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Content accurate at time of publication
01 Mar 2012
From Union Station, board the Metro Gold Line light rail – or walk it in not much more time – to Little Tokyo. Although the local population is no longer mostly Japanese, it’s still the historic heart of Japanese America. To learn about the history of the Japanese in the US, head to the Japanese American National Museum, the largest of its kind in the country, dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry.
It’s no surprise that Little Tokyo bursts with Japanese restaurants, in unique storefronts and outdoor malls like Japanese Village Plaza and Weller Court (123 Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka Street). Daikokuya, Shin-Sen-Gumi and Orochon Ramen often have queues out the door for steaming bowls of ramen. In particular, try Shin-Sen-Gumi’s Hakata ramen, which is acclaimed for its cloudy, Fukuoka-style pork-bone-based broth. Aburiya Toranoko is a contemporary izakaya (Japanese pub) with spotlighted murals. Alongside sushi, the establishment also serves small plates of grilled or fried dishes such as fries with plum aioli and fried chicken.
After eating, shop till you drop for manga-inspired and cutesy trinkets at shops like Tokyo Lifestyle and Kinokuniya. Or take in an art exhibition at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. Also in Little Tokyo, the Geffen Contemporary mounts exhibits of world-leading artists and is an outpost of LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Marvel at works including those by Southern California’s own John Baldessari and Jonathan Borofsky.
Upping the neighbourhood’s hipster quotient are restaurants like Lazy Ox Canteen, which has a daily-changing farmers’ market menu of Californian comfort food like its Lazy Ox burger with cantal cheese and green peppercorn mustard. A little farther afield, Wurstkuche is the place to head to for house-made sausages sourced from local ingredients. The eatery attracts an eclectic clientele, ranging from arty types to serious foodies.