Guide to Japanese American Heritage & Culture
Yokoso Portland e!
heritage and culture contribute to Portlands beauty. A calm
and peaceful Japanese aesthetic enhances many public and private
gardens throughout the cityslender purple irises, waterfalls,
ponds filled with brightly marked koi and moss-covered rock gardens.
a leisurely stroll through the pride of Portland, the formal Japanese
Garden, overlooking the city from Washington Park. Learn about the
experiences of Japanese Americans interned during World War II and
the importance of the Bill of Rights at the award-winning Japanese
American Historical Plaza in Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Hop
on Tri-Mets extensive public transportation system and discover
the many treasures of Portlands Japanese and Japanese-American
the first Japanese laborers who arrived in Portland during the Gold
Rush to the fourth generation of today, Japanese Americans have
been instrumental in bringing economic prosperity to the region
through such industries as agriculture, import-export and technology.
Today, an array of Japanese-American businesses and cultural sites
grace the Portland metro region and offer the visitor ample opportunities
to experience the legacy of the Issei, the first Japanese immigrants.
Issei, first-generation Japanese immigrants, brought the tradition
of matsuri, or festivals, to Portland. Their American descendants
continue to celebrate O-shogatsu (New Years), Hinamatsuri
(Girls Day), Tango No Sekku (Boys Day), Tanabata (Weavers
or Star Festival), and the Buddhist Obon (Honoring the Ancestors).
Area churches and temples provide an excellent opportunity to sample
ethnic foods and get a taste of Japanese-American culture at these
President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988,
apologizing for the internment of thousands of Japanese citizens
during World War II. This act mandated payment to the 60,000 surviving
(ee-say) are first-generation Japanese immigrants; Nisei (nee-say),
the first generation to hold American citizenship, were born to
Issei; Sansei (sawn-say) are third generation; Yonsei (yone-say)
are fourth generation.
literally meaning preparing the roots for transplanting,
is the Japanese technique of consensus building that has changed
North American corporate practices.
United Methodist Church and the Oregon Buddhist Temple, two of the
oldest Japanese churches in Oregon, helped families after resettlement
and provided cultural continuity through annual events.
arts schools include karate, judo, akido, kendo and sumo wrestling.
Japanese, nature is used as a metaphor. Flower on a high peak:
unobtainable; clean as a split bamboo: honest, straight
talking; rain firms the ground: adversity builds character.
Portlands Japanese temples celebrate the New Year by pounding
sweet rice into mochi.
has schools of Japanese arts including: ikebana (flower arrangement),
koi (ornamental carp), bonsai (miniature tree sculpting), Buyo dance,
koto (a stringed instrument), calligraphy, poetry and tea ceremony.
The Japanese in Portland
In the 1880s, landless Japanese farmers emigrated to the Pacific
Northwest hoping to make their fortunes and return home wealthy.
These were the Issei, the first Japanese immigrants. The work they
found in fish canneries, on railroads and on farms was backbreaking
and low-paying. By 1891, more than 1,000 Japanese bachelors lived
in Oregon. As their numbers rose, so too did discrimination against
them. By 1907, the U.S.-Japan Gentlemens Agreement
prohibited laborers from further emigration from Japan, but allowed
women and family members to join the men already here.
growing discrimination, a thriving community evolved in a 12-square-block
area (now called Old Town). Known as Nihonmachi or Japantown, this
commercial center was the cornerstone for the Japanese community,
with its own newspaper (Oshu Shimpo), Japanese grocery stores, hotels,
bath houses, laundries, theaters, gambling and social clubs, beauty
salons and restaurants. In 1889, Shintaro Takaki opened his restaurant,
Ohayo, the first Japanese business in Portland. The first Japanese
settler in the region opened a sawmill in 1880 near what is now
the town of Orient, Oregon.
came to an abrupt and tragic halt on February 19, 1942, when President
Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 that led to the
evacuation and internment of thousands of loyal Japanese American
citizens. Portland community members were detained for several months
at the Pacific International Livestock Exposition Center in North
Portland before being moved to remote internment camps in rural
Idaho, Wyoming and California. In 1945, people were allowed to return
to their homes. However, in their absence, most lost everything
they owned homes, businesses and farms had been confiscated
by the Federal government or simply taken over by others. At first
defeated by the inability to pay taxes or generate income, individuals
struggled and many succeeded in reestablishing homes and businesses.
Japantown, however, never recovered. Japanese Americans relocated
throughout the city and its suburbs.
can receive additional information about visiting the
Portland Oregon Visitors Association