Little Tokyo

Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the Little Tokyo Historic District is the cultural and historical center of the biggest Japanese-American community in North America. There are just three recognized Japantowns in the United States, and they’re all located in California. Lil’ Tokyo, J-Town, as it is colloquially known, was founded in the early twentieth century and has since become the cultural epicenter of Southern California’s Japanese American community. In 1995, it was given the status of a National Historic Landmark District.

Approximately 30,000 Japanese Americans called Little Tokyo home at its height. The Japanese American community in Los Angeles, California continues to gather at Little Tokyo as their community’s cultural center. Japanese Americans today are more likely to live in Torrance, Gardena, Monterey Park, and the Sawtelle neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles making Little Tokyo mostly a place of employment, culture, religion, and dining and shopping. However, Little Tokyo is evolving as a result of the current surge in downtown residential buildings.

The remnants of the original Little Tokyo can be found in about five huge city blocks. In addition to the block north of First and west of Alameda, where the Japanese American National Museum, the Go For Broke Monument, and a row of historic shops line the north side of First Street, the area is bounded on the west by Los Angeles Street, on the east by Alameda Street, on the south by Third Street, and on the north by First Street. In the sidewalk in front of these stores, bronze lettering traces the establishments’ histories from the turn of the twentieth century to the revitalization of the area in the late 1980s. Greater Los Angeles City Hall and the Parker Center to the north, the Los Angeles River to the east, and downtown Los Angeles to the west define Little Tokyo’s boundaries.

The Japanese American National Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art’s extension, once known as the Temporary Contemporary and now as the Geffen Contemporary, are both museums worth checking out. In addition, LAArtcore is a non-profit arts organization that hosts 24 exhibitions year and produces educational programming in order to promote the visual arts and increase public awareness of them. Gallery 123 Astronaut is located at a kiosk on Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Street, and it features a memorial to Ellison S. Onizuka, a Japanese American from Hawaii who was a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded in mid-flight in 1986.

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