I had never really explored the eastern section of the downtown area until a day of exploratory walking with a friend, found me in this place. Tucked behind a city block of buildings in the Little Tokyo Arts District area of downtown is the Japanese Village Plaza, a collection of shops and restaurants in a mini-maze of two-level interconnected buildings. Each shop is unique in its offerings.
Walking east on 1st Street, crossing San Pedro Street, a big bright red tower beckons you to continue on and have a look. A small inlet for pedestrians brings you into the plaza and away from the chaos of the city. My first trip here was on a weekday, and it was a welcome experience–a break from the noise, traffic and typical downtown chaos.
At the center of the shops is a courtyard with an outdoor stage area. Frequently, live music is performed here. On weekends, its karaoke. It appears that there are semi-regular patrons for these karaoke nights, as I’ve come to see some of the same people performing on various trips here. Friday nights seem to be a night of showcasing for the regular attendees as the observing crowd gets quite big, and the karaoke talent seems to increase as well.
My first visit here brought me to Café Dulce, a nice place to grab a drink and a pastry. They offer quite a variety–fresh and delicious. A highly recommended stop if you’re just passing through or to wrap-up the night.
Sushi Teri I’ve been to a couple of times. Here they serve a variety of sushi, beers, and sake. I particularly enjoy it here when you can get an outdoor seat and immerse yourself in the atmosphere.
Across from Sushi Teri is Mitsuru Café where they make fresh pastries and on-the-go ethnic foods and desserts. The indoor seating is limited, but it’s really just a place to stop and pick up a treat and take it with you. There’s a large window for those curious folk to stop and take a look at the creations being made here.
Almost all of the eateries offer outdoor seating, so you can really immerse yourself in the experience. It’s a really nice place to be as the sun sets behind the downtown skyline, the lights of the plaza begin to glow, and people stop to socialize with one another. It’s not uncommon to strike up a conversation or make small-talk with other patrons or staff at the various businesses.
At the end of the mini-maze is a revolving sushi bar which appears quite popular. I haven’t been to eat here yet, but every time I have passed by, the line is long and the wait-time is usually at least 30 minutes.
If you live in the downtown area, or plan to visit, I highly recommend visiting by transit, as most of my friends who live in the area do. It’s only a block from a Metro Gold Line station and beats having to drive around looking for parking which can either be a total pain, next-to-impossible, or expensive.
Overall, it’s a nice little place that I’ve come to frequent often since I’ve found out about it. I would recommend coming in the early evening for the best experience or if you happen to work downtown, walk a few blocks and get your afternoon lunchtime escape from LA.