Haven´t been to Los Angeles for over a year and with no agenda this time, I spontaneously decided to do a low-key layover and explore the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Tokyo. And I found two exciting and colorful areas just off downtown L.A.
In the end, it is a funny happenstance. Having been deployed exclusively on the Hong Kong and Beijing flights since March this year and finally managing to get a westward A380 rotation to LAX, how could I possibly think of nothing better to do than visiting two major Asian neighborhoods? Well, I really have no answer to that question, but during this stay, this excursion seemed the most natural and spontaneous one apart from relaxing a bit by the pool (with catching a sun burn, of course) and filling up my soap reserves at Bath & Body Works (they had all been empty, so very, very IMPORTANT!!!).
With only altogether three Japantowns in the whole United States, it does not come much of a surprise that all three of them are located in sunny California, does it? But the one in Los Angeles is by far the largest community of them all. Round about 30,000 Japanese Americans live in the area between the Los Angeles River and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on one side, and Union Station and East 3rd Street on the other. Central spot with Japanese supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries and shops is the picturesque little Japanese Village between East 1st and East 2nd Street. It is not too far to walk from downtown L.A., but once you are easily deterred by run-down streets and weird-looking people, I would suggest you take Uber or a taxi to get there. It is great to hang out on a sunny day and if you would like to know more about Japanese immigration to the U.S., the Japanese American National Museum just around the corner provides interesting insights in what life was like back then while the Museum´s shop sells typical Japanese souvenirs.
Completely different from what you might know from big cities such as New York or San Francisco, the Chinese district in the City of Angels does almost remind of a typical artificial Disney like fun world consisting of bright and colorful buildings, little pagodas and red lanterns dancing in the wind above the sidewalks. An almost surreal place for taking outrageous selfies or fun group pictures. Even the light rail station “Chinatown” is designed in the typical Chinese architecture. Main sight is, of course, the Chinatown Central Plaza.The original Chinatown lied actually right where today the city´s main train station Union Station spreads out, but it was demolished in favor of the station´s construction and re-opened at its present location back in 1938. It is still the place to go if you are looking for true and authentic Chinese cuisine or if you simply want to window shop along the roads which are lined with little stands and shops selling cheap plastic stuff. Along the plaza, Tien Hau Temple was also nice visiting. It lies close to the beginning of the area on N Hill Street, close to the official Chinatown Gate.