Let’s Talk Cherry Blossoms

Uw SakuraDon’t let this cold autumn weather get you down! Before we fall back in a couple weeks, let’s spring forward and visualize that happier time of year for a bit. What do you see when you think of spring? Even with the endless types of flowering plants, one of my favorites (and one I look forward to every year) is the cherry blossom tree or sakura. Many associate the cherry blossom to Japanese culture but did you know that many of the cherry blossom trees planted around the Pacific Northwest are actually from Japan?


In 1976, the Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki sent 1,000 cherry trees to Seattle to commemorate the US Bicentennial (the Bicentennial included a series of celebrations and observances paying tribute to the historical events that led up to the creation of the US as an independent nation during the mid-1970s). Fun fact: the Prime Minister also had special connection to the Northwest and Japantown – he attended the University of Washington and washed dishes at Maneki in the 1930’s.


So where can you find these cherry blossom trees?


One place they were planted was at the Seattle Center. Along with a stone monument and lanterns donated by various Japanese cultural organizations, this initiated the first Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival that is now held at the Seattle Center every April. Beginning as a small program and exhibit of Japanese art as a way to celebrate Japanese culture and America’s relationship with Japan, the Festival is the first and oldest ethnic festival to be held at Seattle Center in the Seattle Center Festál series. Approaching its 38th year, it is the largest public event demonstrating the breadth and depth of traditional and contemporary Japanese art and culture in the NW and British Columbia. With over 90 displays every year and over 30,000 attendees, we’re excited and thankful to the Festival Committee to let the photo contest be a part of the Festival next April!


And in the ID, you can find these cherry trees in KDSC_0305obe Terrace Park. As the deadline for the photo contest quickly approach, hum the tunes of “Sakura Sakura” (a traditional Japanese folk song about spring, the season of cherry blossoms) and make your way up to the Kobe Terrace Park. Imagine yourself as if you are there in the spring time as you see the beautiful blooming Mt. Fuji cherry trees along with the four-ton, 200 year-old stone lantern on the hillside (given as gifts from the people of Seattle’s sister city, Kobe, Japan) and capture the beauty of the cherry trees in the autumn breeze!


We will exhibit the winning photos at the 38th Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival this next year, so submit your best images of Nihonmachi and have a “hanami” (a flower viewing) in front of the cherry blossom trees around the Fisher Pavilion in April!



Other locations of the cherry trees from Japan include Seward Park, Washington Arboretum, and the Quad at UW.

Prize Highlight: Color One Photo Lab!

Our prize highlight this week is two $100 gift certificates for Color One Photo Lab! Color One is an independently-owned specializer in large format photo printing, providing their services to Seattle’s landmark institutions, from sports teams to museums, restaurants, art galleries, and more, for over 40 years. Today their services are wide and varied, as explained by owner Carl Cooper:


“We specialize in large format photo prints. We can print, mount, and laminate, your images to gator-board, foam-boards, sintra, acrylic, and dibond. In addition to our popular matte photo prints, we offer glossy and pearl papers along with Duratrans film for backlit displays. We also print banners, window clings, large format adhesive vinyl decals, trade-show booth graphics, and more. We offer scanning, image capture, and art reproduction services as well as giclée printing on canvas and fine art papers. Color One has just added an order entry app to accommodate prints as small as 4×6 inches and enlargements up to 4×10 feet, mounted and laminated. Photo packages and personalized photo cards are also available through the new order entry system which you can download from the color1photo website.”


Color One Photo was established in 1969 by Jerry Cooper and the company has been on a continued journey of growing and expanding their functions and capabilities. Jerry started out his photo lab experience at the Boeing Photo Lab in the ’60s and started Color One Photo by specializing in photographic enlargements while also providing lithographic negatives and printing plates to Seattle print shops. In the 90’s they reinvented themselves to include digital printing, investing in the ZBE’s 50″ Chromira Photo Printer, which remains arguably the industry’s finest photo imaging device. Today they are maintaining their enthusiasm for only the best with Jerry’s son Carl Cooper, a certified Photoshop expert and lifelong practitioner of printing and imaging.


