Monthly Archives: December 2015

Dec 07

Little Tokyo Karaoke

By Mitchell Blatt | Culture , Drinking , Travel

The line outside Daikokuya snakes past three storefronts on a Sunday night in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. The wait was an hour. We didn’t have time to wait that long; I had to sing karaoke.

Instead we went to the ramen shop next door, Manichi, which opened in January, the first branch of the famous Japanese ramen restaurant to open in the mainland U.S. The menu brags that it once won an award for its gyoza. According to the L.A. Times, Manichi started in Japan in 1953 as a gyoza cart.

The one in Los Angeles is certainly worthy of its supposedly famous lineage. The gyoza were nice and crispy. The ramen was delicious. The egg yolk was cooked right, floating into the mouth as I ate it. It also has fried chicken and rice bowls. Maybe Manichi deserves to have some of the line Daikokuya does. The whole street (E 1st St just east of S San Pedro St) is lined with ramen and sushi bars.

Across the street, there is the Japanese Village Plaza Mall, and this is where the karaoke comes. More restaurants and souvenir shops with kitschy Asian designs (at the crappy stores) or Japanese-imported cute cats and foods line a walking street. Around the vicinity, there are also a number of famous Japanese-flavored fashion shops like Popkiller.

On the second floor, on the inside part of the mall, is the karaoke bar Tokyo Beats. At 8:30, it was packed, as happy hour (6-9) was soon to conclude, and people were taking advantage of half priced drinks. Ordering a hot sake, I stood at the bar until I could find a seat.

photo (41)

”I’m going off the rails!”

Karaoke is a fun pastime in China. But we usually sing in private rooms. Only in Lijiang, or other tourist cities, do they have many of these kind of karaoke bars where you sing from your chair at the bar for everyone to see.

After some sake, I was ready. I wasn’t going to take it. I wasn’t going to take it anymore. And so I sang “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and let off some stress. (I had seen Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on TV that morning. Oh, they’re so condescending.)

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” is such a good karaoke song. The lyrics are shoutable. The topic is what everyone is thinking after drinking. Others joined in singing or head bobbing. I sang a lot of other songs like that that night: “Fight For Your Right (To Paaaaar-taay),” “God Save the Queen,” “Sweet Home Alabama.”

There was one real singer at the bar. Mike was the drummer and singer in a local band. He sang a song that required more than just shouting, “Patience” by Guns N Roses, and sang it well. A bar worker on his day off was giving shots of tequila. A group of early 20-something guys from 90 miles out in the desert came in to Little Tokyo to celebrate their friend’s birthday. They were obsessed with anime and Japanese culture.

Tokyo Beat
319 E 2nd St
Ste 205
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Little Tokyo, Downtown
(2nd floor of mall)

Manichi
321 1/4 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Little Tokyo, Downtown

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Mitchell Blatt is an intrepid travel writer, and an author of two top China guidebooks, who brings his readers deep into the cultures of the places he explores. Subscribe now to get real stories of real people in real places around the world delivered right to your inbox.