SEATTLE – Seattle is proud to celebrate our Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AA&NH/PI) heritage and honor the experiences and contributions of our AA&NH/PI residents, neighbors, and visitors.
The AA&NH/PI community in Seattle has played a pivotal role in shaping our vibrant culture and unique identity. Without their influence, Seattle would not be the city it is today.
Here are the stories from two renowned chefs making their mark on our food scene:
Aisha Ibrahim, Executive Chef, Canlis
In 2021, Aisha made history as the first female head chef of Canlis, a renowned fine dining restaurant in Seattle. Aisha, who was born in the Philippines and raised in West Virginia, was a college basketball star before turning to cooking after an injury. She attended Le Cordon Bleu and worked at prestigious restaurants all around the world before landing in Seattle. Her appointment at Canlis broke a 70+ year tradition of male head chefs and has paved the way for more women to excel in the world of fine dining.
“Seattle has been such a welcoming city since moving here in 2021. As an immigrant who grew up in a small, rural town in West Virginia, my experiences with inclusivity and finding a community to connect with had always been limited until moving to the Bay Area, and now Seattle. Each evening at the restaurant, I am grateful to the AAPI community for continuing to shower Canlis with support. I am in constant appreciation of the storied history of the diverse AAPI community. From the Wing Luke walking tour & museum, visiting the Panama Hotel, and supporting AAPI-owned and operated restaurants, I have been very thankful to call this city home.”
Shota Nakajima, Head Chef and Owner, Taku and Kōbo Pizza
Shota Nakajima, who is Japan-born and Seattle-raised, started his culinary journey at age 16 in an acclaimed Seattle sushi restaurant. At age 18 he moved to Osaka, where he studied Japanese cuisine and worked under Michelin-starred chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto, an experience that forever changed his perspective on cooking. Now back in Seattle, Nakajima owns Taku, a popular Osaka-style Japanese fried chicken bar, and Kōbo Pizza. He is a three-time James Beard semifinalist, and was a frontrunner and fan favorite on Top Chef in 2021.
“Seattle has a large AAPI community both in and outside of the restaurant industry that I feel extremely supported by. When I’m working on a new project like my teriyaki sauce line, appearing on a cooking competition show, or especially with my two restaurants – this community shows up for me time and time again. They’ve also strongly supported my style of cooking and the way I showcase my Japanese heritage in Seattle in different ways, from more refined dishes to comfort food.”
Throughout the month, locals and visitors alike will have the opportunity to explore the AA&NH/PI culture that thrives in Seattle. For a list of things to do and places to go to honor AA&NH/PI heritage, check out the recommendations below.
Do you have a recommendation for how to celebrate AA&NH/PI month in Seattle? Please submit your ideas to [email protected]. We would love to hear from you!
Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration
On Saturday, May 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Seattle Center Festál is kicking off the month with an Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration held at the Armory Food & Events Hall. The event will feature food, traditional music and dance, local vendors, and cultural displays from the AA&NH/PI community in Seattle, which represents more than 26 different ethnic communities and cultures.
One of only two museums in the U.S. dedicated solely to bonsai, the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way maintains a collection of 150 bonsai with trees from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the U.S. Stop by Mother’s Day weekend (Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to see live demonstrations, tour impressive collections, and shop at the museum’s pop-up shop.
Cricket is a bat-and-ball team sport, and is especially popular in South Asian communities. The Northwest Cricket League hosts games every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at parks across the Seattle Metro Area, including North Robinswood Park, Marymoor Park, Magnusson Park and more. Find a full schedule here.
Ikat: A World of Compelling Cloth at the Seattle Art Museum
The Ikat exhibition, running through May 29, showcases more than 100 textiles from both the museum’s collection and a dedicated Seattle-area collector. The exhibition delves into the intricate processes of dyeing and hand-weaving threads to create the complex textile pattern known as ikat, which is used in elegant Japanese kimonos, silk robes from Central Asia, symbolic cloths from Indonesia, and more. The exhibition also includes an immersive installation by contemporary artists Rowland and Chinami Ricketts that celebrates the power of slow fashion and the artistry of clothing.
Seattle’s International District
The Chinatown-International District (known as “the C-ID”) is the cultural hub for Seattle’s AA&NH/PI communities. The District is made up of different Asian cultures of mostly family-owned shops and restaurants perfect for a day of exploring. Other District landmarks include Hing Hay Park and the Historic Chinatown Gate. Visit the National Park Service website for more on the district’s unique and interesting history.
Japanese Cultural Community Center
The Japanese Cultural Community Center is a great place to learn more about Japanese language, culture and community. On Thursday, May 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the center is hosting its annual Children’s Day, a festival dedicated to sharing Japanese and Japanese American culture through activities like radio taiso (exercise), spinning top-making, martial arts demonstrations, live music performances, and even a children’s yukata fashion show.
The Bollywood dance style is beloved for its high energy, colorful costumes rhythmic footwork. Join the Jhoom Dance Academy on May 20 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. for their first-ever annual show at the Erickson Theater (1524 Harvard Ave). The performances will feature a fusion of hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, and classic Bollywood dance styles. Jhoom will bring the magic of Indian culture with spectacular performances, delicious snacks, and loads of entertainment.
Joyful Culture of India Festival
Come experience the beauty of Indian culture on May 20 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at this event hosted by the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Tacoma (4851 S Tacoma Way). The family-friendly festival will showcase the arts, culture, traditions, and heritage of India.
Kubota Garden is a beautiful 20-acre Japanese garden in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood. It was first founded in 1927 by Fujitaro Kubota, a Japanese immigrant. The Kubota Garden became a public park in 1987, and is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the garden in accordance with Fujitaro Kubota’s vision. Stop by and enjoy the garden on May 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the Annual Spring Plant Sale Fundraiser.
