Little Tokyo is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Amidst the grunge and concrete rivers and cardboard box cities, it’s like an island of calm, where you can sit in the shade of a Noguchi monolith eating mochi ice cream, or stroll the contemplative gardens at the Cultural Center.

The heartbeat of the neighborhood is Japanese Village Plaza, a narrow winding alley between 1st and 2nd sts. and San Pedro and Central of shops and eateries that, for my one visit to Tokyo, seems to capture something of the spirit of that  city. I’ll often see lines waiting for the shabu shabu joint to open. But I like to pass by and sit outside Sushi & Teri and get a tall Sapporo and some reasonably decent sushi. But the real attraction is directly across, when my kids finish their miso soup. At the Mitsuru Café, you can buy fresh, warm imagawayaki for a buck a piece.

Batter is poured into a special pan, sorta like Japanese abelskivers, and then filled with sweet azuki bean paste. More batter on top, they are flipped, and then removed and stacked. Kids love ’em as much as we do. A great way to introduce your kids to Japanese culture — they have fun learning the name, too. Which name, apparently, refers a spot near the Kanda Imagawabashi bridge in Japan where they were sold during the Edo period in the 18th century. It’s fun to stand outside the window and watch them make the imagawayaki in their big traditional cast-iron imagawayaki maker.

While you’re there, pop into the Yamazaki bakery on your way out and grab a few curry doughnuts for home.

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