Japantown is pretty much an outdoor mall (Japanese Village Plaza) and its surrounding streets. The plaza has a good mix of the stores you’d expect. Sanrio (Hello Kitty), traditional style souvenirs and apparel, authentic cuisines, bakeries and grocery markets. Sneakers are covered with Footland Sports. They stock a good range of current items including colourways and styles that you’d expect from a much larger store. Very few of the items have prices, when asked, they’re all around standard RRP but with a “I give you a special price” post-fix, so there’s a bit of bargaining to had if you’re purchasing a few items. There’s also a sale wall at the back with old season stock.

Sanrio - Japantown LA

Outside the mall the sneaker fun continues with RIF LA, the downtown consignment answer to West Hollywood’s Flightclub. Similar range, though the prices were higher. As with any bricks and mortar store, the benefit would be being able to go in, handle the shoe and try it on rather than taking your chances on ebay and the like.

RIF LA

On the northern side of the plaza is easily one of LA biggest and best anime stores, Anime Jungle (second store on the southern side). Huge selection of Manga, cosplay outfits, Gundam model kits, tees and anime related merch. The store itself isn’t very obvious with “Cure shop” on its front window but its unmistakable once you walk in.

Anime Jungle

A block to the west you have Weller Court, a small mall with a nature strip and Japanese gardens, perfect for taking a rest from all that walking! The last stop is Q Pop, a mid size store with a good selection of vinyl collectibles, clothing and books. It differs from the usual with a more advent guarde approach to the clothing and artworks, a bit more twisted and a little less cute, there’s also a selection of finer arts like paintings and sculptures. They of course still have the cheek squeezing super cute stuff if that’s more to your liking.

Q Pop LA

Q Pop LA

Next up, we ditch the shopping bags and hit up a string of sight seeing and entertainment!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

Downtown LA

Most cities around the world tend to have a CBD which is based loosely round a large mall or group of shops, not so much for LA. Its CBD is strongly focused on the ‘B’ and can throw off first timers expecting more, very much like ourselves. First stop and possibly only stop for most people is the infamous 100 block “fashion” district. I use the term “fashion” very loosely as it seems like its more targeted to certain demographics and it seems one of the biggest markets are middle age to elderly women, not too unlike the mother of Nanny Fine. You know the look, big loose clothing with violent clashes of colour and patterns or an unashamed overuse of glo-mesh and bedazzling.

Coming a close second are the hoochie mama outfits. If you finally got that part as “background dancer #14″ in your friends rap video (yes we know, it’s a foot in the door till your boyfriend/manager sorts out that demo for you) then this is the place for you! Store after store of leggings that look like jeans, jeans that look like leggings and mannequin bums that look like two pigs fighting under a blanket. Starting to see a pattern yet?

YA RLY

Unfortunately the guys gear isn’t much better, while some of the prices are good, the range is limited to basic work wear, athletic gear and Ed Hardy styled fashion. On the upside there are plenty of suit stores and tailors, a lot with questionable designs and dated cuts to go with their outlandish sitcom drug dealer style shirts but there are some good places with classic designs and vintage flare.

One thing to note is a lot of the stores are wholesalers (some don’t actually sell to the public) so the prices can get very good if you’re looking at buying in bulk eg. For your team, school, work. One of the Dickies sellers mentioned he supplies a few stores in NZ and AU.
But remember these are the UDM (US domestic market) work wear variety, not the “Dickies Street” version sold by stores like City Beach in Australia, which incidentally have very little difference to the work wear ones.

In the way of sneakers, you’re best to just keep walking. The few stores we ventured into were a mixture of fakes, factory seconds and low end “rubbishy” models. There were a couple worthy toy stores with less commercial product, one I found in the most unlikely of places selling wind chimes and jewellery, everything BUT toys. But they did have a shelf in the window of collectible vinyl in a hiphop/graffiti vain which look liked they’ve sat there for years. Pieces which I’ve seen around the traps ranging from $50-200US as limited runs in selected Kidrobot stores and the like. When asked on prices, they were clearly made up on the spot from a guy that should really never play poker! I’m sure I could’ve haggled a better price out of him, but with numbers between $10-15US it was hard to keep a straight face. Needless to say, I cleaned them out 😉

The rest of this precinct is divided up for flowers and textiles. The flower section has a huge selection of cut flowers and potted garden flowers and plants along with associated accessories. Obviously the weather dictates a lot of the seasonal/regional flowers but its still a surprise to see massive 10-15 flowered Phalaenopsis orchids for a throw away $10ea. Similar items would fetch between $50 and $100 mark here. The cut flower arrangements are what can only be described and typically American. Big, bold and brash, like a brand new Escalade with chrome wheels or your mum’s hair style from the 80s, they feature a fanned peacock tail arrangement with a random selection of “pretty” flowers. Roses, sunflowers, tulips and ample Baby’s Breath are all slapped together in a tribal head gear fashion with cohesion and colour blocking coming in with a DNF. If you really want to dazzle your loved one you can even go for the pieces that feature a large plastic gold plated ornament! Needless to say, if you are buying cut flowers, you’ll do better buying a couple bunches and putting them together in the dark 😉

Textiles on the other hand, while still having the patterns/styles of a Rugs-a-million clearance rug, are saved by sheer variety. Even if you have a brief passing interest in sewing its worth a look, if you’re at the other end of the scale and are already thinking how many fat quarters you can get into a suitcase then you may want to consider ditching some of those sneakers :-0

iPhone case anyone?

