Welcome to the Little Tokyo Blog

We've set up this space where members of the Little Tokyo community could share information, thoughts, ideas, and opinions about the Little Tokyo neighborhood, it's people, politics, culture/history, businesses, and events.


LT is Bronzeville, taiko and community

Did you know that the "Home is Little Tokyo" mural on Central Avenue at 1st Street is made up of 20 separate 4 foot X 8 foot plywood panels? Here is one of the panels from 5 years ago when it was in development.

I like this one. It shows the "No Jail in Little Tokyo" effort where the community successfully gathered thousands (I think it was something like 13,000) of paper and online petitions to stop a 500-bed jail from being built on what was known as the Mangrove site at First and Alameda, future site of Nikkei Center.

It also shows an image of Charlie Parker, jazz musician from the World War 2 era when Little Tokyo became known as "Bronzeville." At top, are drummers from Bombu Taiko, out of Higashi Buddhist Temple on 3rd Street between San Pedro and Central Avenue.

Pictured is Tony Osumi, the lead mural designer, manuevering the heavy mural panels.


Nikkei Center Reception at JANM

About 100 people attended the Nikkei Center reception last Tuesday night at JANM, and listened to presentations and speeches from the project's partners that reflected optimism about the direction of Little Tokyo, despite the gloomy economic downturn. The folks at blogdowntown posted a story about the event.

The project partners also announced plans to launch a website that will update the community on the progress of the development, and promote transparency to ensure continued involvement from all stakeholders--a refreshing and positive departure from some of the insulated and tight-lipped tendencies of some of the recent retail developments in Little Tokyo.


MOCA in trouble?

At yesterday's Little Tokyo Community Council meeting, the Geffen Contemporary announced that it'll be shutting down its Little Tokyo museum from January to July (thanks for the tip, Ron). No reason was stated but today's LA Times story explains their serious financial situation.
This month, in a bid to shave 10% off operating costs, the museum announced a six-month closure of its Geffen Contemporary exhibition space, which is leased from the city for $1 a year.
The Frank Gehry adaption of the space has enabled MOCA to house some of its larger art exhibits such as the Takashi Murakami retrospective last fall.

All I can say is "wow". The Geffen draws a lot of people into Little Tokyo, so this will be sure to have an impact in the community and local businesses.


Rock 'n Ruckus!

I know it's a bit late.

But two weekends ago I took my dog to the BEST GROOMER in all of little tokyo, Grace of Muttropolitan (you know you love "punny" names, too!).

Take a peek at some of the adorable work she's done.

While waiting for my pup to get gorgeous, I passed an apparent Ruckus meet-up.

It was across from Honda Plaza in front of the Starbucks.

For those of you uninitiated, the Honda Ruckus (aka Zoomer) is a small, single cylindered scooter, which according to iReport.com gets 100 mpg.

The cons, it can't go on freeways.

The pros... it is very easy to rejigger anyway you want and it gets 100 mpg... hello... 100!!! and it's cute.

Here are some more pictures from last week

read more about it here.


Imagine the Possibilities

I was just sitting here thinking about the Community Reception/Celebration that will be held on Tuesday night, Nov. 18 at 5pm, hosted by Nikkei Center Partners at the Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st Street in Little Tokyo. And then I came upon an article "A Little Tokyo Renaissance: Imagine the Possibilities" from April 2004 by Kei Nagao and Tony Osumi from J-townVoice! Here is an excerpt:

"So what we now have is a major victory within Little Tokyo’s grasp. Instead of Parker Center being built along Alameda between First and Temple, Mayor Hahn now supports the land being open for community input. With Little Tokyo control and possibly even community-backed development, we could reconnect Nishi Buddhist Temple to the rest of Little Tokyo and create thriving retail space, public parking, community housing and other Little Tokyo necessities all along First Street and Alameda. The Mayor’s proposal, called Plan A1.5, and another plan being considered by the community called Plan B1, both help J-Town and Nishi avoid the street closures and the negative impact of a massive LAPD complex.

