Bush Garden, 614 Maynard Avenue South, Seattle, Washington. • Photo by Joe Mabel
Bush Garden, 614 Maynard Avenue South, Seattle, Washington. • Photo by Joe Mabel

Joan Tomiko Seko, former owner and manager of Seattle’s iconic Bush Garden restaurant will be the Omoide (Memories) speaker on June 18. She and her late husband, Roy, and brother-in-law, Bob Seko, operated the famed eating facility for 47 years in the International District until their retirement in 1997.

The restaurant gained a nation-wide reputation for excellence in Japanese cuisine and hospitality. Under the Sekos’ management, their famed “tatami rooms” were the “in places” for weddings, parties and meetings, including visiting celebrities and dignitaries.

Ms. Seko was born in Seattle in 1937. When she was four years old, she visited Hiroshima with her parents. With threats of pending World War II, the family returned to Seattle on the last ship from Japan. Her wartime incarceration journey took her to Puyallup Assembly Center and the Minidoka, ID, War Relocation Authority center.

Ms. Seko explained that the original Bush Garden was started by her husband’s father in 1953 in the Bush Hotel on South Jackson Street. The restaurant name is derived from the Japanese “Bushido”—meaning samurai. The Seko family moved the facility to its current location in 1957.

“The first major event at our new location was our wedding reception,” Ms. Seko said in a statement. Future plans by current owners are to eventually demolish the building. The future of Bush Garden is unknown.

Since her retirement, Ms. Seko has been active in community events and volunteers with numerous organizations. Her business career serves as a model for today’s generation of aspiring Asian businesswomen.

Ms. Seko’s Saturday, June 18, presentation is another in the monthly series sponsored by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (JCCCW). The programs are held at the JCCCW building, 1414 So Weller Street, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The Omoide writing group session follows the speaker’s program. The public is invited to hear the speakers and participate in the beginning writing group. The events are free. For more information, contact [email protected] or (206) 568-7114.  

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