Like much of the Western United States, Greater Phoenix saw its first wave of Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants arrive near the end of the 19th century. In the years since, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has become a key component of Phoenix's culture, adding countless contributions to the area's arts, cuisine, retail, hospitality, medical and tech industries, and beyond.
Because these contributions are still taking place today, there's a wide variety of festivals, restaurants, attractions, and other businesses that represent the various cultures within Phoenix's AAPI community — from the Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown to Mesa's Mekong Plaza — and incredible local talent, including chefs Bob Tam and Lori Hashimoto.
Here's where you can find more of the rich and vibrant cultures celebrated throughout Greater Phoenix today:
AttractionsBack to Top of List
Japanese Friendship Garden
The Japanese Friendship Garden is an authentic 3.5 acre Japanese Stroll Garden that is a sister city project between the City of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan. Named Ro Ho En — Ro is Japanese for heron, Ho means Phoenix bird and En is garden — this tranquil and beautiful setting features more than 1,500 tons of hand-picked rock, stone footbridges, lanterns and more than 50 varieties of plants. In fact, 50 architects from Japan made more than 60 trips here to build it.
Since 1987, the flowing streams, 12-foot waterfall, koi pond with over 300 colorful koi fish, tea garden and tea house have set the stage for a variety of Japanese cultural programs, events and exhibits — all near the heart of downtown.
1125 N. Third Ave., Phoenix
Musical Instrument Museum
Explore the world’s music and cultures at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). MIM takes you on a journey, deep into the heart of human creativity via more than 6,800 musical instruments and objects from every corner of the globe, showcasing "the language of the soul" through multimedia that invites you to hear, see and feel the creative spirit of people as they play their instruments.
Among MIM’s five Geographic Galleries, visitors will find the Asia and Oceania Gallery, which features instruments from countries and island groups in five sub-galleries devoted to regions of East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Central Asia and the Caucasus.
4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix
Phoenix Art Museum
The art of Asia collections feature historical and modern works of Asia, highlighting the unique cultures and artistic and religious traditions of the people of this expansive region. The collection spans more than one thousand years of history from India and Iran to China and Japan.
Among the museum's current exhibitions, and on display through June 2022, is "Farewell Photography: The Hitachi Collection of Postwar Japanese Photographs, 1961-1989," which explores the radical reconsideration of the photographic medium in post-World War II Japan through outstanding works from the Center for Creative Photography.
1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
The Asian District, Mesa
The Asian District is the Southwest’s most vibrant center for Asian culture, community and commerce. Those investments have created a renowned infrastructure that fosters a diverse and growing array of grocery shopping and dining options, as well as other businesses where visitors can experience a myriad of Asian cultures.
The Asian District pays homage to Asian history and traditions while promoting a dense cluster of offerings, including more than 70 Asian restaurants, grocery stores, and other service and retail businesses along a two-mile stretch of Dobson Road in west Mesa.
EventsBack to Top of List
In Phoenix, the cultural, community and food festivals are seemingly endless. So, the odds that you’ll find a diverse group of folks celebrating, dancing or noshing at a pop-up or even larger event are very good. You just have to know where to look.
Take, for example, the Nom Nom Noodles Festival, starring Asian-inspired, fusion and other global pasta dishes, or the Arizona Bao and Dumpling Festival, featuring a range from traditional to creative interpretations conveniently packed meal — both of which serve up flavor and culture to droves of hungry foodies and social media gurus and families alike.
Check out some of Phoenix’s annual cultural festivals, too:
Events and conventions celebrating pop culture, cosplay, anime and comics are also plentiful in Greater Phoenix. Start by checking out these highlighted events and then explore our events calendar for more.
In The SpotlightBack to Top of List
In The Spotlight
This radio host, comedian, pop-culture savant and authority on all things music dishes on must-attend concerts and festivals in Phoenix.Read More
Making History on the Gridiron
Jackson He, the Arizona State University Sun Devils' walk-on running back who became the first Chinese-born player to score a touchdown in an FBS game in 2020.
He, who moved to America more than seven years ago from Shaoguan, China, became a fan favorite in Tempe after scoring a late touchdown in the Sun Devils' 70-7 win over the University of Arizona in the December 2020 Territorial Cup. He did not play during the 2021 season and dealt with an injury and, as of earlier this year, he has entered the transfer portal.
CuisineBack to Top of List
As early as the 1920s, there were three popular restaurants in what was then known as Phoenix’s second Chinatown (known today at downtown’s Warehouse District): Mandarin Cafe, Peking Cafe and Golden Dragon. And the rest, as they say, is history. Check out these guides to the best places for Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and other cuisines throughout the city, including some of our favorite spots, such as Banh Mi Bistro, Mekong Palace Restaurant, Hiro Sushi and Glai Baan.
This 2022 James Beard Award Semifinalist, at the helm of Hana Japanese Eatery, dishes on her favorite local, independent spots.Read More