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Special Places in the South Bay 8/14/99. There are a few special, secret places in the South Bay. Take a friend, but don't tell anyone else. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are within blocks of each other. I'm not sure if I can top the first three, but try number 4, 5, and 6. The * marks changes.

*6. Three other walking tours are in here also. These were my first, before I called then walking tours. One is in Artisia at Little India. Another is the South Bay's Little Chinatown. Or is the site for the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California in L.A.'s Chinatown. Among other things, they provides guided, walking tour of L.A.'s Chinatown for a fee or occasionally for free. A few more datails at are at

*5. South Bay's Little Manila. See the do-it-yourself walking tour and restaurant & market guides for a Filipino neighborhood in the South Bay. This is in the Little Manila section. So far, I've tried and reviewed 10 restaurants, with more reviews to come soon as two or more open. This turned into a big project. I've been working and eating for over a month, and I'm still not done.

*4. South Bay's Little Tokyo. Not really, but I need a title. This is the northwest corner of Carson St. and Western Ave. in Torrance. On the corner is a shopping center which I believe is exclusively Japanese restaurants and shops. You can walk around and check it out. If you want more walking or if you ride a bike, there are interesting office-building complexes to the north and west. There are also a couple of other Japanese restaurants on Carson St. in this area.

-- But the main attraction is the next building to the north along Western Ave. This is the Yaohan Marketplace at 21515 Western Ave., Torrance, CA 90501, phone 310-782-0335. It's a mall, and the hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days. They have five other stores in Southern California. I like to park underground, towards the center, near the elevator. One floor up are Japanese shops for books, audio, video, cookware, dishes, etc.

-- The main attractions are the food court and the supermarket. On three sides of the food court are Japanese and one Chinese food shops. Check my Restaurant section, under Chinese fast food for a review. The fourth side is open to the supermarket. Mostly it's fast food, but some shops do more complicated dishes. Check out the food dishes on display; it's the plastic food you've heard about. In the center is seating, and they added more, but it's full for lunch on Friday. On one side of the seating area is a garden with a stream. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sad to report that they seem to be neglecting maintenance on the garden. In the supermarket check out the seafood and produce sections. The prices are high but so is the quality, and you may see unusual items. Check out the "bargain" shelves in the product section. Bags of older vegetables are often under a dollar and are still ok. Especially check for expensive mushrooms at a big discount. When they're in season they carry expensive mushrooms; I believe I've seem fresh ones at about $75 a pound. There's also a new bakery area. Prepared foods are offered at two areas in the supermarket and across from the supermarket. I guess you could also eat these in the food court. Two areas towards the center of the mall offer a few free Japanese and English newspapers and a bulletin board. There may be another bulletin board near the front door. Have fun. 7/99 - New construction in the supermarket, what are they doing?

1. Japanese Garden. This is not a rock garden. You'll see walkways, streams, waterfalls, flowers, trees, bushes, grass, bridges, fish, etc. This is in the Torrance Cultural Arts Center at 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance, CA, 90503. Administrative hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but somebody said the garden was open till dark, seven days a week. In 1999, was a map of the area and of the building. As of 8/10/01 they only seem to have a very slow map at I was told the place is under 24-hour surveilance, so don't do anything silly. Take Madrona Ave. going north, go past Torrance Blvd., and you can take the first or second right; it's in between those two entrances.

2. Skypark Gardens. This is surrounded by a group of commercial and office buildings, and some genius built a garden in the center. To see the whole thing, you'll have to follow each of the five (or so) entrances/exits to the street and return to the center. Or, walk around the perimeter looking for entrances. Either way, allow at least 30 minutes to check it out and plan to do some walking. They did post at least two maps. The pond is in the center, with a gazebo-looking area and picnic tables. Is it legal to have a picnic? They had ducks or something but not on 6/13/99. You'll also see walkways, streams, waterfalls, rock gardens, flowers, trees, bushes, grass, bridges, etc. I don't remember seeing any way to lock-up this area, so it must be open 24-hours a day, but I might not go after dark. Assume it's under 24-hour surveillance. The place is amazing; the buildings seem to disappear and just become a wall around the garden. They do occasionally shut of the water for maintenance, but do come back.

-- Location. This is on the east side of Hawthorne Blvd., north of Skypark Dr., and south of Lomita Blvd. in Torrance, CA. Park in front of Friday's or the Olive Garden at 23420 and 23442 Hawthorne Blvd. and look for walkways, to the *right of each place, leading behind those buildings. The entrance to the *right of the Olive Garden leads more directly to the pond. (P.S. -- I've never eaten at Friday's, but I did try the Olive Garden once and probably wouldn't return.) The Olive Garden patio does overlook the garden. There are also two ponds, among the buildings, north of Friday's. Another P.S. -- I don't know of any official name for this area, I'm just calling it "Skypark Gardens."

3. Strange Buildings. It's a cluster of three office buildings done in an interesting but unknown, at least by me, style. I see Oriental, Gothic, medieval, whatever; you tell me. Anyway, they're three, 3-story office building with tile roofs, unusual, small windowpanes, and a massive but attractive look. Each building has a walk-through first floor, an open, central garden, and lots of flowers, plants, tiles, etc. I was there on a Sunday, 6/13/99, and the north-most building, marked 21231, had stairs and a working elevator. The central building at 21307 had a working elevator. The south-most building marked 21311 had a locked elevator. There's a fountain at the south end. If anyone can describe this architectural style, please let me know. I didn't remember seeing any way to lock up the first floors, so they must be open 24-hours a day. P.S. There are several real estate signs around the place, so something may be happening; go now.

-- Location. The addresses are 21231, 21307, and 21311 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance CA. These are not on Hawthorne Blvd; rather on Village Ln. From the corner of Hawthorne Blvd. and Torrance Blvd. go west and take the first left. Go straight at the stop sign: these buildings are on the left and restaurant row is on the right. If you go to El Torito Grill, Souplantation, or the other restaurants on restaurant row, these are across the street.

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