Two moments of Zen


One of the little-known public spaces in downtown L.A. is the Japanese rooftop garden at a hotel in Little Tokyo: formerly the New Otani and Kyoto Grand, now a DoubleTree (120 S. Los Angeles St). I read about the garden perhaps eight years ago and visit now and then, always feeling as if I’m in on a secret. It’s accessible to the public, either from the hotel’s lobby elevators or from Weller Court, the adjacent minimall.

I was there again on Sunday on a visit to Little Tokyo in which I followed the path laid out by the book “Walking L.A.” by Erin Mahoney. It was a good day for it because I wanted to catch the last day of the “Marvels and Monsters” comic book exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, which is the first stop on the tour.

So, I took Metrolink and the Gold Line, visited the museum, saw some public art and the garden (above) and ate ramen in Weller Court.

My next stop was the Japanese American Community Cultural Center (244 S. San Pedro St.), which I’d never seen before. The guidebook led me to elevators that took me to the basement, where there is … a Japanese garden.

This is the James Irvine Garden, opened in 1979 and featuring a 170-foot stream. See below.

Two public Japanese gardens in downtown L.A.? I was humbled by my ignorance. I could see the DoubleTree from the Cultural Center garden and wondered if I might have been able to see the Cultural Center garden from the DoubleTree’s garden. I’ll have to go back sometime and check.

Incidentally, they are friendly folks at the Cultural Center. On my way out of the garden, a woman introduced herself as the CEO and president, handed me brochures and invited me to the opening of a ukelele (!) performance area in the coffee shop upstairs. I only popped my head in, as I had a train to catch, but it’s cool when a place is so welcoming.


Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • SAWZ

    It has been a few years since I was at the New Otani Hotel and the beautiful garden–I did not know it is now a Doubletree. That seems so odd, it being on the edge of little Tokyo. I stayed at the New Otani, celebrating a colleague’s retirement in 2002. Our room had a wide-angle view of Los Angeles. The Doubletree surely would not change any of that, would it?

    • davidallen909

      Seems unlikely, as well as difficult. And there’s more to see now than in 2002 — Disney Hall, for instance!

  • Joanne Dallas

    You have just planned my next trip to Los Angeles. I needed an excuse to make a train trip. Discoveries like this reward a traveler with an open mind and that great urge to “see what’s around this turn.” (Are you planning on attending BILLY BUDD? We don’t take the train to Sunday matinees because of that 5:30 return and not wanting to stay later into the night.)

    • davidallen909

      I won’t be attending that one. You’ll have to let me know how it is.

      • SAWZ

        I went in last Saturday night to the Music Center for the New Zealand ballet, “Giselle”. My reward for being old–a $20 rush ticket, orchestra section, row M. I made it a mission to be first in line, two hours before the rush tickets went on sale.

  • dadwheels

    There’s another Japanese garden at 3rd and Central on the grounds of the temple there. If I may be so bold, you can check out all the secret gardens I’ve been able to dig up in downtown here:

    • davidallen909

      That was a good post, and you had some I didn’t know about (obviously including the third Japanese garden).

  • Steve W.

    Locally, there’s a Japanese garden at the base of the “Pointy Building” at Cal Poly Pomona.

    • davidallen909

      Nice! I did not know that.