Nihonmachi: Portland's Japantown


In the 1890s, hundreds of young Japanese immigrants arrived in Oregon to work on the railroads, lumber mills, farms, and fish canneries. Portland was the hub from which these Issei, mostly young bachelors, found work in the surrounding areas, or stayed and began to work in Portland. The area of Portland by the Willamette River north of W. Burnside Street became known as Japantown. By the 1910s, many men had become more established and began to arrange for brides. In 1920, there were 1,349 Japanese women living in the state. With the start of many new families, Portland's Japantown grew to become a thriving heart of the Nikkei community, a central business district that was home to many families, schools, sports, and social activities. By 1940, there was a concentration of over 100 businesses located within a six or eight block area. Nihonmachi was a busy place, where the Japanese would come to buy Japanese food, receive dental and medical care, find legal assistance, and take care of their banking needs. Japantown disappeared suddenly in the spring of 1942, when all persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from the West Coast and placed into concentration camps. Yet for those who remember the old Portland, the echoes of Japantown can still be heard today. This collection is a brief history of Portland's Japantown, presented by the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center with special thanks to George Katagiri. Please contact the Legacy Center for additional information. Enjoy!

Slides in this album 

Portland's Japantown

In the early days, Portland’s Japantown was the heart of the Japanese community in Oregon. During the 1890s and early 1900s, Portland was the hub from which Japanese immigrants were sent to work for the railroads, lumber companies, canneries, and farms throughout Oregon and as far away as Wyoming and …

Portland Japantown map ca 1940
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

The Merchant Hotel

As time passed, the community grew and settled in surrounding areas, but Portland’s Nihonmachi always remained the core business district. As the number of families increased from 1910 to 1920, Japantown grew into a respectable place where children could play in the streets and visitors felt comfortable and welcome.

Image: …

Merchant Hotel, Portland, Oregon ca 1938
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

The Oregon News

The Oregon News was founded in 1909 in Portland, Oregon, by Toyoji Abe, and later published by Iwao Oyama as the Oshu Nippo from 1917 until December 7, 1941. The Oshu Nippo was the primary Japanese language newspaper published in Portland, at 128 NW 2nd Avenue, in the Merchant Hotel …

The Oregon News, New Years Edition 1915, Portland
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

Daiichi Takeoka

During the early days, over 100 Japanese managed businesses in the neighborhood, including hotels, laundries, medical offices, restaurants, and other professional services.

Daiichi Takeoka had his office at 208 NW 3rd Avenue, Portland, Oregon. He was a graduate of the University of Oregon law school. As an Issei not eligible …

Daiichi Takeoka in his office ca. 1910-1915, Portland, Oregon
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

S. Ban Company Baseball Team, Portland, OR

Teikoku Company, Furuya, Otagiri, Ota Tofu, S. Ban, and M. Hachiya Co. were just a few of the successful food and mercantile stores in Portland’s Nihonmachi. The S. Ban store was located on NW 3rd and Couch, operating from 1892 until 1924, selling goods to thousands of railroad and farm …

S. Ban Company Baseball Team, Portland, Oregon
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

Jimmy's Clothes Shop

Jimmy’s Clothes Shop was located in Portland’s Japantown at 311 W. Burnside Street, with owner Masaaki Usuda, ca. 1940. Photo courtesy Mae Hada.

Jimmy's Clothes Shop, Portland, Oregon, ca. 1940
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

North Japanese School Class of 1934-35

Many Nisei children living in the area attended Atkinson school in the daytime, and then went to the North Japanese School (Katei Gakuen) at NW 5th and Everett afterwards. This photo, taken in 1934-35, shows Principal Juichiro Terusaki. Portland’s Japantown. ONLC Collection.

Content © Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center .

North Japanese School (Katei Gakuen), Portland, Oregon 1934-35
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

Portland Sumo Club, 1931

Sports were a popular activity in Nihonmachi. The Portland Sumo club practiced in the Japantown neighborhood, as did Portland Obukan judo, fencing, and dance classes. Other activities included basketball (boys and girls teams), golf and baseball.

Sumo tournaments were held in the Longshoreman’s Hall at NW 4th and Everett, Portland, …

Portland Sumo Club, 1931
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

Evacuation Sale, Teikoku Company

Teikoku store was located in the Merchant Hotel building at NW 3rd and Davis, providing fresh food, dry goods, steamer tickets, and many other necessities of daily life for Portland’s Issei and their families. Founded in 1905, the store reopened after World War II as Anzen. Open daily in northeast …

Evacuation Sale, Teikoku Company, Portland, Oregon, 1941
Contributed by: Oregon_Nikkei

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community history

Oregon_Nikkei — Last modified Jun 28 2021 1:49 a.m.

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