Focal Point: Another Stroll Through Little Tokyo / LA Live, Part I

Ah yes, another trip back to Little Tokyo is what I’ve been needing. The weather was more on the cold side than usual, but it was manageable. This week’s Focal Point showcases a small sample of the well-known streets, plazas, and gardens featured in Little Tokyo, as well as a look into the foot traffic on a Saturday such as when these photos were shot.

The above image was taken on the corner of 2nd and San Pedro, overlooking Weller Court. I usually like to visit Kinokuniya, Marukai, and the Kyoto Grand Hotel & Gardens when I’m there. Also, underground parking is usually around $8 and is very secure. If you need cover parking and will be staying a few hours in the area, it’s a good place to park.

On the third floor of Weller Court, there is another set of stairs that takes you up to the Kyoto Grand Hotel & Garden. This photo shows the left-hand side of the garden as you walk in, which opens up to a mini courtyard with tables and chairs. I’ve seen people eating and drinking, reading, and socializing here; today, it was empty!

You can see here the aforementioned empty courtyard. I suppose it was too cold to be sitting outdoors!

Was there a TV here?! In any case, it was interesting to see CAT5 just dangling freely from the garden ledge. Free internet to anyone who can uncoil the cable!

As you walk up some stairs after seeing those network cables, you’ll see this stream to your right-hand side, which leads to a small waterfall.

The garden is used for many ceremonies, and is a great place for weddings. Outside of the frame and to the left is a section of grass where chairs can be set up for watching a wedding ceremony.

In the photo above, you can see the water disappear in the distance. This reminded me of those bamboo water catchers that this garden was very much missing.

The last photo I took from the garden was this view of the waterfall the marks the end of the stream just above it. You can sit on the ledge in the background and just relax to the calming sounds of the rushing water.

After spending almost an hour in the garden, it was time to check out the Japanese Village Plaza further down 2nd Street. As you pass that big red sign, you make a left and walk into a plethora of gift shops, clothing stores, and restaurants.

Here’s a shot of one of the two entrances to the Plaza. There usually isn’t much on the right side except for advertisements and promotional material for upcoming events in the town.

The Shabu-Shabu House always has a ridiculously long line at its door. It wasn’t as packed at this time of the day, but I’m sure it’ll get longer at night. I definitely need to try this place soon!

The heart of the Plaza has a small courtyard that used to have a water fountain sculpture. Now, it is home to various street performers and musical talent. The surrounding shops also had way more people at the time of the day than I’m usually used to seeing.

In front of the day’s musical act was a booth set up for donations for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. The most amusing part of the booth was the first sign that listed the things people enjoy as reasons to donate (because I admittedly like all four). Though I wholeheartedly support the Japanese and their road to recovery through donations, it’s important to understand and validate the authenticity of your money and items being donated. I’ve been hearing a lot of scams have been going around just to collect on goods and profit, so awareness is just as key as the will itself to donate.

To the left of the booth sat a little girl with a donation box to help those in the Miyagi Prefecture.

A man just outside of Wakasaya peruses their menu. I just noticed that they served ramen, which is a welcome addition to the other restaurants you can choose from in the area. Personally, I prefer Mr. Ramen, which is just across the Palaza on 4th Street.

In my last Focal Point that featured Little Tokyo, I highlight ZenCu as a great place for Japanese food. The restaurant has more of a modern feel to it, but the food is great! I always find myself here with friends and family, especially to take advantage of the cheap draft beer!

Anime Jungle is a great place to look at tons of anime- and manga-related goods. As I walked in, they were playing “Straight Jet” by Minami Kuribayashi, which is the opening theme to this season’s IS: Infinite Stratos anime series. What a delightful entrance! If you’re an anime/manga fan, this is definitely a stop you need to make. Anime Jungle is located on the first floor of the Plaza shopping center.

Here’s another view of 2nd and San Pedro, but from the other end of the street.

And here’s a Camry begging to be towed.

..I kid, it was actually pared on the other side of the alleyway.

If you decide to turn right instead of a left and into the Plaza, you’ll come across this huge, wide-open space in front of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. In the summertime, I’ve seen events like Nisei Week being held here. When I was there, there was a Middle Eastern-American family and the children running around and playing in the expansive area. If you need to take a break from walking and need some open, fresh air, this is a perfect place.

This concludes Part One of my trip to L.A.! Part Two of this week’s Focal Point will cover my venture into L.A. Live, which features many landmarks such as the Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott, and the surrounding restaurants and lounges.

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