Tourists come to Hollywood for various reasons, but visiting Yamashiro is not typically one of them. Hidden on a hilltop on North Sycamore Avenue, the historic Japanese-inspired mansion is a secret haven in the bustling city. 

Yamashiro is an estate originally built in 1911 to house German-American brothers Adolph Leopold and Eugene Elija Bernheimer. The ten-bedroom mansion now includes a 300-seat Asian-inspired restaurant, screening rooms, and a tiered ornamental garden featuring waterfalls and pools. Part of the building comes from a 600-year-old pagoda dating back to 14th century Japan, making it the oldest structure in California.

“There’s nothing else like this in California,” said Carina Quintero, the complex’s marketing manager. “Sometimes I forget how much history around me – it’s certainly crazy enough for Hollywood.” 

The estate was built to look like a recreation of a mountain palace in Yamashiro, Japan. Yamashiro is near Kyoto and home to more than 1,600 Buddhist temples. Construction took years, with hundreds of craftsmen traveling from Japan and China to ensure the detailed architecture matched the original. Aside from being home to Leopold and Bernheimer, Yamashiro also used to house an enormous collection of Japanese antiquities that included ukiyo-e woodblock prints, silk paintings, rare jades, cloisonné chandeliers, and more artwork from the historic Satsuma province. Today, nearly all of the collection is gone, auctioned off in the mid-1920s after the death of one of the brothers. 

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After the brothers’ passing, the estate was transformed into an exclusive 400-club, catering to Hollywood stars. “The story circulating from the Roaring Twenties is that underpaid actresses came to act as escorts for the leading men of the time,” explained Quintero. In the 1940s, the purpose of Yamashiro changed again. Amid anti-Japanese hysteria following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the mansion was vandalized, prompting it to be repurposed as a boy’s school for the U.S. military. Thankfully, the building has since been restored and is protected by the National Register of Historic Places.

Yamashiro has once again become a hot spot for the Hollywood elite. Aside from its acclaimed restaurant, the estate has served as a set for some of the most popular films and television shows in the past fifty years. Key scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill used Yamashiro as a backdrop, and Memoirs of a Geisha used Yamashiro as a stand-in for the Gion district of Kyoto. Scenes from Gone in 60 Seconds, Blind Date, and Perry Mason occurred at Yamashiro. Stories about stars like Marlon Brando, Amy Adams, Charles Bronson, and more all take place with Yamashiro as the setting.

Current owners Freddy Braidi and Boulevard Hospitality Group keep the compound lively while paying homage to its history. It has more visitors than ever, hosting over 1,000 diners on any weekend night. Even though it may seem like a hidden gem to many visitors, Yamashiro is hardly a well-kept secret in Hollywood. If you are sightseeing in Los Angeles, move the Walk of Fame down your list and drive to Yamashiro instead.