop-up shops, often featuring local artists and their works on sale to the public. Stores like Q Pop Shop and Blooming Art Gallery offer handmade souvenirs, art, and more that’s reminiscent of life in Japan. Visiting this modern Japanese culture treasure trove will delight the senses and offer a unique look into daily Japanese life.
Los Angeles Plaza Park
This historic plaza in Downtown L.A. is surrounded by landmarks and contains the oldest pueblo in the city, built in 1781. Los Angeles Plaza Park is home to prominent historical buildings like the church, theatre, firehouse, multiple museums, and Avila Adobe, the oldest landmark in the city.
Meander the streets of the old pueblo, down Olvera Street, to shop and explore this historic area. Visit one of the five museums and learn about the history and live in Los Angeles before it became the modern city it is today.
After visiting the shops on Olvera Street, relax in the serenity and quiet of the green spaces at the end of the street. Scope out the historical monuments here, and settle down to take a break from exploring the busy city. Taste delicious, authentic Mexican food from the nearby restaurants, and enjoy an impromptu picnic on the grass.
Where to eat & drink
Want to try the most authentic ramen in L.A.? Visit Daikokuya Little Tokyo for a bowl of piping hot, heartwarming ramen. After you shop till you drop at the Little Tokyo Mall, cross the street, and find this must-try restaurant. Daikokuya’s menu features popular Japanese staples like gyoza, sushi rolls, and, of course, daikoku ramen made mild or spicy to order.
Continue ramen hunting in Little Tokyo at Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen, located just around the corner from the Little Tokyo Mall. Try a bowl of delicious ramen with thick or thin noodles. Side dishes like egg rolls and kimchi complement the soup and add bold flavors to the meal.
Marugame Monzo offers authentic hand-pulled noodles that fit nicely into a bowl of another famous Japanese dish, udon. Chefs are trained in Marugame City to pull the perfect noodles, and you can watch the process up close from your seat. Have your pick when it comes to flavor with unique broths with tastes ranging from miso to squid.
A trip to L.A.’s Little Tokyo isn’t complete without trying one of Japan’s most popular foods: sushi. Sushi Gen offers fresh and authentic sushi in their dinner or lunch combo perfectly plated. Their fanciful plates of sashimi, sushi, and rolls are a treat to the eyes after a day of wandering Little Tokyo.
Need to wet your whistle? Sip on flavorsome craft beer at Boomtown Brewery. A place where art and beer meet, each different kind of beer is hand-crafted and thoroughly tested to ensure quality. Sample a flight or a new favorite in a bright, open, and airy space, perfect for a conversation among friends.
Tucked away in the Little Tokyo Mall, you’ll find Far Bar. This low-lit, industrial-feeling bar has been featured in prominent L.A. magazines, and for good reason: With an extensive whiskey list and unique hand-crafted cocktails, it’s hard to leave this bar out of the running. Use all five senses to enjoy the aromas and flavors of their American-Japanese fusion bites that pair nicely with a classic or house cocktail.
Wolf & Crane Bar is proudly home to the most extensive Japanese whisky collection in the United States. The warm wood and Japanese-themed decor invite you in for an evening with friends to sample their famous whiskey, beer, or cocktails.
With its moody atmosphere, the dark and brooding Death & Co. is the perfect place for an intimate cocktail. From their extensive selection of innovative cocktails, the bartender can help you choose an ideal drink tailored to your personal tastes.
Where to stay
Although it’s an L.A. sightseeing favorite, accommodation options in Little Tokyo itself are limited. If you’re unable to score lodgings in the neighborhood, expand your Los Angeles accommodations search to other areas in Downtown L.A., including Chinatown.
Located in the heart of Little Tokyo, the Miyako Hotel Los Angeles is well-known for its traditional beauty and top-notch service. Besides relaxing in the comfortable rooms, guests can enjoy a meal and a drink at the on-site Tamon Restaurant or fit in a workout in the fitness center.
With bright pops of color and hip decor, the citizenM Los Angeles Downtown is one of the city’s top places to stay. Like all of the brand’s hotels, the Downtown L.A. branch offers guests everything they need in a compact yet comfortable space. You’ll love spending time in the trendy & colorful common areas, swapping road trip stories with other travelers.
Step into elegance as you walk through the doors of Omni Los Angeles Hotel California Plaza. Aside from enjoying brilliant city views from the modern rooms, guests can also dig into a slew of superb amenities, including two on-site restaurants, a heated outdoor pool, and a complimentary sedan shuttle.
Enjoy peaceful serenity with a night at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites. Close to all the top attractions in Little Tokyo and Downtown L.A., this hotel is the perfect place to rest after a day of exploring the city. Catch a rooftop sunset and take a dip in the luxurious outdoor pool to end the night right.
The Conrad offers one of the most luxurious stays in Downtown Los Angeles. Take in the sweeping views of the city lights from your luxe room or from the rooftop pool. Splurge and enjoy the skyline penthouse for one of the finest views in all of L.A.