The advertising tag line for the 10th annual Tofu Festival is “When Giant Tofu Takes Over Little Tokyo.” Although the event is not specifically science-fiction-oriented, they obviously don’t mind invoking the giant monster image associated with Godzilla, and the festival is a good excuse to visit Little Tokyo, where you can check out a couple of cool stores that should be right up your alley if you’re interested in Godzilla, anime, or Japanese horror.
The festival basically takes place on a large asphalt parking lot, where a multitude of booths are set up, each one offering food platters, drinks, information, and/or recipe suggestions. You buy a set of tickets for $1 a piece when you first enter, and then each booth (most set up by local restaurants) offer small samples of their food for one or two tickets each.
Be sure to pace yourself! Even if you don’t particularly enjoy tofu, there are lots of appealing (and spicy) offerings on display, and it’s easy to make yourself sick before you’ve completed even half a circuit of the area. Not only are there main dishes but also deserts and drinks (such as excellent mango and chocolate smoothies made with tofu instead of cream). It’s really an excellent opportunity to sample many different types of exotic food, and you may find some new delicacy that you really enjoy.
The street surrounding the food court is blocked off to allow local vendors to sell their wares (posters, arts and crafts, clothing, even some music and videos), and there is usually some kind of entertainment going on nearby. This year’s headliners are Gerald Albright, who will be performing Saturday at 8:00pm, and Ozomatli, who will be there the following day at 7:0pm. Other entertainment will be continuous throughout the day: dance and music groups, parades, even a tofu eating contest.
After you are finished with tofu, there are several restaurants and stores worth checking out in the area, including the fine Kinokuniya book store (lots of imported stuff available here, both translated and in Japanese).
I highly recommend you take a walk to over to the nearby Little Tokyo Mall, where you can find Jungle Special Collectors shop at 319 E. 2nd street #103. The place is loaded with “pre-owned,” imported videotapes, DVDs, and even old laserdiscs (not so many, now that Ebay has eaten a big chunk of that business); they specialize in anime, superhero and special effects films. You can find all sort of collectible stuff as well: trading cards, model kits, and action figures. Some of these items are very expensive, but a judicious shopper can usually find some marked-down items that are a real bargain. You can check out their website here.
There is also a nice video rental store almost next door to the Jungle Collectors Store, but I can’t remember the name right now. If you can’t wait until the latest Japanese horror movie comes to your local store (and if you don’t want to buy a bootlet VCD copy on Ebay), then this is the place to find it. It probably won’t be subtitled, but you can console yourself with the knowledge that you’re seeing it ahead of the crowd. There’s lots of anime and science fiction available, plus a big section devoted to “adult” titles, including some of the more explicit horror stuff (which seems to show a bizarre fascination with women being raped by tentacles monsters).
This year’s L.A. Tofu Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, August 13 and 14. Admission is $8.00. (All proceeds benefit the Little Toky Service Center.) Get more information (including discount coupons) from their official website here.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to include our video of the festival.
- Location: 237 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles
- In Person: Gerald Albright, Ozomatli, Taikoproject, Patricia Greenberg (The Fitness Gourmet), Thai Performing Arts of Los Angeles, Lokelani’s Rhythm of the Islands, Kultura Philippine Dance Company