Ford on the Road Neighborhood Guide: Little Tokyo

TAIKOPROJECT Managing Director Bryan Yamami featured on the 16 by 40-foot “Home is Little Tokyo
Bryan Yamami (upper left) on the 16 by 40-foot “Home is Little Tokyo” mural. (Photo by Mario G. Reyes)

In anticipation of TAIKOPROJECT andQuetzals upcoming collaboration concertat the Japanese American National Museum, we sat down with TAIKOPROJECT Managing Director Bryan Yamami to discuss his favorite things to do in Little Tokyo! For Bryan, the area is full of vibrant memories and rich cultural history – he’s even featured playing taiko drums in the “Home is Little Tokyo” mural on 1st Street and Central Ave. Take a look and get your itinerary ready for your next Ford on the Road adventure!

TAIKOPROJECT's two favorite dishes at Kouraku. (Photos courtesy of Yelp)

TAIKOPROJECT’s two favorite dishes at Kouraku. (Photos courtesy of Yelp)

What’s your favorite spot to get dinner?

Kouraku on 2nd Street. When our group heads there, the two most ordered dishes are the tenshin-chahanwith gravy (shrimp omelette on top of pork fried rice – I recommend it with extra ginger) and niku-dango (sweet-and-sour meatballs).

What would you recommend for dessert?

Freshly-made imagawayaki (sweet red bean paste stuffed pancakes) at the Mitsuru Cafe in Japanese Village Plaza is delicious! No trip to Little Tokyo is complete without one (or two)!

The James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC). (Photo courtesy of Yelp)
The James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC). (Photo courtesy of Yelp)

How about your favorite places for late-night fun?

The best place for late-night food is definitely Honda-ya, an izakaya (Japanese tapas/dinner) restaurant on 3rd Street. Nabeyaki udon and their various dinner boxes are always well-done. X-Lanes is the newly-reopened spot across from Honda-ya where you can bowl, play in the arcade, get drinks, or sing karaoke!

Let’s say someone brings a date to the show – what’s the most romantic spot?

The James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) is beautiful – it’s a secret oasis in the middle of Downtown!

The unveiling of the 8-foot-tall, steel tribute to Fujii located at Japanese Village Plaza. (Photo by Irfan Khan/LA Times)
The unveiling of the 8-foot-tall, steel tribute to Fujii. (Photo by Irfan Khan/LA Times)

What’s your favorite piece of public art?

The newest public art piece is an 8-foot tall steel lantern, made in tribute to Japanese American pioneer Sei Fujii and is located on 2nd Street in Japanese Village Plaza. It was just installed a few weeks ago, and was made by a good friend of mine, Miles Endo.

What’s your favorite local business?

U-Space on San Pedro Street is a coffee shop, a music school and a retail ʻukulele store all in one location. What’s not to like!

Quetzal + TAIKOPROJECT in Concert September 18 & 19 at 8:00 p.m. at Tateuchi Democracy Forum, Japanese American National Museum. Tickets are $25.