Some of your favorite things: Cherry blossoms. Bamboo. Kurosawa. Pokemon. Babymetal. Sanrio. Shabu-shabu. Ramen. Mochi. Oh, and Super Mario.
Let’s face it, you’re a confirmed Japanophile, which is why there’s only one place to say “konnichiwa” when you visit L.A: the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown. Built in 1977, the 21-story property is conveniently situated in the heart of Little Tokyo, one of the largest and most historic Japanese American enclaves in North America.
You gaze out of your Doubletree suite, which offers views of the hotel’s tranquil third floor Kyoto Garden - complete with a waterfall and peaceful stream, it’s Zen to the max, and sets the perfect tone for the day.
You smile when you remember that Little Tokyo is the birthplace of your personal sushi gateway drug, the California Roll - invented by chef Ichiro Mashita at the now-closed Tokyo Kaikan restaurant on 1st Street (R.I.P.), which also housed the first tempura bar in the U.S. To you that really means something, and damn the sushi purists.
There’s so much to explore in this five-block Japanese heaven—so you pop downstairs to the street level restaurant, Justice Urban Tavern. At the breakfast buffet you fill up on rice and miso soup (with extra daikon) before hitting the streets.
First, the Weller Court shopping mall (right behind the Doubletree), which boasts a NASA memorial to astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, and the Friendship Knot sculpture. It’s Saturday, when Cosplayers come here to meet for photo shoots, which adds to the ambiance.
You browse Kinokuniya Bookstore, pick up some premium sake at Marukai Supermarket, and Instagram like crazy in the lit walkway, before stopping into wagashi (Japanese sweets) shop Fugetsu-do. Founded in 1903, Fugetsu-do is the oldest operating food establishment in L.A. Try their strawberry mochi, and wash it down with a refreshing iced coffee from Demitasse.
There’s still so much to see, do and taste: Japanese Village Plaza, where you can find Imagawa Yaki pancakes filled with Azuki bean paste; the Japanese American National Museum; and the huge modern art museum, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.
You stop into Zenshuji Soto Mission (the first Soto Zen temple in North America) for a meditative time-out—quite frankly, you’re stressing out, trying to decide what to do this evening. Karaoke at Ohja or Nirvana? Jazz at the Blue Whale? Or do you hop in an Uber and hit up a Dodger game? Or a show at L.A. LIVE, just a few minutes away in Downtown L.A.?
In the end, you head straight back to the Doubletree, and spend a relaxing evening wandering the stone pathways of the Kyoto Garden, a half-acre sanctuary based on a 16th century Tokyo garden built for the samurai lord, Kiyomasa Kato. You observe the koi as they swim, the sun as it sets on the Los Angeles skyline, and the hypnotic, cascading waterfall - you imagine how relaxing a place like this must have been for Kato after a long day in battle. And with that, you retreat to your suite and lay down your head, hopeful for Super Mario dreams.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown
120 S Los Angeles St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012