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Bush Garden (#30)

Also known as: Bush; The Bush

Spirits and beer can create a unique ambience, where people come together in the most unrestrained ways. This might be best embodied in the raucous karaoke bar and there’s none more famous in Seattle than Bush Garden, started by the Seko family in 1953. Along with drinks like sake martinis that bring together East and West, Bush Garden’s legendary karaoke nights have also been an anchor for the neighborhood. Its importance to generations of cocktail drinkers and karaoke performers – and the relationships that have been forged out of both – show how drinks and the culture around them continue to be foundational to our community.

Opened in this location on June 9, 1957 by father and son Kaichi and Ron Seko, Bush Garden was Seattle’s largest Japanese restaurant in the 1960s with 40 tatami rooms on 2 floors. The restaurant was especially known for its immersive décor, including the Japanese landscape at the entrance, complete with bonsai trees, a water feature, and a red torii gate. An intricately carved enclosure within the bar was meant to evoke a Japanese village. The restaurant’s furnishings and fixtures were created over the years by owner Roy Seko and his brother Robert.

With the threat of future development and restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Karen Akada Sakata vacated the site in February 2021 with plans to make a new home at Uncle Bob’s Place at South King Street and 8th Avenue South, fittingly named after Bob Santos who was known to sing and gather a crowd on karaoke nights at Bush Garden.

Images

The iconic Bush Garden sign over the parking lot across from the restaurant.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

The rockery, bamboo and telling cocktail sign at the restaurant’s entrance speak to the immersive décor on the inside.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

Close up of the Bush Garden entrance.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

The Bush Garden included a large dining area with 40 tatami rooms on 2 floors.

Courtesy of Joan Seko.

The Bush Garden was a frequent place for family and community to gather and celebrate.

Wing Luke Museum Collection.