The closest you can come to experiencing Japan without a ride across the Pacific is in Little Tokyo, one of the few remaining Japantowns in the United States.
The neighborhood is changing fast as downtown L.A. becomes a hot spot again ― but for now, a refreshingly simple Japanese aesthetic still rules among the many fine gardens and shops.
How to get there: Little Tokyo is 10 blocks southeast of the L.A. Civic Center and downtown L.A. Heading south on U.S. 101, exit at Los Angeles St. and go two blocks south. From U.S. 101 north, exit south on Alameda St.
James Irvine Japanese Garden. Surrounded by pines, this classic shuyu (stroll) garden is its own quiet world. Free; in the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, 244 S. San Pedro St.
Japanese American National Museum. Follow the community's history from first-generation pioneers through WWII internment to the present. Tue-Sun; 369 E. First St.; www.janm.org or 213/625-0414.