Down Memory Lane – A Walking Tour of Little Tokyo

As a kid, did you snack on sheets of Nori (dried seaweed), instead of potato chips? I did!

Did you think the warm, sweet center of an Imagawayaki (a pancake-ish pastry filled with sweet red bean paste) was a special treat? I did!

Did you take your shoes off at your Aunt and Uncle’s house because it was impolite to wear them inside? Did you eat dinner sitting on their floor because the table was that low to the ground? Did you master using chop sticks before you were seven? I did!

I’m sure you’re thinking “Hold the phone!! I’ve seen your picture. You are a tall, red-head woman with pretty pale skin and freckles! What the HECK are you talking about?”

Let me explain…

My step-father was a child of Missionaries. He and his siblings grew up in Japan. When he married my mother it was a strong, and sometimes very strange, union of Japanese Culture and good old-fashioned Southern Christian Hospitality.

We often visited Little Tokyo on weekends. It was fun eating Inari and Mochi. When I got older, doing things with my parents wasn’t cool, so I stopped going to Little Tokyo. I haven’t been back in nearly 30 years. Sure, I’ve driven past occasionally but I’ve ever stopped. Last week, I got to wander and taste the memories of my childhood!

Little Tokyo

This was the last of our foodie walking tours. To me, it was one of the very best! We began our tour at Fugetsu-Do Confections.
Fugetsu-Do Bakery
As soon as we walked in, I was transported to 1973. I was the little kid with her nose pressed against the pastry case glass, listening to my Step-dad banter in Japanese while I prayed they’d stop talking long enough to give me a piece of Mochi. This is one of the places I visited as a child. The shop has not changed. Seriously. Not one bit! There are still bright Mochi treats in the pastry case…
Rainbow Mochi
They even had rice candy! I remember promising to sit still and be a very good girl if I could have a box of these little treats. The candies are rolled in edible rice paper so you eat the wrappers too. Ultra cool to a five-year old!
Rice Candy I could have stayed longer in my memory-filled haze, but the tour was moving on!

The next stop was Mitsuru Sushi and Grill.
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This place is awesome! It’s the only place in Los Angeles where you can order Sushi in the front of the restaurant and any kind of classic diner food in the back! It’s crazy! As we sat down in the front portion of the restaurant, our tour guide began giving us lessons in Sushi etiquette. Staring at the tasting plate, so many memories came flooding back! How to pour only enough soy sauce in your saucer so you can still see the pattern at the bottom of the bowl. You should never use more soy sauce than that! Washing your hands carefully before eating is important because then you get to eat with your hands! There was wasabi on the plate which, if you’re wondering, only takes ONE episode of putting the whole blog in your mouth to turn you off from Wasabi forever! Not a fond memory, but a very funny one now! We had pickled ginger to clear your palate. Oh my goodness! So many delicious bites from the past.
Sushi

The next three stops were more “modern” places in Little Tokyo. The food was excellent, but they weren’t tastes that I remember.

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We DID walk past the one place where I remember eating lunch quite often. You know what? It is still there and there is still a line to get in. That should tell you something! 🙂 I am going back very soon for lunch and a long afternoon with more memories.
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One of our dessert stops, was to Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream for a Mochi Latte.
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Similar to Mochi Ice Cream, this is a ball of flavored gelato wrapped in Mochi. It has this soft creamy center and a thin layer of mochi on the outside, and it’s all dusted very lightly with powdered sugar. Wow, is it good!! I can imagine on a hot day, this place is very popular!

I tried the Pistachio, but heard rave reviews about the toasted almond, coconut and mango flavors too!
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Our second to last stop was Misturu Cafe. Another HUGE blast from my past was waiting in the window!
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Stopping in front of the Cafe, you can watch them make Imagawayaki!
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Imagawayaki is very similar to an oversized, stuffed pancake. The outside is a fluffy batter that has a sweet bean paste center. It’s cooked in those copper trays that are shaped in perfect circles… these aren’t the best quality pictures because I was too excited to about tasting one again.
Imagawayaki
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Our last stop was the Chado Tea Room for several comparative tastings and some lessons in the history of Tea…
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One of the neat things about these tours, is they share the history of the area, as well as sharing great food. When you go to Little Tokyo, you will see the sidewalk in front of the older buildings looks like this…
Timeline
Nothing too impressive looking, until you get close up and see the writing on the ground.
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The side-walk is a historical timeline of the buildings and businesses that were at that location through the years. It’s interesting to see how Little Tokyo has evolved and changed in the last 110 years.

So, now you’ve seen and heard a bit of my past and seen some great Japanese food. I hope you take time to explore the different cultural areas in your neighborhoods. Who knows, you could create some great memories for your kids along the way!

Enjoy, my friends! Thank you so much for coming along on this adventure. It was very special to me. XOXO

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2 Comments

  1. Love this post! It’s a great read Sara! What fond memories. Love Japanese food too. We went to Tokyo in December 2009 and had the best ramen and sushi!

    Reply
  2. I loved reading this–thanks for a peek into your childhood memories, and some yummy-looking (from my adulthood in Japan memories) food!

    Reply

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