With a new Metro Gold Line station planned for the corner of First and Alameda, the area could also become a LA cultural destination spot and a bustling gateway to Little Tokyo and the Little Tokyo Arts District. Echoing what many community members have said over the last year with City planners, Mayor Hahn sees the city-owned land as an opportunity to build a “vibrant urban village” instead of another encroaching city complex. Who would be against such a win-win solution?

In a few years, picture the constant stream of families coming to J-Town for basketball tournaments, library visits, and dinner with grandma and grandpa at the Far East CafĂ©. Visualize young people cruising First Street, meeting friends, slurping late night noodles and filling their hearts at poetry readings. Envision a mixture of Los Angelinos filling theater seats, playing volleyball, tasting sushi and strolling under blooming cherry blossoms. It’s all possible.

Helping Little Tokyo rise back up like the mythical phoenix is more than exciting--it’s our responsibility. We are this generation’s caretakers of Little Tokyo. As residents, small businesses, Japanese American institutions, elected officials and City planners--let’s work together to reclaim and extend Little Tokyo’s borders and lay the groundwork for a Little Tokyo Renaissance. Imagine the possibilities. "


Tokyo Cafe is open for lunch

"Tokyo Cafe"

When I go out to eat, the more home-style cooking, the better I like it. It's ironic I know.

Lately, I've been making a habit of a small restaurant next to the Union Center for the Arts called Tokyo Cafe. The sign outside is misleading--it reads "Union Center Cafe." If you've never eaten there, it's probably because of the limited hours. Tokyo Cafe is only open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday-Saturday.

Why is this restaurant only open for three hours a day? Tokyo Cafe is a true mom-and-pop business. The people who operate it have been in Little Tokyo a long time and they just don't have the stamina to keep up with normal business hours anymore. Which is sad news for the customer because the food here is really good.


Tokiko, orginally from Japan, married into the family business and has been serving made-from-scratch shumai and mouth-watering cha shu since 1967. Her mother-in-law ran Terminal Cafe in the flower district before the war. After the war, the family opened the first Tokyo Cafe on Weller where the Piccomolo Italian Ice Cream shop is now located. They moved across the street and renamed the restaurant to Tokyo Garden. When the New Otani Hotel and Weller Court complex was built, Tokyo Garden moved to the 2nd Street side of the Tokyo Village Plaza where they served locals, downtown employees and tourists for many, many years.

My co-worker shared how much she loved the cha shu at Tokyo Garden. She wasn't the only one. At that time, cha shu was only made on Fridays, and if you didn't go early enough, they often ran out. But at least there were other delectable dishes on the menu like the egg foo young, yakisoba and teriyaki combination dinner. Tokyo Garden closed in 2000. Tokyo Cafe re-opened at the current location with the same menu and more importantly the same recipes--secrets passed on down from Tokiko's mother-in-law. The restaurant is now owned by Tokiko's sister-in-law.

cha shu and shu mai combo "to go"

When you go, try the combination lunch special - a plate of cha shu and shu mai with rice and miso soup for $6.95. My other favorites are the tempura donburi ($6.50) and the egg foo young ($5.95). The egg foo young is an omelette with bean sprouts, fresh celery and diced bell peppers mixed in over rice and topped with an excellent gravy sauce.

When in Little Tokyo, please support the local businesses like Tokyo Cafe! We don't need more chain stores and food franchises--if we do, then Little Tokyo will lose its flavor. Again, how ironic...

Tokyo Cafe
116 Judge John Aiso St. (N. San Pedro Street)
Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 628-3017

Business hours:
Monday - Saturday
11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

egg foo young

Change the System?

First off: Congratulations Obama.

Message to the Registrar of Los Angeles:
I understand that it must be an incredibly complex equation with 98071037132 variables when it comes to registering and placing voters, but the system STILL does not work. We had over 100 provisional ballots cast! So many that they didn't even fit into our little provisional ballot envelope! Thomas K Nagano was our fearless poll inspector on election day, props to him.

some food for thought.


Nikkei Center Community Reception and Celebration

Nikkei Center Partners will be hosting a Community Reception on Tuesday November 18 at 5:00 pm at the Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. 1st Street in Little Tokyo. The project team will provide a brief update, and bust open the celebration over the future development of the Alameda and 1st (Mangrove) site. The event is open to the entire community.


