Reunion! Jerome and Sharon, Chinatown and Little Tokyo

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Right after Japan Fair 2011, I took a trip up to Los Angeles to spend the rest of the day with some more friends that I haven’t seen in a very long time! Moon Festival was fast approaching, and the outdoor festivities in Chinatown were in high gear as usual that weekend. Between Chinatown and our later trip to Little Tokyo, we’d walked a few hearty miles, saw some interesting things, and ate lots of food. Check out the photos and some thoughts about our adventures after the jump.

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Perhaps I’ll start backwards through the day rather than the usual day-start/day-end format. Here’s the crew of friends that gathered by nightfall towards the end of our walk through Chinatown! From left to right is me, Tran, Richard, Carrie, Jerome, Sharon, and Tony. Jerome, Sharon, Richard, and Carrie came from out of town to visit sunny Southern California for the weekend. It was great meeting them! I found it amusing that we talked a lot about food when we finally got a chance to sit down at the dinner table in the restaurant to the right of the photo. We all had a blast.

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Jerome and Sharon are a fantastic couple I met on the second day of this past year’s Anime Expo at the L.A. Convention Center. It seems like only yesterday that we first ran into each other and talked of many things, including how awesome Katanagatari is and why Jerome and I think we’re cousins no matter what anyone else says. Tran has also been to AX (and for longer than I’ve gone), so we all met with a common interest in anime/manga to various degrees. Coming together to enjoy a day/night on the town is always a rewarding experience for people you haven’t seen in a while. I’ll have to take up Jerome and Sharon’s offer to head out to Arizona one day and spend some time with them! Maybe we can sneak in one more of their visits with a Disneyland/California Adventure trip before I head their way. =)

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What do we all like to do when we gather for some fun in town? Eat, of course! Master Chef, the restaurant we decided to try that evening, featured American-Chinese dishes but cooked with more of a traditional Chinese flair. I think Tran explained it best and is probably why I just butchered my description of how the food was actually prepared, but you have to take my word for it. The shrimp, sweet-and-sour, and seafood plates really had some fantastic flavors.

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We chose to share our food ‘family-style’, which wound up saving us a lot of money per person for the amount of food prepared. Just be sure to carry some cash so that splitting the check is easier at the end of the meal.

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And here’s our dessert: tapioca! There’s nothing like having sweets right after some salty (but still delicious) food.

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Here’s a curious little menu item: Stir-Fried Shrimp with XO Sauce. Does that mean if I order the dish, I get some hugs and kisses to go along with it? O_o

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If sit-down restaurants aren’t your thing, Chinatown also boasts an entire row of food trucks. They’re a bit light on drinks since we were trying to find something sweet to consume before sitting down to eat, but our luck was against us. Probably the most amusing thing about this part of our trip was passing by the Flying Pig truck and faintly hearing an acoustic version of Just Be Friends by Dixie Flatline (and originally sung by Megurine Luka). Funny how Tran and I were trying to figure out the song as if we were looking for the scent of food; yet instead, we were looking for sound waves instead!

Dixie Flatline/Megurine Luka – Just Be Friends (Acoustic ver.)

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Want to check out something different than food trucks and sit-down restaurants? Chinatown still has you covered! We stumbled upon an outdoor cooking show that was in the process of getting started. The pans the demonstrator was using weren’t even coated with oil yet!

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Full after a meal, or burning some time before meeting with other friends to eat like we did? Go check out the main stage where martial arts and cultural dragons run rampant! It was nice to see the festival take on a multi-cultural feel with many of the stage performers being of non-Chinese descent and sharing them with their Chinese and Chinese-American counterparts.

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More restaurants and booths were scattered around the festive-parts of Chinatown, such as this t-shirt vendor. I was wondering how the idea of my last Hanasaku Iroha post title came about, only to realize that it was probably thanks to the orange shirt design shown here.

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Chidren, both big and small, also have something exciting to check out in Chinatown! Sharon seems to be a big kid at heart and can fit into this mechanical robot. I tried to do the same thing shortly after, but failed miserably.

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Not yet satisfied for the night, we decided to head over to Little Tokyo just a few miles west of Chinatown to do what we all like to do best towards the end of the night:

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Karaoke! At first, we went to Oiwake, but we realized that they only had one karaoke machine, and that was on a big stage in front of the entire main dining hall. So we drove a half a mile or so away from Japanese Village Plaza to Max Karaoke Studio in the Little Tokyo Shopping Center for some mixed English/Japanese tunes. In comparison to Elvis!? karaoke studio in Fountain Valley, I’d say Max Karaoke’s anime song selection isn’t as comprehensive and updated. Still, there are enough songs to go around, and we even wound up spending an extra hour just to fit in more singing time!

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Looking at this photo makes me think of different ways it can be interpreted if those were something other than karaoke books. If they were college textbooks, it would be a big study group. If they were research materials for a work project, we’d probably be doing very well in achieving our goal. If they were yellow pages, it’d look as though we’re frantically looking for a service to take advantage of. But mostly, it reminds me of the college days. Ah, those excellent paperweights. If only everything was just PDF and tablet-based nowadays.

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We also ran into a gallery that was open late to showcase some Star Wars themed art! This Kidrobot sculpture of Yoda by Denise Vasquez and the above interpretation of Princess Leia were two of my favorites of the entire show!

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This is imagawayaki, made from a pancake-type batter and filled with sweet red bean paste. We couldn’t resist dropping by the local shops before karaoke to grab some and fill that second stomach with desserts! It sure is hard to resist them when they’re all lined up at the window and waiting to be purchased by hungry travelers like us.

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I find the idea that the planning for this little reunion of ours mostly came about by way of social media and simple text messages. I don’t think it was until we all met at Chinatown that we initiated any phone call of sorts. Ah, the power of technology bringing people together! And if it wasn’t for this year’s Anime Expo, I’m not sure I’d have ever had the privilege to get to know these two great people! Until next time, Jerome and Sharon; you have to come back for the Disney theme parks soon!

Moon Festival celebrations should actually be extending into this weekend in Chinatown, so street traffic might be looking to increase. If you plan on visiting Chinatown and can afford a Metrolink ticket, $10 for the weekend for unlimited line-to-line train rides can’t ever be a bad thing, especially when the goldline connects Chinatown to Little Tokyo. And as always, be safe and have fun traveling around L.A.; bring a camera for the memories!

Complete Photo Set via Flickr: Here

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