Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 4) - Little Tokyo

January 25, 2016 (continued): The next place I checked out was mainly the Japanese Village Plaza area in Little Tokyo. Making my way from the Go For Broke Monument, I passed by some interesting art along the way.

On the side of one of the buildings in the Japanese American National Museum is a mural entitled, Moon Beholders by Katie Yamasaki.

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Further down the street beside the other building of the museum is the OOMO Cube, a giant rubix-like cube with different facial features from all different backgrounds and ethnicities you can mix and match to show that we are more similar than different. I added my mean “frowning in the sunlight” mug to the equation on one of the mirrored sides of the sculpture.

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I then ventured towards the Japanese Village Plaza. Out in front is a replica of a Japanese fire lookout called the Yagura Fire Tower. It was actually designed by a Korean-American architect David Hyun in 1978.

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Inside the plaza is small but has a mix of Japanese themed shops specializing in nik naks, toys, clothes and beauty. There are also a few restaurants, sweets and bakery shops and a Japanese market.

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In the courtyard are traditional, Japanese wishing trees where people write their wishes on small pieces of paper and tie them to the bamboo tree. In normal tradition the tree is later thrown into the river or brought to a shrine and set fire to in order for the wish to come true. I just thought it was a lovely scene in being able to visually see people's hopes and dreams in colorful, physical form.

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It was starting to get late, and I was getting hungry so I went to try a nearby ramen restaurant Shin-Sen-Gumi which in Little Tokyo is located across the street from the Japanese Village Plaza. At this location there is usually a line of patrons waiting to get in, pretty much any time of day but it usually moves fairly quickly. They sell only one type of base broth and then you choose from a variety of toppings including a miso butter bomb, to tomato paste and mozzarella(!!). I got one of the suggested combinations of kimchi, garlic chips and a poached egg. It was delicious, the noodles were nicely aldente, the toppings added a nice texture and flavor variation that helped cut the richness of the broth.

It was also surreal to see non-Japanese chefs cooking the ramen who conversing in perfect Japanese. At the same time it made me ashamed in my own lack of fluency.

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I finished off the night with dessert at the Mikawaya store back in the plaza, where they have a variety of different flavored Japanese mochi ice cream. Here is the cookies and cream version. 美味しかった! (It was delicious!).

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Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 3) - Go For Broke Monument

January 25, 2016 (continued): One of my must visit places I had to see for very personal reasons when I came to LA, was the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo.

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My paternal grandfather, Takao Matsuoka was a second generation Japanese American living in Hawaii, and on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Americans distrust of anyone with Japanese ethnicity grew exponentially. Even though the second generation Japanese Americans were citizens by birthright, during this time many questioned their loyalty and allegiances.

My grandfather, Takao Matsuoka (right), with his father (left).

My grandfather, Takao Matsuoka (right), with his father (left).

Over 30,000 Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military during World War 2, despite having family still in internment camps, despite the American anti-Japanese propaganda, and from personal anecdotes from my grandfather - being called racial slurs by fellow servicemen while fighting alongside each other.

My grandfather was part of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated in U.S. history to this day for their size and length of service. To honor those Japanese Americans who served, and recognize their loyalty despite the prejudices they faced, a monument was erected with the unit’s motto “Go For Broke” as its name. “Go For Broke” is Hawaiian pidgin English used when describing going all in on something and giving it everything you’ve got.

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Inscribed on the front is the quotation from a 100th Infantry veteran:

“Rising to the defense of their country, by the thousands they came – these young Japanese American soldiers from Hawaii, the states, America's concentration camps – to fight in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. Looked upon with suspicion, set apart and deprived of their constitutional rights, they nevertheless remained steadfast and served with indomitable spirit and uncommon valor, for theirs was a fight to prove loyalty. This legacy will serve as a sobering reminder that never again shall any group be denied liberty and the rights of citizenship”. – Ben H. Tamashiro

Below are more quotes from others recognizing the history these Japanese Americans achieved:

"You not only fought the enemy . . . you fought prejudice and won." – President Harry S. Truman as he welcomed the 100/442 RCT home

"Never in military history did an army know as much about the enemy prior to actual engagement" – General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Pacific Theater, referring to the MIS

"My fellow Americans, we gather here today to right a grave wrong . . . now let me sign H.R. 442." – President Ronald Reagan, Civil Liberties Act of 1988

"The Nisei saved countless lives and shortened the war by two years" – Charles A. Willoughby, General MacArthur's Intelligence Officer, referring to the MIS

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On the back of the monument, inscribed are the names of 16,126 Nisei soldiers that served. One of them being my grandfathers’.

It was incredibly moving being there, seeing his name on this monument. Not only because he was part of a significant point in history but also thinking of the difficulties and hardships many faced at that time while just soldiering on through because there was no other choice.

