This Is Your Only Chance to Explore the Secret Japanese Village Downtown

An eclectic fashion designer’s curated world is invisible behind the walls of a warehouse

L.A. is jam-packed with hidden wonders (like a creepy abandoned asylum, a forgotten laser theater, deserted tunnels, and a nearly-invisible religious wall to name a few standouts), but just when you think you’ve heard of them all, you run across something new.

Like, for instance, did you have any idea there was a secret Japanese cultural village tucked away in a warehouse on the edge of Little Tokyo? (Maybe you did, and if so, go ahead and take 45 seconds to pause and feel superior before reading further.) The space belongs to fashion designer Peter Lai, a native of Hong Kong whose obsession with Japan goes back decades.

Photograph by Christina Gandolfo

Lai leased the 5000-square-foot warehouse a few years back, and he’s turned it into a practical museum of Japanese cultural artifacts—silk tapestries, kimonos, dolls, masks, lanterns, everything. There’s also a tea garden and Kabuki theater. Normally, it’s only open by appointment for those interested in purchasing something from his collection, but now there’s an opportunity for regular-ass people like you and me to get a look inside. The L.A. chapter of the Obscura Society is leading two tours of Lai’s space space for $30 on Sunday, April 16.

The first tour is already sold out (with a waiting list), but there are a couple spots left for the second one. Act fast, my friend, and the secrets of this city are yours.

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Thomas Harlander is a staff writer at Los Angeles magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram. He recently wrote: There’s Now a Live Map of Every Art Event Happening in the City