Last night, I hung out with the Redondo Beach Japanese Language Exchange Group, which meets up every Monday at the Catalina Coffee Company located near the pier of Redondo Beach. As many 25-30 people were in attendance, a mixture of Japanese individuals working in South Bay / Torrance looking to practice English, and Americans looking to practice their Japanese. If you’re interested in joining this group, you can check out more information about here at their Meetup.com website: http://www.meetup.com/nihonLA/events/dxdgmcyrfbgb/.
The Japanese Student Organizations at USC, UCLA, and Santa Monica College also seem to be busy with activity for their members; as of this past weekend, the Japanese Student Association (JSA) at USC held their annual ‘Red & White’ themed Valentine’s Day party for members of their organization. More than 780 people were on the invitation list. This weekend UCLA will be hosting a party called ‘Sweetship’ (https://www.facebook.com/events/240166429451442/), in honor of ‘White Day’, (Wiki). In Japan, women give men ‘chocolate’ as a way of confessing their love or interest on Valentine’s Day. On White Day, men give women ‘white chocolate’ as a way of returning the favor. Entry to the party is $15 girls, $20 guys.
Finally, Santa Monica College (SMC)’s Japanese English Language Association (JELA) (http://www.smcjela.com/) just finished their annual staff elections, and are gearing up to have activity of their own — JELA meets every Tuesday from 11:15am to 12:30pm at HSS 106 at SMC.
If you’re not a student, and maybe a little too ‘old’ to go partying; and perhaps want something more outdoors, every month on the first Sunday, a group called Los Angeles Broadcast (LA JOHO), gets together to have a barbecue at the Ryan Community Park in Rancho Palos Verdes (losangelesjoho.com). While the scene is more ‘native speaker’, don’t be intimidated, the people are pretty friendly and you can definitely get by on survival Japanese / English. It’s also probably a good idea to bring something, like a pack of beer or some food so that you can contribute to the BBQ; you’ll be much more of a hit and probably make some cool new friends. I love going to this event because it’s a very good way for me to make some serious conversation.
Hungry? Looking for places to eat at late night — kinda like you would in Tokyo? I suggest visiting Sawtelle Blvd, cross street Olympic Blvd (think close to Beverly Hills). Some people refer to this place as ‘Little Osaka’, but I don’t really feel an ‘Osaka’ vibe here– it’s more like a little ‘Tokyo’. Even though we already have a Little Tokyo officially in the Alameda part of Los Angeles on 1st & 2nd streets, I think Sawtelle Blvd is like Little Tokyo Part II. Maybe the ‘cooler part’, as there seem to be more authentic places to eat, for one — you can get Okonomiyaki and some really good beer here. There’s also Shabu Shabu, a Beard Papa, several amazing ramen places, a Curry House, and of course a Karaoke bar. Additionally, there’s a Nijiya market that’s open pretty late, so if you have cravings for melon pan or want to stock up on Otafuku sauce, there’s always sales going on. In fact I just made friends with an official rep from Otafuku Sauce and he informed me of a sale this weekend. Let him know you heard it first off Ganbare, I heard him say something about free bottles..
As much as one would think, it would seem the city of Torrance should be the main hot-bed for all things Japanese. And in some cases, that’s mainly right– but I feel Torrance is really a sleeper town. If you’re spoiled like me and like to be able to hang out way past 3am in places like K-Town, you’ll be pretty disappointed with Torrance. Even though they have some good Japanese food places like Mitsuwa market, places tend to close early, as early as around 9pm! Additionally, many of the restaurants are closed on Mondays! Hanging out with the South Bay Japanese group last night, we were certainly suprised to find out that a really fun Okonomiyaki place, Gaja (http://www.yelp.com/biz/gaja-japanese-restaurant-lomita), was closed — so we instead bounced over to a late night Ramen place called Umenoya (http://www.yelp.com/biz/umenoya-torrance)’, off Lomita and Crenshaw.
Umenoya was pretty chill, they have a $10 credit card minimum, and as far as the ramen, we could add all kinds of sides like extra pork and red ginger, which was cool. My only complaint would be I wish the ramen had more levels of spicy, but I guess that’s just because I’m Indian, and spice is just in my blood. (*Forgive Vijay’s offbeat humor*). But hey, the place is open til 3AM! How’s that for a sleeper town like Torrance?
I plan to keep researching and checking out things happening in Los Angeles in participation with the Japanese communities here; and of course I’ll do my best to report more often here. Perhaps a video would be more interesting next time? Something tells me you might just get what you wish for *hint of things to come*.. .
Also if you know of any cool places or events I should check out, be sure to comment or send in your emails (firstname.lastname@example.org).
またね (until next time),