Little Tokyo

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The Three Tomatoes Hot List, Best finds in NYC
So how do we get to Japan without leaving NYC? 
You really don’t have to go too far to experience Japanese culture! Just take a trip down to the East Village and check out “Little Tokyo” located between St. Marks Place and 10th St. The treasures you’ll find are endless from sushi, ramen and yakitori restaurants, to specialty food stores and karaoke bars. You can even visit a teahouse where you can experience a traditional tea ceremony.
My favorite teahouse is Cha-An on 230 E 9th St. Wander over to Cha-An on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month between noon and 2pm for a Zen tea ceremony with a lovely lantern-lit atmosphere. For just $20 you’ll receive Japanese matcha (green tea) and sweets like black sesame crème brûlée or chocolate mochi (a scrumptious chocolate rice dumpling). Email for reservations.
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Black Sesame Creme Brulee at Cha-An Japanese Tea House

Not your cup of tea? Check out Sakaya, the only shop in NYC devoted to sake, located at 324 E 9th St. You can enjoy over 150 kinds of premium sake, which calls for a rigid set of production standards. Each sake is made by artisanal producers with prices ranging from $20 to $160 per bottle.

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Just a few of the many different flavors and types of Sake available at Sakaya

 Nothing is as fun or will bring out your inner child like Toy Tokyo at 91 2nd Ave. With everything from Hello Kitty to sticker books and bobble heads in stock, it’s a toy-lover’s heaven. There are thousands of figurines, many of which are extremely rare to find outside of Japan. For serious collectors there are plenty of aisles filled with all types of action figures, from Marvel superheroes to Godzilla. You can even find novelty figures, like Benjamin Franklin and Jack Nicholson from The Shining. 

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Toy Tokyo was so much fun!

One of my favorite discoveries was Giant Robot on 437 E. 9th St. This store is the sole East Coast location of the trendy West Coast Asian American Pop Culture chain. Some of the more popular Japanese toys that I loved, include Murakami gear and Gotochi Dissection animals. There are all sorts of fabulous surprises for kids and adults alike throughout the store.

Of course I couldn’t leave without checking out the food! You can find an amazing assortment of Japanese “street food” which ranges from elaborate sushi boats to delicious home-made ramen and soba noodles.

Here are some more fabulous Japanese restaurants you should check out:

Robataya located at 231 E 9th St: The chefs here put on a show grilling fresh fish and vegetables right in front of customers and then serve them on long trays.

Ramen Setagaya at 141 1ST Ave: Try the Shio ramen made from BBQ pork, salt taste egg, seaweed, bamboo shoot, leek and scallop powder. This ramen is made from scratch and it’s delicious!

Hasaki at 210 E 9th St: Traditional and well-prepared dishes along with some excellent sushi.

Soba-Ya located at 229 E 9th St: You can actually watch the soba noodles being made. Both the tempura and soba are fabulous!

Where will we go next? Stay tuned to find out!


  • Susan Birnbaum is the owner and operator of SusanSez NYC Walkabouts. She is a personable, witty New Yorker with a passion for the city’s incredible history. Susan takes you to quirky neighborhoods throughout NYC, crafting unique experiences full of interesting stories and tasty treats. Her love for the city of New York is infectious – even Native New Yorkers get new perspectives on a SusanSez Walkabout! She offers well-organized, but non-scripted NY tours. Susan doesn’t mind poking a little fun on historic figures or herself. Susan has held a license as an NYC Sightseeing Guide by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs since 2002. She is a on the board of directors for Guides Association of New York City (GANYC), the oldest and most active tour guides associations in America. She is also a member of NYC & Company (, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization of the City of New York, and an active member of the Bronx, Brooklyn and New York Historical Societies. Susan is also a docent for the Museum of the City of New York. Learn more about SusanSez NYC Walkabouts:

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