Carl and his small team of experts efficiently come together with their individual specialties in delivering a beautiful product. They are dedicated to customer satisfaction and pride themselves on exceptional quality and impeccable turnaround time for orders. From their easy online ordering options to the finished product, you are promised to have your expectations satisfied! Check out Color One Photo at their new site and keep up with them at their Facebook and Twitter pages.


Check out examples of their work – pretty impressive!

Mural for Seattle Police Department

Mural for Seattle Police Department


C1P002 C1P001


Celebrating 85 Years and Counting..


For some, it is where they come to purchase the ingredients they grew up that their mother’s cooked and to IMAG1124others it may be a place of new discovery of Asian foreign goods. But did you know that Uwajimaya got its start in the back of a truck? Fujimatsu Moriguchi, founder of Uwajimaya, started selling fishcakes and other Japanese goods to Japanese laborers in 1928 in Tacoma, Washington out of the back of his truck. Since then, the family-run store has become one of the largest Asian grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest.


Ever wonder how the store got its name? It comes from the fishing town of Uwajima, where Moriguchi learned his trade of making fishcakes and added the Japanese word “ya” meaning “store.” With a mission is to be the leading place to experience Asian food and culture, Uwajimaya does just that and is praised for its variety, freshness and quality, cleanliness and their authenticity of all things Asian. Why not head on down to the International District and celebrate with Uwajimaya as they are celebrate turning 85 years old this month! Who knows, you may be able to capture an image that screams Japantown that you may want to submit for the photo contest! Better yet, submit to both contests as Uwajimaya is also holding their first online photo contest and tell us how you would symbolize Uwajimaya and its rich history through your photos!


                                                                                            Fun facts about Uwajimaya:



  • Fujimatsu Moriguchi came to Seattle in 1924 at the age of 24 working at fishing company in Seattle before moving to Tacoma, Washington.


  • Wife of Fujimatsu Moriguchi, Sadako, was also the sister of George Tsutakawa who was a Seattle-born painter and sculptor best known for his innovative fountain designs.


  • After WWII, the Moriguchi family reopens Uwajimaya in Japantown on 4th Ave South and Main Street as a retail store and fishcake manufacturing company. A Filipino man threw the keys of the store at Moriguchi challenging him that he was crazy to start a business at that time in 1945.


  • In 1962, Uwajimaya began to expand and reach out to non-Japanese clientele when Moriguchi scored a spot at the World’s Fair in Seattle. He sold cigarettes, rice cookers and products from Japan to fair workers. For their 85th birthday, they are giving out a limited edition tote bag (with a purchase of $85 or more) of the old Uwajimaya bag design used in the World’s Fair.


  • Uwajimaya moved to 6th Ave South and King Street in 1970, becoming one of the biggest Asian retail and food store in the Pacific Northwest. The Tokyo-based Kinokuniya Bookstore opened their first Seattle branch on the second floor in 1991 selling Japanese books, movies and music and periodicals.


  • Since 1970, Uwajimaya has added three branches: Bellevue, Renton and Beaverton, Oregon.  There’s also a small food court restaurant inside the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport called Waji’s” and there used to be another store in the Westfield Southcenter mall in Tukwila until 1991.


  • In the year 2000, the Seattle Uwajimaya moved once again to what is now a commercial/residential complex called Uwajimaya Village.



Learn more about Uwajimaya through their new website with features like Uwajipedia, Recipes and Blogs too!

Prize Highlight: Bumblejax!

