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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogIs Little Tokyo Really Like the Real Tokyo, Japan? 

Is Little Tokyo Really Like the Real Tokyo, Japan? 

Karina IkedoKarina Ikedo
Published Time
Posted on 
June 04, 2024
Modified Time
Updated last 
June 05, 2024
Little Tokyo Watchtower in Los Angeles.

Little Tokyo is only one of three official Japantowns in the U.S., which makes this area very special. At over 135 years old, it’s also one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Here, you will find a smattering of legacy, family-run businesses near trendy dessert spots, vintage shops, and cultural institutions. Amidst the ever-growing mix, there is much to see, do, and eat!

The Japanese American National Museum 

Little Tokyo also has the largest museum in the United States dedicated to the Japanese American experience—the Japanese American National Museum. It shows everything from pop culture to 20th-century history and has iconic immersive elements similar to museums in Tokyo, Japan.

The outside of the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles.
This museum is home to Japanese-American history. Image via Shutterstock

On the other hand, Tokyo has dozens, if not hundreds, of museums spanning nearly every topic and interest. These museums have everything from art and photography to history, science, transportation, commerce, anime, and more. Many museums in Tokyo have extensive collections of art and artifacts from Japan and Asia, similar to the Japanese American National Museum, where you can enjoy a collection of over 60,000 artifacts and amazing exhibitions.

Where can I go shopping in Little Tokyo?

​​Little Tokyo offers many shopping options compared to some of Tokyo’s best shopping districts. Little Tokyo’s main shopping area is the Japanese Village Plaza. There are a bunch of fantastic stores here. Head to Poketo for stylish accessories and home goods with authentic Japanese design and style.

A bunch of bentos in the refrigerated aisle at Mitsuwa Marketplace in LIttle Tokyo.
Mitsuwa is a Japanese grocery chain with stores throughout the United States! Image via Mariott Bonvoy Traveler

There’s also Mitsuwa Marketplace, a nationwide chain representing the massive stores in Japanese cities. It offers a comprehensive selection of Japanese groceries, an authentic food court, candy stores, cosmetic stations, and even spaces for cultural classes and events.

What other stores are in the area?

Little Tokyo Cosmetics is a cosmetics store replicating the shopping experience at department stores in Tokyo, Japan. This store offers diverse skincare and makeup products, including the ever-popular and widely sought-after sheet masks. Notably, these products are often available at affordable prices, making it an attractive destination for those seeking high-quality cosmetics without breaking the bank.

3D cosmetic masks at a beauty store.
They even have cosmetics stores full of authentic products! Image via Shutterstock

Kinokuniya is a renowned Japanese bookstore chain that includes locations in Los Angeles. It offers a wide selection of Japanese books and magazines that transport you to the literary culture of Tokyo. Beneath Kinokuniya lies Marukai, a market store that caters to Japanese food enthusiasts, with various snacks, drinks, and even a cosmetics section.

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What kind of food can I enjoy in Little Tokyo?

One of the best things about Little Tokyo is the abundance of delicious Japanese food. You won’t leave hungry here, from sushi to ramen to tempura to teriyaki. Little Tokyo has tons of noodle shops like Tokyo, where almost every neighborhood has a small one. Hachioji Craft Ramen is hands down the most popular spot for ramen noodles in Little Tokyo. There’s also My Ramen Bar not far from there and a fantastic noodle and rice bowl spot. 

If you have never had hand-rolled noodles, you can visit Marugame Monzo. The creamy and savory udon hits the spot, like the uni (sea urchin) udon. If you want to try something different, head to Chinchikurin for delicious Japanese soul food. Chinchikurin features Hiroshima okonomiyaki, with layers of everything from cabbage, egg, pork, squid, octopus, and cheese. You’re usually topped with yakisoba (fried noodles) or udon (thick, wheat-based noodles). 

A plate of sushi at Little Tokyo's Sushi Gen.
You can enjoy sushi, okonomiyaki, and other Japanese dishes here! Image via Shutterstock

Craving a sweet treat? ​​Fugetsu-Do offers a wide variety of hand-made Japanese confections and a colorful selection of mochi (Japanese rice cakes). They have specialized in making mochi for more than 120 years. Along with traditional mochi, Fugetsu-Do also stocks a variety of sweet and savory snacks.

Another iconic store is Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream. It’s in several Japanese grocery stores, and Little Tokyo has a physical shop that is a must-visit. Several special flavors are available, and they’re fairly inexpensive.

Koyasan Buddhist Temple vs Tokyo Meiji Shrine

Little Tokyo also has traditional temples, whose presence lends a certain authenticity to the area. The Koyasan Buddhist Temple is a must-see for its beautiful architecture. It features 30,000 imported roof tiles, a breathtaking statue of Buddha, and a stunning garden. 

Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles.
The Koyasan Buddhist Temple was built in 1912. Image via

While the shrine was built to serve the Shinto tradition, the Koyasan temple was built to serve the Buddhist tradition. Meiji Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Japan, located in Tokyo‘s Shibuya district. The shrine was built to honor the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. Like the Koyasan temple, it is famous for its beautiful inner garden. 

What kind of festivals do they have in Little Tokyo?

If you’re in town for New Year’s Day, head to Little Tokyo! They celebrate in style with music, dancing, street food, a kimono contest, Japanese art for sale, and more. It includes Tokyo’s New Year traditional activities like mochi pounding and cultural entertainment. 

Women and girls in kimonos on stage at a New Year's celebration in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.
Little Tokyo has a New Year’s festival every year. Image via Rafu Shimpo

A few people also gather at the historic Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo to pray to the Buddha, similar to Tokyo, where people make their first visit of the year to their local shrine or temple. 

Why should I visit this neighborhood?

In Little Tokyo, Japanese-American culture, food, and shopping are little. The area’s five-ish blocks will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Tokyo. This amazingly urban neighborhood in Los Angeles is rich in Japanese culture, history, shopping, and many amazing dining options. From sushi joints to streetwear vendors to Instagrammable soft-serve spots to manga hot spots, Little Tokyo is such a hidden gem in LA. Let us know in the comments below!

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