"I'm going to this birthday party Friday night."
A buddy and I are swapping weekend plans over Chinese food in the SGV on a Wednesday. The restaurant is empty. It is, after all, midnight.
"We're going somewhere in JTown, I think," he continues, surveying his half-eaten plate of pork and string beans. "Honda-ya? And then that arcade bar."
I got invited to an arcade bar birthday this Friday, as well.
"Oh I think I got invited to that as well," I reply. I instinctively move to follow up with something about how I'll try to make it though I probably can't, but scanning my brain calendar I realize that I have no other plans. My Friday night is free. "And I think I'm going."
I arrive functionally late on Friday night. The line to Bar 82 (the arcade bar, also known as a barcade) is not long, but I wait long enough for my friend to tap me on the shoulder as I finish an email on my phone. They're already heading elsewhere.
We wander through plazas and bars, taking elevators to hidden rooftops and running across empty crosswalks. It's oddly quiet for a Friday night. Things are shifting in JTown.
We end up at Blue Whale and catch half a tap dance show (a post for later), explore hidden rooftops, and pass by sounds from late night hang outs wafting from sleepy storefronts. Returning towards the barcade, our friends are waiting outside the Galleria mall and we end up at X-Lanes with an impromptu karaoke session.
There is a lot more to say about all of this. I'll admit that this post is coming in at the 11th hour as I try to hit my goal of two posts per week. But there is something oddly comforting in knowing that we were able to fill a whole night in Little Tokyo.
It was not so long ago that my mom would ask me not to go to JTown past 9. A shady area with dim lights at the time, there was nothing happening in Little Tokyo beyond sundown. I would walk quickly to the bus if I was there past 8 and my friends would stick to specific plazas if we went there to eat. Now we wander freely, roaming and owning the streets.
It was more quiet than usual, however. As more and more trendy bars open in Chinatown and KTown becomes less foreign for English-speakers, Little Tokyo will most likely lose the Instagram-friendly luster it's had for the past few years. With new train construction leading to increased traffic and new restaurants quickly becoming yesterday's news, we will be working to remember why we love and live in JTown in the first place.
In the meantime we will continue wandering. There is much more to explore.