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Panama Hotel Sento (#14)

Japanese public bathhouses (known as a sento) were once more commonplace up and down the West Coast, serving Japanese immigrants living in residential SRO (single room occupancy) hotels and Japanese migrant laborers coming into the city during the off season. More than just a place to bathe, the sento was a place to socialize and find respite in community, especially through the daily trials of living with racism and discrimination in the U.S.

The Panama Hotel is home to one of only two remaining sentos in the entire country. The sento closed in 1954 but it has been preserved by Jan Johnson, the current owner of the Panama Hotel, who offers periodic tours of the hotel and sento.

Continue to waypoint #15 to learn more about the Panama Hotel.

Images

The unassuming brick façade of the Panama Hotel’s west side hides the historic treasure of the sento preserved intact in the building’s basement level.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

The new gate marks the entrance to the sento.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.