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10 of the best Chinatowns in the U.S.

By: Josh Lew on June 12, 2015, 3:55 p.m.
Wo Fat in Honolulu's Chinatown

Photo: halemikale/flickr

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Hawaii's historic Chinatown is located on the edge of Honolulu's Financial District. Though the first Chinese immigrants came to Hawaii in the 18th century, it wasn't until about 1870 that the term "Chinatown" was used to describe the Honolulu community where Chinese residents settled. During its first decades, Chinatown had to be rebuilt twice after being destroyed by fire. By the time Hawaii became a state, however, the district was flourishing and the descendants of the original immigrants were playing a major part in the economy of the islands. Because of this, there was not as much of a need for an ethnic enclave in Hawaii as in mainland cities.

After statehood, Chinatown actually went into decline. It became a red light district and a home for unlicensed casinos. After non-profit groups got the neighborhood a historic designation, its fortunes changed. Today the area is an arts and theater district that is popular with tourists. There are still many Chinese-owned businesses — tailors, restaurants and traditional medicine herbalists — and you can still find remnants of the "bad old days" in massage parlors and pool halls.