Located in Portland's Old Town neighborhood, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center is a Japanese American museum that preserves and shares the history and culture of the Japanese American community. Using a large exhibition space and an archive of historical artifacts, the museum offers an educational and interactive experience for visitors.
In the 1890s, a large number of young Japanese immigrants traveled to Oregon, especially Portland, to work on the railroads, lumber mills, farms, and fish canneries. The area by the Willamette River north of Burnside Street became known as Japantown. By the 1930s, Japantown became the heart of the Nikkei community – a term meaning Japanese emigrants and their descendants – with a concentration of over 100 businesses located within a six to eight block area. Suddenly, however, Japantown disappeared in 1942, when a large portion of the community was removed and placed into relocation camps. This generation of Japanese immigrants, known as the Issei, was relocated in wake of Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese-American communities distinguish their members with terms Issei, Nisei, and Sansei, which describe the first, second, and third generation of immigrants. The Issei, Nisei and Sansei generations reflect distinctly different attitudes to authority, gender, non-Japanese cultural involvement, and religious belief and practice.
The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center celebrates the lives and contributions of Oregon's Nikkei community by evoking memories of shared experiences – from early settlement through the unique challenges of World War II and into the 21st century. While visiting the museum, you can view original manuscripts, government documents and publications, as well as historical and contemporary artifacts and photographs that cover the topics of early Japanese immigration to Oregon and the racial intolerance they faced during World War II. The exhibits display the complete evolution of the modern day Nikkei community. You can see the stores that were run by the Issei on NW third and Davis, the camps in Minidoka, Idaho to where the Issei and many Nisei were forced to relocate, and the poverty-stricken homes of the Sansei, who struggled to reestablish themselves within American society.
The museum has daily tours of the exhibits, videotaped oral histories, and frequent communal events celebrating the richness and vitality that Japanese culture brings to Portland. History enthusiasts and anyone who would like to learn more about the history of the Japanese American community in the Northwest must venture to the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.
- Tuesday through Saturday: 11am to 3pm
- Sunday: 12pm to 3pm
- $3 donation, free for friends
- Location: 121 NW 2nd Ave., Portland, OR
- Phone: 503-224-1458
- Website: www.oregonnikkei.org