Few cities in the world offer people the opportunity to experience culture like Los Angeles does, and few places in Los Angeles offer people the opportunity to truly soak in all aspects of a culture the way Los Angeles' Little Tokyo does. Little Tokyo is located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Its boundaries include Los Angeles Street and Alameda Street on the east and west, while 3rd Street and 1st Street make up the southern and northern borders respectively. Los Angeles' Little Tokyo is only one of three officially recognized Japanese "towns" in the United States, with the other two being located in San Jose and San Francisco in northern California.
Despite being the smallest of the three, Los Angeles' Little Tokyo still represents the cultural center of the city for Japanese and Japanese American residents and visitors, as well as for visitors in general. Declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1995, Little Tokyo in Los Angeles is the home for everything Japanese, from food and groceries, to clothing and gifts.
Very few Japanese and Japanese Americans actually live in the Little Tokyo district, which has become more a place to shop, eat, and work, than a place to live. Still, the area is highlighted by a variety of shops, eateries, cultural centers, and museums, and remains popular with the city's Japanese community. The Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, the Geffen Contemporary Museum, and the East West Players theater are all located within the boundaries of Little Tokyo. Every August, Little Tokyo also serves as the location for the Nisei Week festival and parade.
Aside from its cultural offerings, Little Tokyo is also renowned for its traditional eateries and restaurants, many of which are famous for a specific type of Japanese cuisine. Traditional Japanese bowls or stews known as donburi, Japanese soba and udon noodles, as well as curry and sushi can all be found in several Little Tokyo Restaurants. One of the more popular restaurants in Little Tokyo is the Shabu Shabu House, which is believed to be the city's first such restaurant. This traditional family style way of eating has become popular with both Japanese and non-Japanese residents of the city, who will often wait up to two hours for the opportunity to dip and cook their vegetables and thin slices of beef in a bowl of boiling water.
Several public sculptures can be found dotting the Little Tokyo district, including one that pays tribute to the Challenger Space Shuttle astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka, a Japanese American. Little Tokyo also features two of the oldest food-based shops in all of Los Angeles. A shop that goes by the name of Fugetsu-do, founded in 1903, is possibly the oldest restaurant still operating in Los Angeles - and claims to be the birthplace of the fortune cookie. Mikawaya, founded in 1910, is a Japanese sweet shop where mochi ice cream was first introduced to the United States.
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