Best Taste of Japan - 2012
One of the funnier recent Saturday Night Live sketches featured a youthful white American duo who dressed up and talked like overexcited Japanese nerds, so immersed were they in the subculture of anime, Hello Kitty and Pokemon. That subculture is very real, among both Japanese immigrants to the United States and natives who love the aesthetic's wide-eyed innocence, sleek modernism and sheer playfulness. Japan L.A. is a standout for such fans, an emporium where you can find Domo, Loungefly, Sanrio, San-X, Tokidoki, Cactus Pups, Buff Monsters and a small green character awesomely called Bastardino. There's clothing by such designers as Onch, Goodie Two Sleeves and Chubby Bunny, assorted vinyl figures and cute coffee-table books. "Cute" is, in fact, the operative word here, with that quality extending to the clothing, jewelry, electronics and school supplies. (They also host art shows.) With such items as a figurine of an angry watermelon smoking a cigarette, Japan L.A. sells stuff you don't really need but that you simply gotta have. 7320 1/2 Melrose Ave., Hlywd. (323) 934-5201, JapanLA.com.