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I’m a proud granddaughter, but this is not the only reason why I would highly recommend visiting this monument and the museum next door where you can learn more about this part of history. I think it’s more relevant than ever as this cycle seems to be repeating itself again in current day, just with different players. We can all take into account how our own attitudes can affect others, even on a day to day basis.

Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 2) - DTLA and The Last Bookstore

January 25, 2016 (continued): The next place I wanted to check out was The Last Bookstore which was in walking distance from Grand Central Market.

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On my way there, I spotted another cool electrical box with the Egyptian God Anubis, painted in a way that reminds me of Sanna Annukka’s scandinavian style animals.

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I passed through the Historic Core of DTLA with many beautiful buildings having an architectural style dating back to the early 1900s.

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Upon entering the store, I could see why this was a highly recommended place to visit as it was part art installation/gallery, part bookstore. There were sculptural pieces made of books everywhere in the main room, including the checkout bar station.

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When coming from the front the room to the left is the art/design books section, so of course it had to be filled with little bits of artistic expression. On the walls were these beautiful, largely detailed pencil(?) drawing murals. The back of the room had a large gallery of paintings in different styles, from thrift store chic to modern, contemporary works.

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Even the stairway area had little bits of art thrown in, albeit a bit creepy, even more so when I was editing this image and noticed reflected in the security mirror, that there was a person standing in the stairwell.

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Hanging above the stairs was a gothic-esque sculpture.

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Further up was an art installation reminiscent of something out of Harry Potter, where the books come alive appear to be “flying” out of the bookcase.

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Part of the upstairs has a few mini shops selling cool vintage trinkets, to paintings, to stationery bits and bobs.

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Once you reach the end of the loop of mini shops, there is an entrance to the upstairs part of the bookstore. Here, are even more sculptural book wonders, from little windows, to a lit up cave.

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Also sprinkled throughout are more artsy influenced installations including 3D murals, color categorized bookshelves and various vintage sculptures.

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Their inventory of books is a mixture of new, and secondhand with a few hard to find thrown in. I would recommend visiting whether you’re a bibliophile or quirky art connoisseur!

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On the way back to my car, I spotted a few more representations of DTLA’s eclectic mix of artistic inspiration like this pretty black and white building.

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To the *ahem* creepy.

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To the amusing.

Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 1) - Eggslut, Grand Central Market, and the Bradbury Building

January 25, 2016 (continued): Day 3 of my trip in LA, consisted of tackling the Downtown area. For breakfast, I definitely wanted to try the much lauded, Eggslut - I’d seen it mentioned by a couple YouTubers and the food looked delicious. Their first and only location at the time was in Grand Central Market, a hub of many different food vendors that you could eat cuisines from around the world and never have left that place.

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Since this was their only location at the time, and as many hyped places tend to have, the line stretched around the block. Usually I just skip it if there’s a line, because most of the time the line wait vs the food in the end is almost never worth it. But I was determined and the line moved fairly quickly so it wasn’t too bad. The menu is pretty simple with only a few selections, so I ordered the Fairfax Sandwich (soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, sriracha mayo, in a brioche bun), it’s namesake the Slut (coddled egg on top of a puree poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt, chives and served with a baguette), and fresh orange juice.

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Now living in LA I have tried a few of Eggslut’s different items and I feel like most are just ok, tend to be quite rich, and the seasoning is hit or miss, except for the Slut. That is almost worth waiting in line for on its own to me, as when you receive the Slut, you quickly stir the coddled egg into the potato puree and then dip your baguette in. The warm, creaminess of the mixture coats your mouth in deliciousness and the crunch of the bread adds a nice, needed counterbalance to the smooth texture.

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After my big breakfast, I needed some java to get me going for the rest of the day. I stopped by G&B Coffee, still in Grand Central Market and ordered a Mocha and what I thought was a sweet potato pie, but it turns out it was a coffee flavor, so I was double fisting it on to my next locale. While stopping to figure out how to carry all my equipment and 2 coffees, I had a direct view of the famous Angels Flight, which was featured in the movie La La Land.

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While researching the area, I saw that the Bradbury building was nearby and a neat place to visit if you’re into interiors/architecture. It is still a functioning office building, so you’re only able to go in the lobby area unless you have an appointment. Originally built in 1893, it has been featured in several films including Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer.

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When you walk in, you immediately are transported back in time with all the architectural details of the past. The entire ceiling is a glass skylight, to let the natural light shine through.

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The gorgeous, ornate ironwork staircases are divine, I mean I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to stairs, so you know I’m a little obsessed with these.

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To top it off they still have a set of working birdcage elevators. I would definitely recommend stopping by if you’re in the area.

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