Oregon Nikkei History

Sharing and preserving Japanese American history and culture

On this site we highlight photos from our historical collection housed at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland's Old Town neighborhood, as well as other information about history and Japanese Americans in Oregon. Please visit www.oregonnikkei.org to learn more about the Oregon Nikkei Endowment and its programs.
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Today is the Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans Interned During WWII

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 granting the War Department broad powers to create military exclusion areas. Although the order did not identify any particular group, in practice it was used almost exclusively to intern Americans of Japanese descent.

Although there were no reliable reports that Japanese-Americans on the United States West Coast presented a subversive threat, on March 2, 1942 the military declared California, Oregon and Washington State strategic areas from which Americans of Japanese decent were to be excluded.

More than 110,000 Japanese-Americans (64% of whom were American-born citizens) were required to abandon their homes and jobs and to live in 10 relocation camps.

The United States Supreme Court finally ruled that continued detention without cause was unconstitutional, and the military relocation order was rescinded in December 1944.


Japanese Americans near trains during Relocation. Circa 1942.

Baggage check during Japanese Relocation. Circa 1942.

Exclusion order posted at First and Front Streets in San Francisco directing removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from the first section of the city to be affected by evacuation. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration., ca. 07/1942.

Photograph of Dust Storm at Manzanar War Relocation Authority Center, 07/03/1942.

-from the FDR Library

Camp Savage, Minnesota, circa 1944

Students of the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Camp Savage, where they studied the Japanese language and were later sent to serve in the War in the Pacific.

The MISLS was located at Camp Savage in Minnesota from 1942-44, after which it was moved to larger facilities at nearby Ft. Snelling.

1925 Portland Japanese Community float

This float, part of the Portland Rose Festival’s floral parade, was built during a time of growing anti-Japanese sentiment in Oregon. American and Japanese flags are built into the float railing, with the people in the back also waving flags.

Read more about the history of Japanese Americans in Oregon at the Oregon Encyclopedia.

Rose Festival floral float

Float from the Grand Floral Parade of the Portland Rose Festival, start of route near Multnomah Stadium. This float features a torii at the front and honors Sapporo as Portland’s sister city in Japan. Circa late 1950s.

Rose Festival junior parade

These Nisei girls (and a few boys in the back row) are gathered to march in the Junior Rose Festival parade, circa 1938. The donor of this photo is the girl on the far left.

Odori dancers

These girls are performing bon odori, traditional Japanese Buddhist dancing. The location is unknown.

This scan was taken from a 35mm slide by Frank C. Hirahara, who was an electrical engineer active in the Portland Nikkei community from 1948-54, and took pictures in his spare time as a member of the Portland Photographic Society and the Oregon Camera Club.

Obon in Portland

Frank Hirahara took this photo of odori dancing at an Obon festival, circa 1948-54. Members of the Oregon Buddhist Church and others in the Nikkei community performed bon odori in a number of places over the years, including Washington Park and the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland. This photo may have been taken at Holladay Park in Portland.

Odori Dancers

Photo (taken by Frank C. Hirahara) of members of the Oregon Buddhist Church and Epworth United Methodist Church of Portland, circa 1948-54. They are all holding American and Japanese flags, but the occasion is unknown. Left to right: Ed Tamiyasu, Alice Kida, Jean (Tsujimura) Takashima, Jean (Kida) Tomita, Shizuko (Ochiai) Okazaki, Alice (Matsumoto) Ando.

Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Members of the staff and volunteer helpers reassemble a privately owned Japanese typewriter to be used for the Japanese languge edition of the Heart Mountain Sentinel, Center newspaper. The paper is wrapped around the rubber cylinder, the typist pushes the roller riding platten over the bed of type. After picking the next character, a lever is operated which picks up the type, presses it against the paper and replaces it in its niche. Complicated in appearance and operation, due to the short hand characteristics of Japanese writing, the advance of thought is nearly equal in speed to a standard English typewriter.  1/13/1943

Tom Parker, photographer.  From the Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority

(via todaysdocument)


Tule Lake Relocation Center near Newell, Calif., 1942 or 43. Women at the Japanese American relocation camps of World War II, photographer unknown. 

(via roses-and-railways)

Kikuo Hiromura, the father of the donor of this photo, wearing what appears to be work attire. This photo is unique in that it is one of the few where Kikuo is smiling. Circa 1920s.

Portrait of Seki Hiromura, the mother of the donor of this photo, and one of her sons. Seki and her husband Kikuo raised their five boys in Portland, Oregon. Circa 1925.

Portrait of Seki Hiromura, the mother of the donor of this photo, and one of her sons. Seki and her husband Kikuo raised their five boys in Portland, Oregon. Circa 1925.

Council Crest is a park in Portland, and in 1912 (when this picture was taken), Council Crest Amusement Park was a popular attraction, accessible only by streetcar. The amusement park closed in 1929.

Kikuo Hiromura (the image donor’s father) is on the far left of this portrait. The others are unknown.

Nisei field trip

The date and occasion of this outing are unknown, but it is probably in Portland. The image donor’s family lived in Portland, and one of his brothers is in the group of children. Circa 1931.

The Hood River Nikkei community is shown gathered in front of the Japanese Community Hall in 1929, commemorating Japanese Ambassador Debuchi’s visit.