The area is a mix of historic preservation and contemporary culture. Its wealth in Japanese American history is easily explored among many places, including the Japanese American National Museum, Japanese American Community and Cultural Center, and the Go For Broke Monument.
Art aficionados will love the area's Geffen Contemporary and Doizaki Gallery. Those interested in performing arts will enjoy shows put on by the East West Players and other artists at the David Henry Hwang Theater.
To get to the start of the tour:
Use the Metro Trip Planner
Important Note: Please make sure to always check times and schedules for transportation, destinations and events.
1st/Central DASH bus stop (DASH A and Downtown Discovery)
The community of Little Tokyo is accessible from several points in Downtown Los Angeles. The most convenient source of transportation is to board DASH A during the week, and DASH DD (also known as Downtown Discovery) only running on the weekend. Both of these DASH routes can be accessed at the following Metro stations: Blue Line: Pico Metro station (northwest corner of Flower Street and Pico Boulevard); Red Line: 7th Street/Metro Center/Julian Dixon Metro station (northeast corner of Figueroa Street and Wilshire Boulevard); Red Line: Civic Center/Tom Bradley Metro station (weekday only - southwest corner of First and Hill streets).
Start your tour at the Japanese American National Museum (369 E. First St.; 213/625-0414), the only museum in the country dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history and heritage of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The museum is housed in a new 85,000 square-foot Pavilion designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, who also designed the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. On display: an original barracks from the Heart Mountain relocation camp that housed Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II.
Experience the fascinating world of contemporary art at one of the Museum of Contemporary Art's (MOCA) two downtown facilities. The Geffen Contemporary(152 N. Central Ave.; 213/621-2766) is located north behind the Japanese American National Museum.
North of the Geffen is the Go For Broke Monument, the first of its kind on the mainland USA commemorating the 15,987 Japanese American veterans of World War II who served our country while their families were incarcerated in the internment camps during the war.
Coming back to First Street on the north side of the street, is the Little Tokyo Historic District. Look down on the sidewalk where Little Tokyo's history is engraved in the pavement. As you walk towards San Pedro Street, you will come to the Little Tokyo Koban (307 E. First St.; 213/613-1911), a police substation and information center which houses the Public Safety Association established in 1996.
On the south side of First Street you'll pass Yagura Tower, a replica of a fire lookout tower in old rural Japan. A few steps away is the Koyasan Buddhist Temple (342 E. First St.; 213/624-1267).
Continue walking west on First Street to San Pedro Street and turn right. If you are a theater buff, East West Players (120 N. Judge John Aiso St.; 213/625-7000), the nation's first and foremost Asian American theater, presents live theater written and performed by Asian American artists. The East West Players David Henry Hwang Theater is at the Union Center for the Arts, which was formerly the Japanese Union Church built in 1922. At the beginning of World War II, the church was used as a processing center for Japanese awaiting internment during the war. The building became a National Historic Landmark in 1995.
East West Players shares the building with Visual Communications, the oldest Asian American media arts organization in the world and LA Artcore, a non-profit public benefit corporation established to encourage interaction between professional artists and the public through art educational workshops, community outreach programs and monthly exhibitions.
Walking south on San Pedro Street, before you reach Second Street, on the north side of the Union Bank of California building, you'll find a restful garden oasis and a sculpture entitled Stonerise (1984) by Seiji Kunishima.
At the entrance of Weller Court at the northwest corner of San Pedro and Second streets, you'll see the Friendship Knot by Shinkichi Tajiri. Originally, this piece was located at Tajiri's home in the Netherlands and entitled "Square Knot." It was renamed by the Friends of Little Tokyo Arts to transform the sculpture into a symbol of "unity between two cultures." This piece was presented as a bicentennial gift to the City of Los Angeles on August 5, 1981. Behind the Friendship Knot is Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street, named after the first Japanese American astronaut. Walk down the street and find a model of the Space Shuttle Challenger in which Onizuka launched his second and final space mission.
Walking south on San Pedro Street toward Third Street, in front of Manufacturers Bank (200 S. San Pedro St.), is a statue of Sonotoko (Kinjiro) Ninomiya by Junichiro Hannyo. Ninomiya's ingenuity and sense of community embodied the Issei pioneer spirit.
Continue south on San Pedro Street and you will be at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) (244 S. San Pedro St.; 213/628-2725). The JACCC presents Japanese and Japanese American cultural programs in its multiple facilities, including the 880-seat Japan America Theater, the Doizaki Gallery and the award-winning Irvine Japanese Garden housed in the Center's building. Before stepping inside, enjoy the plaza created by world famous artist Isamu Noguchi. The sculpture on the plaza, designed by Noguchi, is entitled "To the Issei" who were the immigrant founders of the Japanese American community.
While on the plaza, see the plaque of the Azusa Street Mission. This plaque commemorates the site of the international Pentecostal Movement from 1906-1931.
Before leaving the JACCC, turn left towards San Pedro Street to see the Memorial Court honoring those who gave their lives during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Along Third Street, is the Union Church of Los Angeles (401 E. Third St.; 213/629-3876); Jodo Shu Betsuin Buddhist Temple (442 E. Third St.;213/346-9666); Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple (505 E. Third St.; 213/626-4200); and Centenary United Methodist Church (300 S. Central Ave. at 3rd St.;213/617-9097).