We made our way through Old Town--where Portland was originally settled back when it was the Wild West and mostly made up of men under 35 who lived in boarding houses and hotels and spent most of their time working and hanging out in saloons. (Some of the saloons had little troughs at the base of the bar, so the fellows wouldn't have to lose their stool when nature called. Classy, right?) The Merchant Hotel, below, was one of several built by lumber barons during this time.
In the 1890s, this part of town became known as Nihonmachi (Japantown). The Merchant Hotel housed the Japanese-language newspaper and a store that sold Japanese goods (Now there's a pizza place and a Japanese American History Museum).
During World War Two, when everyone of Japanese descent was forced out of their homes and sent to internment camps, these buildings were vacated and eventually re-inhabited, mostly by our Chinese American population. Now it's more of a nightclub hot spot and fairly seedy. Not many people live here anymore. The "China" part of our Chinatown consists of a really cool gate and a few hold-out Chinese restaurants that haven't moved to the outer southeast quadrant. The "Japan" part of Japantown was mostly erased during that tragic portion of our history, though we do have a lovely memorial garden nearby that pays tribute to the Americans who were interned and who fought for the U.S. during the war.
|The gate to Chinatown|
|I love this close-up of the Fu Dog guarding the gate--sorry that I couldn't keep the raindrops off the camera lens, though.|
|I couldn't resist this shot with the graffiti, the Chinese characters of the Chinese Language School, and the billboard stating "Rethink Possible" right next to the two flags, American and Taiwanese.|
This last shot shows two fun facts that I learned at lunch at the Hollywood Burger Bar after the tour. See that white bottle to the left of the ketchup? I like malt vinegar and salt on my fries (a remnant from my time living in England), so I'm always happy when restaurants offer it.
I went to shake some on my fries, and...
- Fun fact #1: Malt vinegar and pancake syrup look more similar than you might expect.
- Fun fact #2: Pancake syrup on a french fry tastes exactly as bad as you might expect.
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