Portland Japantown (Nihonmachi)


In the late 19th and early 20th century, Portland had a sizable Japanese American population. Economic, legal and social pressures combined to concentrate the community into downtown Portland and the Old Town area, around W Burnside St. All this changed in 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the government to exclude people from “military areas.” The government used the order to remove people of Japanese ancestry from the west coast and confine them in camps for the duration of the Second World War, including approximately 4,000 residents of Northern Oregon and southwestern Washington. Many were U.S. citizens.

Returning to Portland was difficult. Some people had to sell their property quickly, often at a loss. And it was difficult to run a business or care for a home during three years of incarceration. Roughly a third never came back to the area.

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