I always enjoy doing a little research in preparation for writing my blog posts because it helps paint a more complete picture of a place than if I was to only write about my personal experiences. Since I tend to do this research at home after the trip is done, I often get a feeling of “oh wow, that happened there?”; it’s really amazing when you pause and think of the ways that immigration, racism, industrialism, and many other factors shaped and transformed a space.
Little Tokyo, located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles is a prime example of this.
From Japan to LA
Little Tokyo, as the name suggests, was a hot spot for Japanese immigrants until the Exclusion Act of 1924, when they were no longer allowed entry into the USA. In World War II, Japanese-Americans who had settled in the area (and in other areas of the states) were incarcerated, forced to leave their homes and jobs, and put into internment camps, though none were ever found to be spies or enemies in general.
The vacant Little Tokyo soon transformed into ”Bronzeville” during with the arrival of many Latinos and African-Americans into the area. It was shortlived, however, as many Japanese people returned to the area in 1945 after the war ended. The area was eventually redeveloped in the 1970s when Japanese corporations expanded overseas and many headquarters were set up in DTLA.
Little Tokyo was named a National Historic Landmark in 1995, has successfully resisted eradication, and now fully exists as a cultural centre and tourist attraction.
We dropped by Little Tokyo without any expectations, and we were greeted with a bustling Friday-afternoon crowd, a plethora of shops selling Japanese products, and bowl full of ramen (which was delicious though I completely forgot to take a picture).
If you find yourself in DTLA with some patience to find parking, and a little bit of time on your hands, I encourage you to drop by Little Tokyo for a slice of Japanese culture!