Midnight in Little Tokyo

Midnight in Little Tokyo

Words & Photography by Chase Yi

For me, you have to say “Yes” to making plans and exploring new areas of your city. In Los Angeles, there’s a historic set of blocks downtown known as Little Tokyo, and it holds so much beauty at night.

Among the old buildings–restaurants and businesses that have been around for nearly 100 years–there’s a bustling community of people. There’s an energy in the atmosphere that makes you feel connected to the stories and memories embedded in the walls and streets. It’s a lesson that I wouldn’t learn if I only stayed in my corner of LA. I wouldn’t appreciate diversity and culture. I wouldn’t share meaningful experiences with my friends. Most of all, I wouldn’t learn anything new about myself.

From spending time there, I’ve learned that I love the celebration of tradition. I like seeing and hearing that the old ways of doing something are still the best–a hotel that’s been preserved or the way a meal is made with care and ceremony. Little Tokyo is a love poem to the past of LA and all the glory that still endures. To endure: that’s what takes courage, patience, and love.

Capturing it on film requires that same resilience. I’ll stand behind a pillar waiting for someone to pass by a soft light from a restaurant marquee. I ask a couple on a motorbike if I can snap a photo of them because they look so timeless and happy. All the shops glow from within, workers burn the midnight oil as they punch in tickets and take orders for late-night patrons. It feels like I could walk around forever, living within a forgotten dream and the hopefulness of a better tomorrow. I suppose that’s why I go back there so often–to remember and to cherish all the time that’s gone by, and all the time that’s left.

Chase Yi is an actor, writer, and photgrapher based in Los Angeles, CA