Bumblejax.2Our next prize highlight is two $100 gift cards for photo mounting by Bumblejax! Founded only in 2009, Bumblejax has already become a Seattle favorite  for modern photo display techniques. Their team of passionate, experienced professionals specializes in “handcrafting digital images into gallery quality wall art”, using unique, non-traditional materials such as acrylics, bamboo, and aluminum. Besides producing large statement pieces for shows, they are eager to bring stand-out photo mounts to even the amateur artist.



The idea for the company was imagined after co-founder Corey Dwinnell wanted to print and mount some of the cool shots he took from a trip to Thailand.As he thought about printing them on different substrates, he found there were few labs offering photo mounting, especially domestically, and those available did not have easy online ordering experiences. As stated by Bumblejax, “our mission and passion is to transform digital photos that get lost on hard drives or buried in the archives of Instagram into gallery quality art. The smile on the face of our customers when they open that box and see the photo they took crafted into art keeps us going every day.” The company started and continues to focus on three key areas – customer service, quality and technology – and strive to offer a personal, relatable, and user-friendly service. Their quality control follows checks and balances and Corey personally reviews many of the photo mounts going back to customers. The online ordering experience at Bumblejax is painless and easy and they are always keeping up with technological trends that would help them connect with their customers. From amateur works to gallery shows, Bumblejax loves to work directly with the artists.


To get a better feel for what they can offer you, check out Bumblejax’s products and even take a peek at their production process on their website, Youtube channel, or Facebook page!


From Bumblejax:

Here’s a video of a large acrylic mount we did for a local Seattle artist not long after wewent into business several years ago. It had been by far the most difficult piece to produce up to that point. It measures 72×46” and was mounted using the artists metallic print. Unfortunately, video doesn’t really do it justice particularly with the glare in this shot, but you get an idea of what it might look like in person. With the right gallery lighting it really does have the WOW factor!


Remembering the Past

Discover Japantown in a unique, inspiring, and spiritual way this weekend and share what you find with us!


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Bitter and SweetSeattle’s Japantown was once the second largest in the nation – thriving with bathhouses, dry goods stores, tailors and barber shops before the war. But wondering where can you go to hear about the presence of the past today? A great place to start is with the official Bitter and Sweet Tour, offered by the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.  Based on the New York Times bestseller, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, the tour journeys through Henry Lee and Keiko Okabe’s experiences and visits Canton Alley of where Henry used to live, the Panama Hotel where many Japanese American families stored their belongings when they were sent to internment camps, and many other places the two young students frequented at the beginning of World War II around the International District.  Check out this short narrative by the author Jamie For talking about the book’s featured locations.


If you haven’t read the book yet, the story begins with Henry, a Chinese American, standing with a crowd of people in front of the Panama Hotel when the new owner discovers what was hidden in the basement of the hotel for over forty years. After seeing the belongings of Keiko, this brought back forgotten memories for Henry and he starts to wonder if he could find his broken heart amongst the unclaimed possessions. But don’t let us spoil it for you. Let this story take you back to the 1940’s with Henry as it teaches us about generation gaps, power of commitment, forgiveness and hope.


Nisei Veterans’ Hall


flag 4Another great place that remembers the past and creates awareness in the present is the Nisei Veteran’s Hall that honors the many Japanese American heroes that fought for this country. Confronted with the national prejudice of being aliens and dangerous at that time, Japanese Americans were eager to prove their loyalty to their country of birth by joining the regimental combat unit comprised of Nisei (second-generation) men from the internment camps and Hawaii. This unit, known as the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, became the most highly decorated unit in military history for their services in WWII. The Nisei Veteran’s Committee (NVC) Foundation’s mission is to preserve and honor the Japanese American legacies through community programs that meet the educational, cultural and social needs of the community by “honoring the past and educating the future.”  Visit the Memorial Hall, Medal of Honor room, and the gymnasium that showcases the history, photos, and artifacts and get a feel for the environment that held bazaars and other holiday parties for the community. Another unique ways to spread awareness of these American heroes are through this comic book called the Journey of Heroes that illustrates the story of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team through cute lovable characters.  Here’s link by the Stacey Hayashi talking a little about her journey working on this project.




Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple


StatueA place providing a feel for the community, sense of connectedness and keeping the Japanese traditions alive in Seattle’s International District is the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple. It has been standing strong since 1901, holding events such as Bon Odori, a traditional summer festival that honors the ancestors who have passed on. The activities of the Betsuin and its historical impact in the Seattle area was recognized in 1976 when it was included as part of City of Seattle’s landmark. Come check out the temple as well as the Wisteria Plaza across the street with the large statue of Shinran Shonin, who was the founder of the Jodo Shinshu School of Buddism and the large temple bell located outside.



Prize Highlight: Photo Elan workshops!

With only a little less than four weeks left in the photo contest, we are excited to be announcing the great prizes we have lined up and our prize sponsors! In the coming weeks, expect to find out more about the prizes from BumbleJax, Color One Photo Lab, Glazer’s Camera, Moon Photo, and Omega Camera Specialists.


PhotoElan2This week, we are happy to announce the first four prizes – four gift certificates for photography workshops (valued at $149) by Brian Hartman, owner of PhotoElan! Photo Elan, founded in 1999, is a wedding, fashion, and portrait boutique photography studio located in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. It is owned by Brian and Jennifer Hartman, a husband and wife team who turned what they love to do into their life’s work. Among other accolades, their beautiful work has been featured in magazines such as Seattle Bride and Seattle Style, and their wedding photography has been voted the “best of weddings” in four separate years by The Knot.


PhotoElanBrian’s interest in photography was sparked by a desire to explore the aspects of light and how it interacts with the environment. Through that exploration, he initially fell in love with film and darkroom and capturing people, nature, and fashion. His style has now developed into one of photojournalistic fine art – meaning he captures scenes as they are without tampering. This style is transferred through his teaching, with a focus on understanding concepts like aperture, shutter speed and how they work together to create great photographs on their own. His goal in teaching is to give students a boost in mastering the basics. This winter he will be offering workshops every two weeks for beginners in two levels, Beginners I and Beginners II. Visit his workshop page to learn more about his workshops and to register!


PhotoElan3You can get to know more about Brian and his work by visiting his blog and Facebook page, where you will find evidence of his enthusiasm for working with people and the camera.


Or if you’d like to win your chance to take a workshop from this awesome photographer, enter into the contest! Find out how to submit your photos here.

Meet the Judges 2013

Introducing two returning judges for this year’s photo contest!



Tom Wear


With over 25 years of experience in the photo industry, we are happy to welcome Tom back as one of our judges for this year’s contest. Tom is the Manager of Contributor Communications at Getty Images, one of the world’s leading creators and distributors of still imagery, footage and multimedia products. He provides information and guidance to hundreds of photographers and contributors who produce the images and other digital content for media professionals.  Tom is back for another round to share his love and passion for photography with us!



DragonFest_AlabastroPhotographyAlan Alabastro


Photographer and owner of Alabastro Photography, Alan has been providing professional digital imagery for corporate and non-profit organizations alike. Specializing in arts, culture, and entertainment, he’s photographed local events such as the Dragon Fest, Fremont Festival and the Aloha Festival, and worked with clients including the Seattle Opera, Pacific NW Ballet, and Teatro ZinZanni. Alan brings a tremendous background full of knowledge to the judging panel and we’re glad to have him back once more!



Our judges can’t wait to see what you capture!

Click here to find out about our other judges this year!





Sushi, shabu shabu, teppanyaki, teriyaki, ramen, and much more, satisfy your cravings by stopping by one of the listed Japanese restaurants located within the original footprints of Japantown. Which is your favorite place to get your taste of Japan?  Capture what defines Japanese food in Japantown with your camera and make the judges go “Gochisousama!”


(Itadakimasu -Translation (literal): “I humbly receive this meal,” or “Thanks for the food, let’s eat!”)

