China Town Tour

Every day this week, I have celebrated my big birthday to be!  On Monday, Linda and Cathy took me out for lunch at Etta’s near Pike Place Market.  We had a wonderful time and I felt so celebrated by them! We enjoyed a lunch of crab cakes, the best of the best, made only the way Tom Douglas can make them.  We could have hung out all afternoon just chatting away!

Linda, Cathy, and me at Etta's for my birthday lunch!

On Tuesday, Kim and I went to Chinatown-International District and had lunch and tea at the historic Panama Hotel.  We then went to the Wing Luke Asian Museum where we met for the Chinatown Tour.  I will tell about our day through these photos:

The Panama Hotel (a hotel since 1910) in the pouring rain!

In the basement of the Panama Hotel, there are still trunks full of Japanese clothing, furniture, and other belongs which were hastily stored in what used to be a Japanese bath house. The hotel is in the heart of what used to be Japantown. It was known as Nihonmachi. The Japanese Americans  living here were evacuated and sent to internment camps during WWII.  It is a dark era in our US history. Many of the Japanese never came back to reclaim their possessions.

Ghosts of the past: Belongings left behind in the 1940's at the Panan Hotel.

Tea at the Panama Hotel. It was a luxury to be out of the rainstorm!

Jan Johnson, owner of the Panama Hotel, with Kim and me. Kim is only 2 weeks older than I am. She is my almost-birthday-twin! Together, Kim and I equal 100!

Family Dinner, Diem Chau, 2008 (exhibit from the museum)

Our connections to our family and community is often shared through a meal at the family dinner. Stories are passed on and bonds are made stronger.  The rice bowl symbolizes the family dinner. It lives in every home and is used at almost every meal. The stacked bowls include the Wing Luke Asian Museum donor names:

On exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum: Family Dinner by Diem Chau, 2008

The Nippon Kan Theater was the cultural center of Nihonmachi (Japantown). In the 1980's this beautiful back drop was found intact behind a false wall. The images are advertisements for local businesses.

Fortune Cookie Factory: This is a bag of Flat Rejects! The Unfortunate Fortune Cookies!!

Tiny filled-to-the-brim shop in Canton Alley.

Kim walking in Kobe Terrace Park. You can see the freeway in the background. When it was built in the 60's, most of Japantown (Nihonmachi) was destroyed to make room for it.

Written on a plaque on a wall in the International District:

The element Water represents the North and a time of meditation and rebirth for ourselves and our community.  The spirit flows through our history as we reflect on stories of a community that has overcome many obstacles.

Giant Lantern at Kobe Terrace Park

I was moved by this art exhibit at the Wing Luke Asian Museum.  It is called Letter Cloud, by Erin Shie Palmer and Susie Kozawa, and is made by thousands of letters hanging like a cloud from a sky light.  As I sat on the bench, looking up at the letters floating above my head, I listened to a recording of soft voices speaking the words of these very letters, which had been translated into English.  Letters of longing, letters of love, of hope, and of confessions, they reminded me of all the hundreds of letters my mom wrote to her mother from America.  The story and struggle of the immigrant is indeed close to my heart:

Here in this place of immigrants’ stories, the view of the sky recalls the expanse of ocean crossed to reach this new home, an ocean crossed to reach this new home, an oceanic crossing that must now be made by words of love and longing sent to those back home. The cloud cover of letters floats these words across time and space in the from of letters-tegami-hand-written carrier of hope and dreams and daily life and connection to and from family and friends.

Letter Cloud exhibit at the Wing Luke Asian Museum


There is an old Japanese saying, “Sumeba miyako.”

If you stay in a place long enough, it becomes your beloved home.

Complete slide show from the Chinatown-International District tour:

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