The Asian American Small Business Shopping Guide

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Date Guide: Little Tokyo Edition

Add these iconic Little Tokyo spots to your date-rotation. Bonus points if you hit them all in one go!

When first getting to know someone (be it romantic or platonic), it's helpful to find a space that is both conducive to conversation and making fun memories. I recently took my partner on a date to Little Tokyo and realized that there are a number of spots perfect to add to any date itinerary. The following are a number of my favorites as well as some conversation starters and justifications for why they make sense!

To plug some ongoing ideas, the folks at Go Little Tokyo always post updates on new food or event specials happening in the neighborhood. Check them out on their Instagram!

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Fugetsu-Do

315 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

No Little Tokyo date is complete without a visit to the iconic mochi confectionary, Fugetsu-Do. Pick out a selection of mochi to try (and wow your date with your knowledge of all the different types 😉). Be sure to try a mix of traditional types of wagashi like uguisu or kiku, and newer flavors like Korey's mochi (chocolate) or blueberry!

Conversation Starters:

  • “Did you know that Fugetsu-Do is the oldest Japanese-American owned business in the US? Where were some of your favorite places to go growing up?”
  • “Traditionally, mochi is eaten in ozoni (mochi soup) every Japanese New Year. Does your family have any fun holiday traditions?”

Click Here for More Info

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Mitsuru Cafe

117 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Family-owned and operated for decades, Mitusuru specializes in imagawayakis, delicious anko (red bean) filled pancakes. If you’re feeling snack-ish, pick up some karaage or fried shumai on a stick as well!

What makes it a great date spot? Mitusuru makes great eat-on-the-go food options, perfect for taking with you on your wonderful Little Tokyo expedition.

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Tea Master

450 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

For all my matcha-lovers out there, take a break from the (presumably warm-SoCal-afternoon) sun and grab an ice cold sencha green tea or matcha smoothie (heads up: the matcha smoothie at Tea Master is the real-deal and has a deep, earthy flavor, quite distinct from the matcha lattes you’d find at Starbucks or other coffee shops). The Little Tokyo Honda Plaza currently offers a great al fresco dining space equipped with shaded picnic tables.

Conversation Starter:

  • “What’s your go-to drink order” (TIP: jot this down on a notes app in your phone and surprise them with their favorite drink at the next date!

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Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Perfect as a thought-provoking and conversation-rich date destination, the Japanese American National Museum captures the Japanese American experience and culture through a standing gallery and rotating special exhibitions. Follow them on social media to keep an eye out for Free Admission days!

Conversation Starter:

  • “What brought your family to ____?”
  • “Share more about your family's story.”
  • “JANM is committed to preserving the history and culture of Japanese Americans. Does your family have any traditions that they pass down?”

Click Here for More Info

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Okayama Kobo Bakery & Cafe DTLA

328 E 1st St Los Angeles, CA 90012

One of my personal favorites, Okayama Kobo Bakery opened up in the last year in the lobby of the Miyako Hotel and has some of the softest, most satisfying baked goods. Tucked away from the busy hustle bustle of First Street and the Japanese Village Plaza, this spot is perfect for those sometimes-awkward first-date introductions!

I seriously can’t stop thinking about the bread from Okayama … SO FLUFFY. Some of my favorites include:

  • Oyaki Mentai Caviar – think of a perfectly warm round disc of goodness, packed with salty cod roe and sprinkled with nori!
  • Red Bean Salt & Butter Roll - the satisfaction of holding and subsequently biting into this roll will get any date off to a good start
  • Japanini – I personally haven’t tried this before … mainly because the times I’ve been they’re alway sold out! 😤 Okayama must be doing something right with this one….

Click Here for More Info

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Marugame Monzo

329 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Looking for a unique take on a classic? Not feeling the go-to favorites like Daikokuya or Shin-Sen-Gumi? If so, Marugame Monzo is one of my top restaurants in LA, period. Specializing in udon dishes ranging from miso carbonara udon to duck nanban udon, this place is sure to have something for any palette.

Rapid fire question round! Some of my favorites:

  • What has always been your dream job?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • What’s your Myers-Briggs type?
  • Do you believe in astrology?

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Bunkado

340 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Bunkado recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and is a one-of-a-kind gifts and home goods store. Translated to “house of culture,” Bunkado is a great stop along your date route that can add a bit of fun flair and an opportunity for you both to pick up a souvenir to remember your fantastic time together by.

Everyone loves a little window shopping, and you won’t run out of nifty goods or interesting reads to mutually admire. Don’t forget to check out the second floor to be taken back in time and explore Bunkado’s collection of enka retro Japanese records!

Conversation Starters:

  • “What’s the greatest gift you’ve received and why?”
  • BONUS: If your love language is gift giving: “If your love language is gift giving, I will glady provide.”

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CRFT by Maki

340 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

No blossoming romance story is complete without complementary matching outfits. Stop by this Little Tokyo-homegrown clothing shop run by the amazing Darin Maki. There’s always something new to check out and while you’re there, learn some more about the First Street small business community and how CRFT by Maki has supported its neighbors.

Conversation Starters:

  • Any cringe-worthy style trends you succumbed to when you were younger?
  • What's your favorite season of the year and why?
  • Socks and sandals -- fashion no-no or functional trend that's here to last?

Click Here for More Info

Special shoutout to my dear friend, Kaitlyn Chu for her help in curating this guide!

Article featured in this issue:
February 2022
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