Oregon Nikkei Endowment

Japanese American History Museum
A project of Oregon Nikkei Endowment

121 NW 2nd Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 224-1458

Museum hours:
Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sunday, noon to 3 p.m.

$5 admission,
free for Friends of Oregon Nikkei Endowment

Japanese American history museum in the Merchant HotelAbout Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center

The term "Nikkei" means Japanese emigrants and their descendants.

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center is Japanese American history museum in Portland, charged with the preservation and sharing of the history and culture of the Japanese American community. The Legacy Center opened the doors to its current home in September of 2004. The museum now has a larger exhibit space, with exhibits that highlight Issei immigration and early life in Oregon, Nihonmachi (Japantown), and life after Executive Order 9066, including the Portland Assembly Center and contemporary Nikkei life.

The Center has expanded storage for archives and historical artifacts, a community room for public meetings and programs, and an improved library. The current location has been made possible through the generosity of Naito Corporation, community contributors, corporate and business donors, and foundation grants.

Visit the Museum

Exhibit Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 11 am to 3 pm, Sundays noon to 3 pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 seniors/students, free for children under 12, free for Friends of Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
121 NW 2nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97209 Directions

Phone: 503-224-1458
email
 

From the Dreams of Many, One Reality

The first serious effort to document the history of Oregon's Japanese immigrants began in 1973. The "Issei Appreciation" project led to a collection of slides documenting the achievements of the Issei (first generation) pioneers who settled in Oregon before discriminatory laws halted further Japanese immigration in 1924.

In 1990, the Japanese American Historical Plaza was completed at the north end of the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Conceived and guided by the Oregon Nikkei Endowment, the Plaza, along with its narrative of sculpted stones, stands as a permanent memorial to the lives of Oregon Nikkei and their determined pursuit of liberty, equality, and justice as American citizens.

Japanese American Historical PlazaAlso in 1990, Portland hosted its first reunion of Oregon Nikkei who lived in the state before the start of World War II. Over 900 people attended from all over the world. The program focused on life in Japantown, a once-thriving section of Northwest Portland, where many attendees had lived, worked, and raised families. It was here that the idea of initiating a broad-based effort to document the story of Oregon Nikkei was born.

In the spring of 1992, the Nikkei community marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. Under the authority of this document, the military was directed to incarcerate all persons of Japanese ancestry living along the West Coast. A half-day dramatic program recounted the fear, grief, indignation, and bewilderment that swept through the Nikkei community in 1942 as entire families were herded into makeshift quarters at the Portland Assembly Center, formerly the Portland International Livestock Exposition. An extensively-researched videotape documenting this tragedy was also produced.

With funding from the Meyer Memorial Trust and support from the Japanese National Museum in Los Angeles, the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland Nikkei community, an exhibition honoring the first Issei pioneers in Oregon was developed in 1993.

It was while researching In This Great Land of Freedom: The Issei Pioneers of Oregon that the Nikkei community was alarmed to find that historical documentation relating to these early settlers was rapidly disappearing.

Cause for even greater concern surfaced in 1995 when 700 Nikkei residents of pre-WWII Oregon came together for a second reunion. Only five surviving members of the original Issei who settled in Oregon attended the reunion. Five years earlier, there were closer to 20.

The prospect of losing forever the legacy of their Issei forebears quickly moved the community to action. A committee was formed, and work began in earnest to locate a site for what would one day become the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.

The vision for the Legacy Center was initially adopted by the Oregon Nikkei Endowment Board in 1995. It envisioned a multi-purpose facility where items of historical importance to Oregon Nikkei could be preserved and where the unique character and traditions of its culture could flourish and find expression.

By 1996 and with the help of the late Bill Naito, the committee had located a potential site owned by the H. Naito Corporation on Northwest Front Avenue across from the Japanese American Historical Plaza. Negotiation for acquiring the property and bringing it up to city building codes began, but were suspended upon the untimely death of Mr. Naito. Subsequently, Sam Naito and the H. Naito Corporation proposed an alternative site in Old Town on NW Second Avenue. In September of 2004, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center relocated to 121 NW Second Avenue, the current home of the Legacy Center.

 M. Inouye at the "Heart Mountain Story" museum exhibit

Mission Statements

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center

The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center serves as a focal point for the preservation and sharing of the history and culture of the Japanese American community. One of the most important chapters in the Japanese American experience is the forced internment of over 110,000 persons of Japanese descent during the Second World War. This fuels our commitment to the preservation of civil rights for all Americans. The Legacy Center is a venue for cultural and research activities and an invaluable resource for the exploration of the experiences of Japanese Americans and their role in Oregon's multi-cultural community.

Oregon Nikkei Endowment

The mission of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment is to preserve and honor the history and culture of Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest, to educate the public about the Japanese American experience during World War II, and to advocate for the protection of civil rights for all Americans.
 

Oregon Nikkei Endowment Board of Directors

Sean Egusa, Vice President
Lynn Grannan, Secretary
Betty Jean Harry
Rich Iwasaki

Brian Kimura
Connie Masuoka,
President
Nobuko Masuoka
Henry Mishima,
Treasurer
Anne Naito-Campbell
Erica Naito-Campbell
Darren Nakata
Kaeti Namba

Lynn Longfellow, Executive Director

Mission

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Current Exhibit

Before Memories Fade
December 13 — February 22

Before Memories Fade

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The Legacy Center has a wealth of resources documenting Japanese American history and culture, housing original manuscripts, government documents and publications, as well as historical and contemporary artifacts and photographs.

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Your support will help to ensure that the history, art and culture of the Nikkei are preserved and shared with the community for generations to come.

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For information on administrative hours,
please call us at 503-224-1458.


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