Chinese pioneers first arrived in the 1860s and established a Chinese quarter near the waterfront. Japanese pioneers worked in lumber camps and farms starting in the 1880s, and a distinct Nihonmachi, or Japantown, grew north of Chinatown around S Main Street and Sixth Avenue S.
Pacific Islanders and Filipinos helped create a complex multi-ethnic urban neighborhood now known as the International District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Dragons perch on light posts, ornamental balconies grace the upper floors of Chinese family association buildings, and stone lanterns and tiled pagodas anchor community parks and gardens in this historic neighborhood that community activists have fought to preserve.
Since the 1960s, Seattle has become home to Korean, Vietnamese, and other South and Southeast Asian immigrants, and the neighborhood just east of the International District is now known as Little Saigon. This fusion of Pacific Rim cultures gives our region a unique flavor and aesthetic. The influence of Asian cultural traditions can be seen everywhere in Seattle – in architecture, garden design, regional cuisine, and the arts.
January or February brings the Lunar New Year Celebration to the International District, while Dragon Fest, Bon Odori, and the Chinatown Seafair Parade all happen in July. Film festivals highlight Asian and South Asian cinema, and community festivals at Seattle Center celebrate Tibetan, Hawaiian, Hmong, and many other cultural traditions.
The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience offers exhibits and programs interpreting these diverse communities, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park houses one of the nation’s premier collections of Japanese, Korean and Chinese art. (Please note: the Seattle Asian Art Museum will be closed for renovation from February 27, 2017 until 2019.)
The National Historic Landmark Panama Hotel & Tea House provides a unique glimpse into Seattle’s Japanese American history, while Kubota Garden, the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum, and the Chinese Garden at South Seattle College all offer opportunities to enjoy landscapes inspired by a variety of design traditions.
We invite you to download the entire Asian American Heritage Guide to Seattle for more information about history, special events, heritage sites, museums and arts.