B-Ball is Coming to Little Tokyo!

From Mike Murase, one of the Little Tokyo Recreation Center boardmembers...

Dear Basketball Families:

After a long wait, we are one step closer to the dream of a 4-court gym in Little Tokyo! The Japanese American community is widely dispersed now and much of our lives are centered in various suburban neighborhoods, schools and workplaces, but Little Tokyo is still a special place.

Imagine the day when you drive into Little Tokyo to watch your children compete against teams from Venice to West Covina, from the Valley to the O.C. Imagine running into your childhood friends or your children making new friends. Then, afterwards going out to eat at a favorite noodle shop, celebrating a victory with sushi, or buying some manju to take home. or stopping by at the Japanese American museum or the JA cultural center. Come home to Little Tokyo where it all began. Join us and let your kids be a part of this exciting new chapter in Little Tokyo's development.

Watch this video to see what a Recreation Center in Little Tokyo can look like:

Won't you be a part of the thousands of families who are ready to bounce? Take THREE SIMPLE STEPS:

__ Come to Little Tokyo on Saturday, November 8, noon to 3 pm at the JACCC Plaza for a community celebration with music and other festivities. Bring your team in your uniforms and bring your balls!!! Join the hundreds of other kids and young adults in uniforms--red, green, blue, black and gold. (Please send us an email at RecCenter@ltsc.org to let us know if you plan to attend so we can get a head count.)

__ Forward this to your family, friends, teammates, organizations, and competitors.

__ Go to the Rec Center website and sign up to be kept informed of each new development.

SPECIAL PRIZES FOR TEAMS (minimum 5 players) that come in uniform.

Sign up at the event to qualify for a special drawing and win a GRAND PRIZE (your next tournament fees, up to $400, paid for by the Rec Center), 2nd Prize (five basketballs, either Men's or Women's, for your practices and layup drills), and other prizes.


From LT to DC!!!!

From First Street in J-town...

to the White House...

President Barack Obama!!!
Thanks to Mike Murase for the t-shirt and photoshop design.

Visual Communications Benefit - Nov. 8

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY... to the tunes from the 60's thru the 80's

7:30pm until 12 midnight


Entertainment by THE MUSIC COMPANY featuring MARIKO

Cash Bar
Door Prize
Raffle Prizes

Dance Committee: Doug Aihara, Walt Louie, Amy Kato, Rick Katsuki, Carrie Morita, Sandy & Tracy Okida, Wendy Oshita, Susan Soohoo, Cas Tolentino, Evelyn Yoshimura

815 East 1st. Street (Free secured parking)
Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) CA 90012

$40 / person advance sales; $50 / person at the door


Sao Paulo's Japantown

Earlier this year I took a trip to Brazil and visited the Japantown in Sao Paulo, an area called Liberdade. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Brazil. Today, 1.5 million Brazilians claim Japanese ancestry.

Like Little Tokyo, Liberdade is peppered with Japanese markets, gift shops, restaurants and other small businesses. Like LT, they have a popular ramen shop where people wait for 30 minutes just to get a seat. Like LT, it is a common sight to see elderly Japanese walking down the street or sitting at a cafe enjoying a cup of coffee. And like LT, the community struggles to maintain it's identity as a cultural enclave and worries about their future.

I ate at one of the Japanese restaurants in Liberdade and ordered a California roll. But in Brazil, they don't put avocado in the California roll. Can you guess what they use instead? .......mango! Why don't they just call it a Brazil roll? There is also a stand that sells takoyaki, but in addition to octopus filling, they make shrimp and cheese flavors.

I was impressed with the weekend market in Liberdade. Vendors set up tents and sell handmade crafts, clothing and gift items. There were also some really good food booths. This happens every weekend and brings in large crowds.

I think we should have a monthly street fair and flea market here in Little Tokyo. I know that local business owners would kill this idea, but we need to make LT more lively and give people a reason to come and hang out here. A street fair would increase business for everyone because it would attract more people to the community.

You can see a photo essay of my trip to Liberdade on the Discover Nikkei website:
Liberdade - Sao Paulo's Japantown