Taking a trip to Little Tokyo is always a gas. There’s so much going on in food and culture and art and activity: it’s always a joy to visit. For a lot of people, stopping in and walking around this micro-neighborhood is just a little trip through another culture and nothing else beyond that. But, if you look deeper beyond seeing them as little Sanrio shops and hyper-niche restaurants and markets you can find some treasures that you may actually need.
Tokyo Japanese Outlet in Little Tokyo has got to be one of the best little shops in Los Angeles. It’s basically a little retail destination akin to a micro-sized Bed, Bath, And Beyond, straight from Tokyo to Los Angeles–and everything is super cheap. The store comes across as a gift shop, the back wall of Hello Kitty goods making it appear like that is the only reason to stop in. No, my friends: there is so much more beyond pink and red and white frills and toys.
You can grab lifestyle, kitchen, bathroom, grooming, office, and homeware products here. Every time we go in, we have to pick up at least five or six things we never thought we needed until we saw it in its cute packaging at their store. Last we visited, timers shaped like sushi, a mug carved with various fish on it, woody incense sticks, puppy dog shaped chopstick holders, vegetable shavers, and more found their ways into our bags: it doesn’t seem right to *not* buy them up! The place is much like a mainstream, cheaper version of Abbot Kinney’s darling Tortoise General Store. Now, we love us some Tortoise but as Eastside boys with not-a-lot-of-money, we have to turn to TJO sometimes for recessionista priced home items from the East.
TJO is a chain that exists in California, Nevada, and Washington so, really, it isn’t that secretive or that niche. But, the Little Tokyo offshoot is a little secret that can go awash in the neighborhood, forgotten underneath places like Daikokuya and MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary. This is definitely a little place to pop into for things you had no idea you needed and, duh, is fantastic for gifts. While you are there, you must also stop into TJO’s food spirit twin Nijiya Market for a little food shop and Blooming Art for a similar, but more kitschy, shopping fair.