“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” is a book about the love story of young Henry and Keiko set in the World War II era, in Seattle. The setting is actually in my neighborhood and I even occasionally go to the Panama Hotel tea room in which many important scenes take place. I love this book because the setting is familiar to me and I can see how it was seventy three years ago. But most of all, I love the innocent love of twelve year old Henry and Keiko, despite their different cultural background and the war turmoil.
The title of this post “Oai dekite Ureshii desu.” is Japanese and translates to “How are you, beautiful?” in the book. A more general translation would be “It is nice to meet you.” I like the way this phrase was incorporated in the book, and how it was used to strengthen the bond between Henry and Keiko.
The tea room is in the Panama Hotel which is located in the International District where there are many Asian restaurants, groceries, and other businesses. The interior of the tea room; like the brick walls, antique furniture, the tea sets, and subtle background music are the epitome of calmness and serenity.
On the brick wall, there are pictures of Japanese Americans who used to own businesses in Nihonmachi (Japan town) before they were sent to the internment camps during World War II. Part of the floor is made of glass so that we can view the preserved bath house.
In the tea room, we can enjoy a variety of different kinds of tea and sweets. They also have Japanese style sweets and my favorite is the green tea roll cake with sweet red bean paste. Unfortunately, they did not have the roll cake when I visited, so I had a sugar cookie and a cup of Darjeeling tea instead.
For me, drinking tea in the Panama Hotel allows me to submerge myself in both the past and the present of my culture.