Nihonmachi and the National Archives
by Linda Okazaki
For a genealogist, no trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to the Pacific Alaska Region branch of the National Archives. I spent a full morning scrolling through dozens of rolls of microfilmed immigration records and also had the chance to visit with fellow California Genealogical Society member Trish Nicola. She is a NARA volunteer who specializes in records pertaining to the Chinese Exclusion Act.
For anyone interested in Japanese American history, the Nihonmachi district of Seattle is a must. This vibrant Japanese community originated in the late 1800’s. Following World War II, the neighborhood fell into disrepair as the Nikkei were evacuated, first to assembly centers and then to WRA camps. Now the area is experiencing a revival. Shops and restaurants abound. What’s especially interesting is the way the community blends old and new. Stores mix modern clothing and Japanese antiques, long standing restaurants employ new Japanese immigrants, museums house historical artifacts and contemporary art. Even the Panama Hotel, made famous in the book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, is open for business both as a hotel and tea shop. Everything feels interesting and alive.