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:
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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
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
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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: