EXPOSED: Japantown

Photos submitted for this contest must be taken within Japantown’s original footprint and should fall into one of the following four themes: culture, spaces & places, food, and shops. The contest is open to all ages with a youth bracket for those 18 and younger.

  • Culture: images that represent the Japanese culture, people or heritage of the area.
  • Spaces & Places: buildings and streetscapes that define Japantown.
  • Food: food enjoyed and bought in Japantown.
  • Shops: a local business in action in Japantown.

Want to enter? See how to submit to the photo contest

DEADLINE: Full applications must be received by Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 4pm.


  • Each photo must be titled with the photographer’s name, category & photo name.
    Example: InternationalDistrict_FOOD_Teriyaki.jpg
  • Photos must be between 2-4 MB each in JPEG format (Photos chosen for exhibition will be printed in 8”x10” dimensions) and at least 300 dpi.
  • A photo release form needs to accompany images showing recognizable faces. Photo release forms can be downloaded here.
  • Photos must be taken within Japantown’s original footprint.
  • Photos may be taken with smartphones and connected with other social media platforms at the photographer’s preference. You may tag your photo with #EXPOSEDphotocontest
  • Must complete all parts of the application and pay $10 entry fee to be considered for judging. Entry fee is waived for those 18 and under.
  • Individuals may only submit online or by mail or email. Individuals may not submit to all.
  • Entries containing nudity or illegal/crude content will not be accepted.


  • The winning photos and at least one entry from each participating photographer will be exhibited in the International District in December 2013 and at the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Culture Festival April 25-27, 2014
  • Winners will be announced at the Artists’ Reception in December 2013. Date and location to be determined.
  • Category winners receive gift certificates for products from local businesses and photography-related companies.

Questions? Email

Prior to World War II, the Japanese-American community resided in an area 15 blocks north of Jackson Street, known as Nihonmachi (or Japantown). Their influence can be seen all the way back to the late 1800s, when Dearborn Street was named Mikado Street and Japanese-owned-and-operated businesses flourished in the area.

For half a century, Japantown thrived with bathhouses, dry goods stores, tailors and barber shops. This all changed, following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, when Executive Order 9066 forced residents of Japanese descent to leave their homes, businesses and communities and enter ramshackle internment camps. More than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, including adults and children, immigrants and citizens alike, were incarcerated. This compelling history has recently caught the public’s imagination with the best-selling novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The book features the century-old Panama Hotel where, today, locals meet to sip fragrant teas.

Main Street between 4th and 7th Streets was the main spine of Seattle's Japantown, with 6th and Main as its social and economic hub. But the neighborhood's residences and businesses extended as far east as 14th Avenue, with an additional number of important businesses stretching south to Dearborn. This neighborhood became diverse tapestry of homes, churches, grocery stores, theaters, language schools, hotels, restaurants, bathhouses, and other businesses interweaving with the edges of other Seattle communities nearby.

Although Nihonmachi never returned to what it once was, its presence can still be felt today. The area is lined with other historic buildings, restored by the descendants of some of the original property owners. Together with other community-minded business owners, they have spurred a revitalization effort to continue its distinct cultural essence. Kobo has moved into the former Higo Variety Store, retaining the spirit of Nihonmachi through its shop and gallery, which features artists of the Pacific Northwest and Japan. The NP Hotel was restored and the new Nihonmachi Terrace built to house families and elders. Restaurants dot the area, featuring tatami rooms and sushi bars to enjoy traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine.