When Japanese immigrant Kojiro Inoue first moved to the Washington area in 1971, D.C. had some Japanese restaurants but couldn’t boast of any that offered sushi. It was for good reason—hardly anyone seemed interested in the idea of eating raw fish. “Sushi wasn’t popular,” explained Inoue to The Washington Post years later. So when Inoue decided to start a small sushi bar within Sakura Place, a Japanese restaurant in Silver Spring, the endeavor wasn’t without its risks. However, Inoue saw potential.
Depending on how you look at it, the 1976 Koreagate scandal didn’t really start with Tongsun Park. But when the media caught wind of “the most sweeping allegations of congressional corruption ever investigated by the foreign government,” Tongsun Park’s charm and personality made him an entertaining antagonist. Part of the intrigue was that Park’s story didn’t conform to the stereotypical immigrant narrative. Park, born in 1935, grew up with wealth. By the 1970s, Park’s opulence – “expensive homes, lavish Embassy Row parties, worldwide jet travel and purchase of his own downtown office building” – made him a Washington celebrity, the District’s “Asian Gatsby.”
As the new PBS documentary Asian-Americans notes, many Asian-American immigrants maintained strong bonds to their home countries and were deeply affected by World War II conflicts that occurred in the Pacific theater. In fact, even before U.S. involvement and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Asian-Americans from the D.C. area closely followed the brewing conflict between China and Japan. Many still had close relatives in China, and Japanese imperialist expansion into China and the resulting Second Sino-Japanese War moved Chinese-Americans at home to organize. On July 7, 1938, in recognition of the one year anniversary of the war’s outbreak, D.C. Chinatown's shops and restaurants closed as the Chinese community gathered in the streets.
When walking the streets of downtown D.C. near Penn Quarter, Washington’s Chinatown is difficult to miss. The vibrant Friendship Archway marks the entrance of the neighborhood, and if you look closely, you’ll even be able to spot markers of the Chinese zodiac on the crosswalks. But despite the area’s seemingly thriving shops and restaurants, Chinatown’s Chinese population today is estimated to be as low as 300. Things weren’t always this way, though. In fact, Chinatown was first located in a different D.C. neighborhood altogether. So how did Washington’s Chinese community first develop? What was Chinatown like before, and how and why did that change?
When the U.S. entered WWII in late 1941, women all over Washington stepped up to fulfill wartime needs; and Filipino women were certainly no exception. The Filipino Women's Club of Washington, formed in 1943, played a crucial role in the war effort and inspired community when the city most needed it.