(Gochisousama -Translation (literal): “It’s been a feast,” or “Thank you for the meal”. “I’ve enjoyed the meal!”)



304 6th Avenue South


With more than 100 years of history, Maneki is the first sushi and karaoke bar complete with tatami rooms (private matted rooms) in Seattle. Serving traditional family-style Japanese food since 1904, the restaurant name comes from the term maneki-neko which means “beckoning cat,” a common Japanese figurine that is believe to bring good luck.





Kaname-Izakaya & Shochu Bar
610 S Jackson St


Serving up shochu cocktails and known for their daily happy hour deals, this family-run joint is one of Seattle’s best bargains and was voted #1 for Best Japanese in the 2010 Best of Western Washington contest.



Bush GardenBush Garden
614 Maynard Ave S


Since 1953 Bush (or “bushi” 武士-meaning warrior or samurai) Garden is a place to come connect and celebrate, offering diverse menus of traditional Japanese cuisine.  You can enjoy your meals in a tatami room, in one of the booth, or by the sushi bar and come out for happy hour and late-night karaoke.



Fuji SushiFuji Sushi
520 S Main St


Their sign reads “Taste of Japan – Fuji Sushi” in Japanese.  The “fuji” in kanji (Japanese character) 藤means Japanese wisteria (a flowering plant in the pea family that can live over 50 years) and not the “fuji” 富士that is usually referred to Mount Fuji. They offer great value bento specials on their lunch and dinner menus and focus on quality, fresh sushi and sashimi.




MikadoMikado Teppanyaki
1306 S King St


Showcasing Japanese cuisine through the art of teppanyaki (grilling on an iron plate), Mikado Teppanyaki Steak, Seafood, & Sushi Bar has been providing an eye-catching and mouth-watering experience since 2004. Also, as far back as 1891, Dearborn Street used to go by the name of Mikado Street to mean a Japanese word, “emperor.”   The changes to the street names were due in part of a city-wide plan to standardize street names in a booming urban area.



J Sushi
J Sushi
674 S Weller St


Serving bento box, curry, udon, rice bowls and sushi for lunch and more selections for dinner, come enjoy the impressive fish décor on the wall while you dine.



Fort St. George   and   Maekawa BarMaekawa
601 S King St, #202   &    #206

Ft St. George

Tucked away on the upper level of a mini-mall is Fort St. George and Maekawa Bar. Run by the same owner, both places provide Seattle with a two different style of Japanese dining.  Fort St. George is a western-style Japanese pub serving yoshoku (western influenced Japanese fusion food) and Maekawa is a Japanese small-plate tapas style izakaya offering washoku (Japanese style food).




515 S Main St


Tsukushinbo, meaning a shoot of a field horsetail plant, has been in the ID since the early 1990s.  This tiny family-owned and run Japanese restaurant could be called a sushi speakeasy – complete with no signage, no exterior address number, and no website. But that doesn’t deter its popularity. With only ten tables and an eight-seat sushi bar, many recommend making a reservation if you don’t want to have to stand in the line.  Either way, it’s worth the wait!



Samurai NoodleSamurai Noodle
606 5th Ave S


Focusing all their energy on the rich broth, chewy noodles, and succulent pork that make up Japan’s most popular food, this tiny shop on the west side of the Uwajimaya Village has serving up Japanese-style ramen since 2006.



Shabu ChicShabu Chic
1032 S Jackson St, Suite 202B


Tucked away in the back of the Viet Wah building, Shabu Chic introduces a new type of traditional Japanese meal into the neighborhood that is healthy, fun, and unique.  The term “shabu” comes from “shabu shabu,” referring to the sound made when swaying the thinly slices of meat back and forth in the hot pot.  Served with sauce to dip in after the meat and other ingredient of choice are cooked, enjoy the Japanese-style hot pot, especially on a cold rainy Seattle day!