Its probably best to just park your car as close as possible to the area you’re visiting, then move it to the next area and pay the few bucks again as the blocks are loonngg. If you want to brave it or aren’t driving, walking does have its advantages in stumbling across stores and flea market style centres with electronics, souvenirs and general plastic crap, not too unlike your average Asian shopping “centre” and all at prices less than the usual tourist spots. For example, souvenir tees were around 20-40% less than places like Santa Monica and the Farmer’s Markets.

Big Man Bakes

As you’re venturing north take a detour to South Main street for Big Man Bakes, nothing as suss… or big …or manly as it sounds! Simply some very tasty gourmet cupcakes. Try the Red Velvet – a traditional southern style cake, the caramel apple or the “old school” – yellow cake with chocolate butter cream icing; the list goes on and they get cheaper the more you buy.

Further north is the “Toy District“, which was in all accounts disappointing. A whole district of toys?? Yes please! Unfortunately, from the several blocks we walked through it was nothing more than novelties and knick knacks bar a few remote controlled helicopters and cars. There’s also a scattering of home wares and car accessories stores. There’s a Hello Kitty store, or should I say a store that sells Hello Kitty items. Hard to tell if they were real or not but the branding and packaging looked authentic as did the HK car mats. Hello Kitty as a robot with Astro boy styled rocket feet flying through a rainbow? Just try and stop me!

By now you’ve probably ready to hurt someone if you see another battery powered car that flips over when it hits a wall or a “live” ball with a tail, but don’t despair, Japantown is just around the corner.

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here

So we’re back in West Hollywood. Kinda like catching up with an old friend really. You know their quirks, you know what you have in common, you by pass the touchy subjects and jump straight into reminiscing.

We covered the bulk of the West Hollywood stores previously here and here, but just to quickly recap, Flightclub LA and Sportie LA are always good stops for consignment/pre owned gear, though some of their prices are starting to get a little greedy. If you worry more about how good you look while skateboarding than how good you can actually skateboard then you might wanna pop your head into the stores of
Supreme, Diamond Supply and Crooks and Castles. Each trying to out do each other in hipster arrogance and poor service. What’s worse is none have the inventory to back the attitude, with limit range and sizes, give the glorified check out chicks a miss, there’s nothing you cant buy online or at another store for cheaper.

Flightclub LA

Sportie LA

Johnny Cupcakes is always worth a stop in for in store exclusives. A recent subtraction from this cluster of shops is Loyal Army, sadly they pretty much upped and closed their store overnight with very little notice. They are however still selling online and from their San Francisco store in Haight.

Japan LA

On the plus side, JapanLA has moved on to Melrose not too far from their old location to a newer and bigger store. Still the same good selection, abundance of Hello Kitty merch, friendly staff, sale items and now also sporting a small gallery room at the back with works from local artists.

Meltdown Comics

Last stop in West Hollywood was Meltdown Comics. Easily one of the biggest comic stores we’ve seen in awhile. Huge selection of comics and just as big selection of collectibles, figures, toys and plushes ranging from movie/comic based items to urban vinyl collectibles and blind boxes. They also have the complete range of So So Happy merchandise, which means if you’ve got a sweet tooth for the sickly cute and colourful you’ll no doubt go into a diabetic coma here.

Pop Killer

While you’re there, pop over the road to Pop Killer. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling of vintage and vintage styled new items. Mostly clothing but also a range of accessories, knick knacks, novelties and house hold items.

Mulholland Drive

As the sun slowing slipped away at a leisurely 8pm we took a drive up to Muholland Drive. Just follow the road up to the lookout (with fixtures and signage, not just dirt!), even though there are spots before this, parking is a little hit and miss as is the view. Don’t forget to take a jacket as well, those mountain breezes are very unforgiving! The view here is mostly of west LA, to see more of downtown follow the road around and head east through the tiny residential streets. You will eventually go over the mountain and start heading down, half way down on a rather Mt. Akina style of road, there’s a dirt spot to pull over to get your cityscape pano on.

LA cityscape (click for big)

Next up, we hit the downtown area where dodgy and awesome go hand in hand like Jesse James and Kat Von D!

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here