The Panama Hotel is located in the Chinatown-International District, in what was once Nihonmachi (Japantown). The hotel has a unique place in Seattle’s history, as it once provided lodging to immigrants from Japan, and its basement was used by the Japanese community as a storeroom before they were sent to camps in WWII. The hotel was designed by Sabro Ozasa, the first Asian-American architect to practice in the Puget Sound region. Today, you can tour its preserved traditional bathhouse that was used in the years prior to WWII and is the only remaining facility still intact and in place
Seattle Asian Art Museum
The newly renovated Seattle Asian Art Museum is located in Volunteer Park and has an extensive Asian art collection. Current exhibits include Boundless: Stories of Asian Art.
Seattle Chinese Garden
The Seattle Chinese Garden is a wonderful place to learn more about the rich heritage of Chinese arts and culture via a beautiful Sichuan-style garden. The garden is a testament to the friendship between sister cities Seattle and Chongqing, China. The gardens feature four main elements – water, stone, plants and architecture. On Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14, visit the Seattle Chinese Garden for its 2023 Peony Festival.
Seattle Japanese Garden
Experience the Seattle Japanese Garden located in the Washington Park Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens. The 3.5-acre garden features curving pathways, beautiful foliage, flowing water and a teahouse. When visiting in May, check out the ‘Jaku (寂)’ installation by renowned Japanese designer and artist Shogo Ota.
Te Fare O Tamatoa Student Showcase
Te Fare O Tamatoa is a non-profit organization that spreads knowledge of Tahitian culture through dance and music. On Saturday, May 13 at 6 p.m., they are hosting a student showcase featuring dancing and drumming performances. The event will also have a marketplace where you can buy handmade jewelry and other authentic Tahitian goods such as pareus and monoi oil.
Wing Luke Museum – Food Tours and Redlining Heritage Trail Tour
The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience is a must-visit all year long. Located in the Chinatown-International District, Wing Luke tells the story of the Asian Pacific American immigrants in Seattle and beyond. The museum also offers a “Redlining Heritage Trail Tour,” which is a walking tour that explores themes of gentrification and displacement in Seattle neighborhoods. Foodies can check out their Rice Stuff Food Tour, where you will eat your way through the International District while learning about the role of rice both historically and in our lives today.
See below for a list of local Seattle businesses and restaurants owned and operated by AA&NH/PI community members to get you started.
Art on The Table – Japanese Ceramics
Apna Bazar – Indian Grocery Store
Ascent Outdoors – Outdoor Retail Store
Blendily – Zero Waste Skincare
Boma Jewelry – Ethical And Sustainable Jewelry
Daiso Japan – Retail Store
Elm Candle Bar – Candle Store
Hmong Flower Farmers at Pike Place Market – Fresh Flowers
Kinokuniya – Bookstore
KOBO – Japanese Artisan Gallery
Lam’s Seafood Market – Fish Market
SUM – Clothing Store
The Cura Co. – Ethical Shop
Uwajimaya – Asian Supermarket
Yuan Spa – Day Spa
PLACES TO EAT
Annapurna Café – Capitol Hill restaurant that celebrates unique cuisine of Nepal, India & Tibet
Archipelago – Chef-owned Filipino Restaurant
Ba Sa – Vietnamese Restaurant
Bop Box – Korean Restaurant
Desi Tadka Indian Grill – Indian Restaurant
Dim Sum King – Chinese restaurant
Fresh Flours – Japanese Bakery
Fuji Bakery Café – Japanese Bakery
Harbor City – Chinese Restaurant
Hello Em Việt Coffee & Roastery – Vietnamese Coffee Shop
Honey Court – Chinese Restaurant
Hood Famous – Filipino Bakery and Cocktail Bar
Karachi Cowboys – Indian and Pakistani Fusion Restaurant
Kauai Family Restaurant – Hawaiian Restaurant
Local Tide – Asian-owned Seafood Restaurant
Lucky Envelope Brewing – Asian-owned Brewery
Maneki – Japanese Restaurant
Meesha – Indian Restaurant
Musang – Filipino Restaurant
Oasis Tea Zone – Bubble Tea
Phnom Penh Noodle House – Cambodian Restaurant
Seattle Poi Company — Authentic Hawaiian Snacks for Catering and Pick-up
Spice Waala – Indian Street Food
Sweet Alchemy – Korean-owned Ice Cream Shop
Tai Tung Chinese – Chinese Restaurant
Young Tea – Bubble Tea
19 GOLD – Taiwanese Restaurant
2CThai Bistro & Spirits – Thai Restaurant
For even more ideas, visit The Intentionalist, an online guide to intentional spending that supports small businesses and diverse local communities founded by Asian-American Seattleite Laura Clise.
Asian American Cultural Heritage – Visit Seattle Resource
Support For AA&NH/PI Communities In Seattle – Visit Seattle Resource
Pop-Up Centers for the Indian Community – Indian American Community Services
Melissa Miranda’s Seattle City Guide – Food & Wine
Chong the Nomad – I Know A Place
Hood Famous – Family Style
Mutsuko Soma – Family Style
JJ Augustavo – Dear Seattle
Kristina Glinoga – Uncharted
Sol & Melissa Miranda – Turning Tables
About Visit Seattle:
Visit Seattle has served as the official destination marketing organization (DMO) for Seattle and King County for more than 50 years. A 501(c)(6) organization, Visit Seattle enhances the economic prosperity of the region through global destination branding along with competitive programs and campaigns in leisure travel marketing, convention sales and overseas tourism development. Visit visitseattle.org.
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