A Hidden Gem in the Basement

Of the hundreds of sentos (Japanese communal bathhouses) across the country, the Seattle Japantown "Nihonmachi Nites" August 13, 2011.Panama Hotel’s basement bathhouse, the Hashidate-Yu, is the only remaining intact bathhouse in the United States today. Before WWII there were at least four sentos in Seattle including the Hashidate-Yu – the others were the Shimoji, the Hinode, and the Naruto.


Built in 1910 by the first Japanese American architect in Seattle, Sabro Ozasa, the five-story Panama Hotel provided a home away from home for Japanese immigrants, Alaskan fishermen, and international travelers. The lower storefronts were occupied by businesses such as a laundry mat, dentist, tailor, pool hall, bookstore, florist, and sushi shop. When the Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to leave Seattle during the War, the basement of the hotel also was a place where many families stored their belongings.


Takashi and Lily Hori owned and operated the hotel from 1938 to 1985 while Fukuo and Shigeko Sano re-opened the bathhouse after the war until the mid-1950’s. In 1985, the Hotel and bathhouse was sold to Jan Johnson. Many families never returned to claim their belongings after WWII despite both Hori and Johnson making many attempts to find them. Instead of throwing them away, Johnson created a small museum in the basement with the left behind, unclaimed belongings.


In 2001, Johnson opened the Panama Tea House below the Hotel. The Tea House is filled with pieces of the Panama and the ID’s rich history – everything from the antique furniture, old black and white photos of the neighborhood hanging on exposed brick wall, and creaky wooden floor, Before you head down the stairs to the lower portion of the Tea House, look down! You can view the small museum of the dusty unclaimed belongings through this window in the floor.   Discover more about Japantown at the Panama while you try out their tasty pastries, hot paninis and selection of the finest teas and coffee!



Location: 605 South Main, Seattle, WA 98104


History While You Shop

Located in Seattle’s historic Japantown, KOBO at Higo is a unique gallery space that occupies the former home of the Higo 10 Cent Store (later the Higo Variety Store). Also with a location on Capitol Hill, this gallery/shop hybrid showcases Japanese and Northwest fine crafts and artworks, furniture, textiles, photography and other crafty items.


The rich history of the Higo Variety Store was started by Sanzo Murakami and his wife Matsuyo in 1909 when they rented a storefront on Weller Street and later moved to the S Jackson Street location in 1932. For 75 years, the store sold Japanese and Western household items fabric and patterns, toys, imported food, lanterns and also served as a drugstore. Not only was it a shop but also a gathering place for the Japanese American community to meet with friends. Returning from the war, Higo was able to revive itself and help the Japanese American community recover by providing essential items.


In 2003, the Murakami family closed the store but began the search for a tenant that could, as Sanzo’s grandson Paul put it, “respect the sense of family and community that was so much a part of Higo.” They found Binko Chiong-Bisbee and John Bisbee, who were looking to expand KOBO to a second, larger location. Wanting to preserve Higo’s history, Binko and John dusted off the old shelves and discovered items left in the storeroom that were decades old. Now on view is a collection of these artifacts and more, in the permanent exhibit “Meet Me at Higo: An Enduring Story of Japanese American Family” in partnership with The Wing. KOBO also features exhibitions of various artists regularly in their gallery spaces. Check out their website for more information or stop by and see what you can find!


KOBOatHigoThis year, we have the privilege of having one of KOBO’s owners be on our judges panel! Binko was born in Japan but grew up in Seattle and can recall visiting Japantown shops, like Higo, with her mother when she was young. She’s had her fair share of big-city living, residing in two of the world’s biggest cities – New York City and Tokyo. With a Masters in Urban Planning, she’s also studied the ceramic arts and with her knowledge of Japanese culture, Japanese American history in the ID, and her good aesthetic sense, she is a great addition for this year’s photo contest.


Location: 604 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98104



From left to right:  Lei Ann of MOMO, Paul Murakami, Binko and John Bisbee