On Saturday, November 13th, Weller Court became home to Downtown Los Angeles’s first ever Little Tokyo street fair.
With over twenty vendors, the fun, family friendly event was able to draw big crowds. The fair featured a live DJ and local art, crafts, plants, and clothing. Attendees explored Downtown while shopping and enjoy delicious Japanese food inside Weller Court.
The fair is an important gesture of support and gratitude towards the Japanese community in Downtown Los Angeles and a great way to support local businesses. “Little Tokyo is home to our Southern California Japanese American community,” said the event’s organizers, Kenneth Higashi and Bailey Kikuch. “We wanted to bring awareness to the Little Tokyo community and create a fun event for small businesses.”
Weller Court, where the fair happened from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., is on Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street, adjacent to First, Second, Los Angeles, and San Pedro Street. Little Tokyo spans the area of about five city blocks and is bounded by Los Angeles Street on the west, Alameda Street on the east, Third Street on the south, and First Street on the north.
Little Tokyo is one of Los Angeles’ most energetic, multicultural, and historic neighborhoods and was first established in 1885 when Hamanosuke Shigeta opened a Japanese restaurant on First Street. As more “Issei” (first generation) Japanese immigrants came to Los Angeles, more shops and restaurants opened up in the area. Little Tokyo quickly became the first and largest Japanese American community to form in the City of Los Angeles in all of North America.
Today, Little Tokyo is home to a number of popular tourist attractions, such as the National Museum building, which began in 1925 as the first Buddhist Temple constructed by Japanese immigrants. The James Irvine Japanese Garden, the Beaux-Arts Far East Building, and the Far East Cafe are all popular attractions in Little Tokyo.
Street fairs have been wildly popular in Little Tokyo for a long time; the annual Oshogatsu Festival held on January 1st is one of the most popular festivals, boasting large numbers of attendees every year. Nisei Week is another beloved street fair in Little Tokyo that celebrates the culture and history of Japanese Americans in Los Angeles; “nisei” means “second generation” in Japanese. This year, Nisei Week occurred from August 14th to the 22nd alongside a virtual version of the Nisei Week festival, as virtual festivals have become increasingly popular since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Higashi and Kikuch are excited about this Saturday’s street fair and are hopeful about the positive impact the event will have on Little Tokyo and its residents. “This street fair represents a celebration of hard work and dedication,” Higashi and Kikuch told DTLA Weekly. “[We want to] bring together like-minded people pursuing their passions.”