Study Guide

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Setting

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Seattle, Washington during World War II and the 1980s

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes place in Seattle, Washington, the city where Henry lives his entire life. Whether we're spending quality time with Henry as an old man in 1986 or visiting his childhood during World War II, it's clear as Henry walks from one block to the next that Seattle is a vibrant city:

The entire city came alive in the morning. Men in fish-stained T-shirts hauled crates of rock cod, and buckets of geoduck clams, half buried in ice. Henry walked by, listening to the men back at each other in Chinese dialect even he didn't understand.

He continued west on Jackson street, past a flower cart and a fortune-teller selling lucky lottery numbers, instead of going east in the direction of the Chinese school, which was only three blocks from the second-floor apartment he shared with his parents. (3.9-10)

Seattle may be booming no matter what year we're in, but it still falls under the same fearful paranoia as the rest of the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Things might be great during the 80s, but during the war, Henry watches on in horror as the government places restrictions on Japanese American citizens and enforces curfews. Eventually, the streets of Nihonmachi are empty as all Japanese American citizens are sent to internment camps. Just like that, the city Henry loves so dearly loses some of its charm and richness. That Henry continues to call it home, is further evidence of his fierce loyalty, a trait we explore in detail on his page in the "Characters" section.

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