It may be one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods, with roots stretching back to the late 1800s, but Japantown is quickly becoming the city’s newest art destination. The vibrant, diverse spirit of the ’hood (which is anchored by the historic Panama Hotel and runs along Fifth and Sixth Streets between S Jackson and Main) is the perfect inspiration for a host of new galleries, shops and restaurants.
>> Walking along the busy blocks, you are greeted with an array of Storefronts Seattle projects, the city’s initiative to offer free space to art collectives, such as the new IDEA Odyssey, a multiperspective space that explores identity and diversity through different mediums (666 S Jackson St.; 206.462.1359; ideaodysseygallery.com).
>> Get inked by Seattle tattoo legends Chula and Jimmy, owners of the immaculately clean and decorated Tiger Tiger Tattoo (614 S Jackson St.; 206.682.1176), whose warm hearts have made them heroes in the neighborhood.
>> For traditional Japanese fare, follow in the footsteps of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods star Andrew Zimmern to 107-year-old Maneki (304 Sixth Ave. S; 206.622.2631; manekirestaurant.com) and try the seasonal ika no shiokara (fermented squid intestines) featured in the Seattle episode scheduled to air next month.
>> In the corner of the H.T. Kubota Building, nightclub turned artist’s sanctuary Artform Custom Framing (527 S Main St.; 206.467.7074) provides high-quality framing for art dealers and others from near and far.
>> Next door, art powerhouse Dirk Park opened the collaborative Prole Drift (523 S Main St.; 206.399.5506; proledrift.com) in September below his recently renovated second-floor 519 Art Studios (519 S Main St.; 206.245.8598; 519artstudios.com), where Bryan Ohno’s Northwest art haven urban art concept (pictured, 519 S Main St.; 205.459.6857; urbanartconcept.com) also roosts.
>> Head across Sixth Avenue to Beth Cullom’s Cullom Gallery (603 S Main St.; 206.919.8278; cullomgallery.com), where traditional and contemporary Japanese woodblock and paper prints abound.
>> The midcentury modern Danish furnishings found at new, upscale Plus 45 Design (513 S Main St.; plus45design.com) are works of art in themselves.
>> One block south, longstanding artisan favorite Kobo at Higo (602–608 S Jackson St.; 206.381.3000; koboseattle.com) led the way for the playful, chic Momo (pictured, 600 S Jackson St.; 206.329.4736; momoseattle.com) boutique to open next door in 2007. This Eurasian “hapa” shop, owned by Seattle magazine contributor Lei Ann Shiramizu and her husband, Tom Kleifgen, is home to French frocks, Japanese fabrics, and locally-designed clothes with Northwest flair.
>> In the ’hood since 1945, the vision clinic of seattle (677 S Jackson St.; 206.623.1100) showcases a surprisingly wide array of fashionable retro frames.
>> Gracious service augments bites of perfection at East-meets-West Fuji Bakery (pictured, 526 S King St.; 206.623.4050; fujibakeryinc.com).
>> Experience sophisticated contemporary Chinese cuisine at Red Lantern (520 S Jackson St.; 206.682.7211; redlanternseattle.com).
>> Head to Kaname izakaya (610 S Jackson St.; 206.682.1828; kaname-izakaya.com) for a sho-chu screwdriver and Japanese pub grub at one of Seattle’s best happy hours.
>> Mix it up with fresh tacos at Tenoch Mexican Grill (208 Fifth Ave. S; 206.381.8994; tenochmexicangrill.com) or try the roasted red potato pizza at World Pizza (672 S King St.; 206.682.4161), a New York–style pizza joint that recently returned after a 15-year hiatus.
Make a date: Local sushi stop and neighborhood favorite Tsukushinbo (515 S Main St.; 206.467.4004) only cooks up their famous, steaming hot ramen noodles on Fridays.