Little Tokyo, also known as Little Tokyo Historic District, is an ethnic Japanese American district in downtown Los Angeles and one of only three official Japantowns in the United States, all three of which are in California. (The other two are in San Francisco and San Jose.) Founded around the beginning of the 20th century, the area, is the cultural center for Japanese Americans in Southern California. It was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1995.
At its peak, Little Tokyo had approximately 30,000 Japanese Americans living in the area. Little Tokyo is still a cultural focal point for Los Angeles’s Japanese American population. It is mainly a work, cultural, religious, restaurant and shopping district because Japanese Americans today are likely to live in nearby cities such as Torrance, Gardena, and Monterey Park. However, the recent boom in downtown residential construction is changing the nature of Little Tokyo.
What is left of the original Little Tokyo can be found in roughly five large city blocks. It is bounded on the west by Los Angeles Street, on the east by Alameda Street, on the south by 3rd Street, and on the north by First Street, but also includes a substantial portion of the block north of First and west of Alameda, location of the Japanese American National Museum, the Go For Broke Monument, and a row of historic shops which lines the north side of First Street. A timeline has been set into the concrete in front of these shops, using bronze lettering, showing the history of each of the shops from the early 20th Century until the renovation of the district in the late 1980s. More broadly, Little Tokyo is bordered by the Los Angeles River to the east, downtown Los Angeles to the west, L.A. City Hall and the Parker Center to the north, and the newly named Arts District (made up of warehouses converted into live-work lofts) to the south.
The community is served by the Metro Gold Line at Little Tokyo/Arts District station at the northeastern perimeter of Little Tokyo and is also walkable from the Metro Red and Purple subway lines at either Civic Center station or Union Station – with connections to Amtrak, Metrolink, Metro Silver Line BRT, and Foothill Transit’s Silver Streak BRT services.