A couple of months ago, I visited Los Angeles for some work stuff, and having never visited the city, I asked fellow JROCK NEWS team member Mazohyst_Kyo (Mazo from here on out), who lived near the area, if there was anything interesting to see. He quickly offered to show me around, wasting no time telling me about Little Tokyo and how it was “underwhelming, and only a few blocks away from Skid Row, the place with all the homeless addicts.” The fact that he decided to tell me all about the negative points and not a single positive thing about the place shows what kind of bad and negative person he is. This statement brought my excitement levels from 100 percent to a poorly dented 98 percent, however. Even if it was underwhelming for the people in L.A. (or maybe just for Mazo), it was still a lot more than I have access to back home, so I could deal with a few homeless people (Spoiler alert: I only ran into one).
The fated day finally came, and I arrived in L.A. at around 12:00 to meet with Mazo, and we immediately set out to look around Little Tokyo with my suitcase still in hand, as my AirBnB check-in wasn’t until 16:00. As a first-timer in L.A., there’s nothing that screams “I’m a tourist here” louder than a person wandering a city with a suitcase in hand. Regretting the fact that I did not have a Cannon camera dangling around my neck to complete my tourist look, we took off to the first place of the day, a small cafe called Mitsuru Cafe, where we ate some commonly portrayed snack in anime: dango. Unfortunately, I did not finish it completely, as it was too chewy and was afraid the bits would stick to my braces, causing them to fall off. To this day, however, Mazo resents me for the fact that I threw away that precious half-eaten dango he bought for me.
After sitting on a bench for a while eating dango, we took off for Jungle, the haven and best place on earth for all anime fans. Jungle was split into several stores, each specializing in specific types of anime merch. We first visited the main Jungle store, which had lots of anime goodies like glasses, backpacks, and manga, of course.
The most important thing to mention in the store was the fact that they sold Jrock CDs in here. We found some Alice Nine and 12012 CDs, and some compilation DVD with music videos on them. I myself bought Dir en Grey’s Uroboros album.
Of course, there was also lots of manga to look at, but sadly, none of it was series that I have read or were interested in, so I didn’t get the chance to throw my money at the cashier for any of these books.
Further down the store, my attention was quickly grabbed by the dakimakuras (body pillows) hanging at the top of a shelf. Mazo was explaining to me things about the store, but I didn’t really pay any attention because I was in awe at the fact that these were sold at stores, as I was under the impression that these type of stuff were only sold online. My mind now imagined some guy proudly and happily taking his giant pillow to the cash register.
Further down the mini-mall, we also stumbled upon Fickle Wish, a cosplay store that carried lolita fashion and cosplay in their wares. The store was very obviously centered towards girl’s fashion, so there were no cool garments for my manly self to buy. One interesting thing to note about this store is that this is the only overseas branch of Fickle Wish, which otherwise has its main branches in Osaka and Tokyo.
Other Jungle stores focused more on cosplay and plushies, leaving me with desires take up cosplaying again after my one experience back in 2008 when I cosplayed Aizen Sosuke from Bleach. Unfortunately, I’m not sharing that photo of myself, as it’s too awesome for the internet. I don’t want to deal with fame, you know.
After going through all the stores, we then we stepped out to the plaza, where a couple of Japanese performers were playing some traditional Japanese music—which might have been enka, but I didn’t pay too much attention to them—on their instruments, wearing yukatas.
People cosplaying were also roaming about here in the plaza, but I was too shy to ask anyone for pictures because my rural behind has never been in this situation before where cosplayers are to your left and right like nobody’s business.
We stepped out of Little Toyko’s plaza and walked for a while towards one of the best places in the history of everything, a bookstore. But not just any bookstore, a Japanese bookstore called Kinokuniya Bookstore, meaning every book in the store was related to Japan somehow. It wasn’t just manga and video game books that were sold here, but also Japanese fashion books, literature, and much, much more. We also found some books from Yamamoto Takato, who has worked with Dir en Grey a few times on some of their album cover artwork, more specifically, on their single Dozing Green.
My personal purchases included the first three volumes of Tokyo Ghoul, some The Legend of Zelda manga, and the light novel version of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name.
Below Kinokuniya Bookstore was Marukai, a market store that had all the Japanese foods, snacks, drinks, and even its little cosmetics sections. Ramen, sake, every food that you’ve seen on anime was here. Obviously, my inner weeb took over and bought all the imaginable snacks I could carry.
Overall, it was one of the best experiences I had while in Los Angeles. Little Tokyo was great, Mazo was great (somewhat, I choose to not remember his face purposely), and it was great to see so many people enjoying things that I otherwise only enjoy by myself back home.
If you’re ever in Los Angeles, never forget to visit Little Tokyo, or else you won’t be able to hang with the cool kids at this rate.