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West LA's Sawtelle Neighborhood Finally Gets the Japantown Recognition it Deserves

A City Council vote made things official.

Sushi Tsujita, Sawtelle Japantown
Sushi Tsujita, Sawtelle Japantown
Elizabeth Daniels
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Time for some neighborhood renaming. Per Rafu Shimpo, L.A.’s own Japanese daily news source, the Sawtelle/Little Osaka/West L.A. neighborhood has officially been designated as Sawtelle Japantown. It's nice to see perhaps the best eating street in all of Los Angeles finally get the neighborhood name it deserves.

The naming solidification is long overdue, as the multi-hyphenate neighborhood has worked through a handful of nicknames over the decades. Now the designation is etched in stone on one of those blue neighborhood signs, following last week’s 14-0 City Council vote in favor of the motion.

More than just the final phase of otherwise fluid naming issues for the area over the years, the new Sawtelle Japantown designation has plenty of cultural significance. "We’d like to get recognition for the historical presence of the Japanese community in West Los Angeles," noted local historian Randy Sakamoto during the long campaign to bring the name change about, adding that the longstanding race restrictions of the early 1900’s helped to form the predominantly Japanese area.

Rafu Shimpo offers more color on the backstory to the long naming debate over on their site. It’s a worthwhile read for anyone interested in understanding the power behind a name — or anyone who just wants to send their friends to the right neighborhood the next time they try to all meet up at Tsujita.