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With all of the stressors and deadlines, campus often has a way of feeling claustrophobic. That’s why Spectrum created our new series, A Break in the Bubble. We provide you with key points in a NYC hot spot so that exploring the city, escaping MoHi, and getting ~cultured~ seamlessly fit together.

Last week we went to K-Town. In this edition, Spectrum is taking you to Little Tokyo.

One of NYC’s lesser known cultural hot spots, Little Tokyo, has been a small but growing force in the East Village. With the 1980s Japanese economic boom, East Village began housing more and more Japanese immigrants. Soon enough, the area between St. Marks Place and East 10th Street developed into a thriving cultural hub of Japanese eats, sights, and culture.

What to do

Visit a Japanese teahouse

At Cha-An Teahouse, you’ll find traditional “wooden tables and tatami benches, washi-paper lamps and seasonal floral decorations.” With teas served in all different styles (as well as the customary treats of course!), Cha-An is a true haven away from your busy day and offers a unique glimpse into an age-old Japanese tradition. Another traditional teahouse is Nohohon Tea Room, known for its incredible matcha.

@silvertealeaf / via Instagram

Sample some sake

You would never guess from its appearance that Decibel is a sake bar, much less that it serves one of the most expansive offerings of sake in all of Little Tokyo. Sake (Japanese rice wine) is a delicious staple in Japan and is loved by Japanese and foreigners alike. Sample different kinds, and choose your favorite (or stock up at one of Little Tokyo’s many sake places—like Hi-Collar and Sakaya) to fully immerse yourself in ~sake culture~.

@silvertealeaf / via Instagram

Shop for Japanese finds in hipster boutiques

Check out Search & Destroy and Tokio 7, both run by Japanese expats, for a mix of Japanese and American punk items.

@iamcesarg / via Instagram

What to eat

Sushi

There are tons of sushi places to choose from in Little Tokyo, but Hasaki stands out as one of the original sushi establishments in the neighborhood. It prides itself on offering high-quality sushi and sashimi at reasonable prices. Prices range from $3 for small dishes like octopus and squid sushi, to $12 for otoro (tuna belly) pieces.

Be sure to also check out Sharaku (where its dinner three-roll special is only $14) and Kikoo Sushi (an all-you-can-eat sushi and sashimi joint that’s also easy on your wallet).

@infatuation / via Instagram

Udon and Soba

Like sushi restaurants, there is no shortage of noodle shops in Little Tokyo. Udon West, Sobaya, and Kenka are all highly recommended by locals. Raku is also incredibly good, and it offers incredible Japanese cuisine (including homemade udon noodles) in a unique NYC setting. Get your noodle fix here for incredible prices—you can get a filling meal (with leftovers) for under $15.

@cindallaaa / via Instagram

Baked goods

Pan Ya Bakery is a must-visit for any foodie with a sweet tooth. Sample some delicious Japanese sweets and desserts. Don’t miss out on the curry pan or any of the fresh sweet breads, all of which are under $3. Though Pan Ya is pretty much the only bakery in Little Tokyo, you can get your fix of Japanese sweets at most restaurants with their desserts.

@keeponsmiling52 / via Instagram

What to see

Masters making noodles

SobaKoh, a traditional noodle restaurant, makes all of its noodles within its shop. Stand outside the glass window, and watch the masters work their magic. (Bonus points if you go inside and ask them about the process.)

@avani_hotels / via Instagram

Traditional Japanese ingredients

Sunrise Mart is the biggest Japanese specialty market in Little Tokyo. If you’re interested, stock up on some cool ingredients, and make Japanese dishes in your dorm!

@keithgradowski / via Instagram

Escaping the stress culture on campus and exploring this beautiful city is something of an understated importance. Take this chance to delve into a new and fascinating culture with plenty to learn and experience.

Planning on going on this little tour? If you do, definitely send us your photos on our Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Mariella Evangelista is a Spectrum staff writer and a Barnard first-year. She probably eats too much sushi. Reach her at mariella.evangelista@columbiaspectator.com

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