The Panama Hotel – Seattle

The Panama Hotel found in Panama Hotel Seattle Chinatown is a vital hotel for the local community for a variety of reasons. This was built in 1910 by the first Japanese American architect in Seattle, named Sabro Osaza. It’s also the hotel that has one of the last remaining sentos (Japanese bathhouse) in the US.

This hotel was a significant part of the Japanese community at the start of the 20th century in the city of Seattle. It had sleeping quarters, restaurants, a bathhouse and many other great amenities. The hotel was established in the Nihonmanchi region of the town to help the Japanese people have a region of their own, while also allowing cultural bonds. Skilled workers came here to find new job opportunities, and the Panama Hotel was an important  part of that.

This was also an essential focal point before WWII. The hotel was widely known for its bathhouse, which was extremely uncommon to see in a region like the US. This bathhouse was great for residents because many of them didn’t have access to such facilities in their residence. Normally, these were a place to pursue better hygiene, while also offering people a way to interact with one another. The Panama Hotel was so important to the region that it was declared a National Historic Landmark building in 2006. It was also designated as a national Treasure for the US, one of the 60 in the entire country.

Ever since 1985, the hotel was owned by Jan Johnson. It was his mission to restore the hotel and bring it to its former glory. Doing something like this became rather difficult, but it was clear that eventually, this would be the most important thing one would do to the hotel, to bring it to its former glory, while also pushing its look to the next level.

He chose to close the basement that held many of the Japanese family belongings. However, he installed glass panels in the floorboards, so visitors would be able to check and see artifacts from above, if they wanted to. Being able to see all those historical artifacts is a dream come true for many people. It’s a part of history that a lot of history that people forget, but it’s definitely interesting to see how it all came together and how these things are still held here for a very long time.


The Glass Panels to view the Artifacts from Above
Tea at the Hotel


The Front of the Hotel


An important thing to note is that the Panama Hotel was awardee the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation for all the contribution that it brought to the Japanese culture and growth to the US. This is a critical hotel, and one that continues to stand out as a pivotal hotel with a huge historical and cultural significance. It’s remarkable that it still manages to hold so well, especially after being more than 100 years old. Plus, being able to visit the hotel and having someone take care of it to restore it to the former glory is exciting and very helpful!



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