Home History Journey: Japan, Nikkei Tie in Northwest Coast

Journey: Japan, Nikkei Tie in Northwest Coast

Massive oyster shells at a site of New Washington Oyster Company run by Giro and Miyo Nakagawa in Willapa Bay. Photo by Shihou Sasaki/ The North American Post

By Shihou Sasaki
The North American Post

It is always nice to face any discovery during a trip. While heading South to Portland earliery this month, I spent even the short time I had oin the coast to visit some Japan or Nikkei (Japanese Americans) related sites and dig what Japanese, Nikkei and Pacific Northwest ties can be found.

The trip was occurred just several some days before the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which easily reminded me of a possible future-mega earthquake in this region.

In addition to two tall buildings in Satsop, a former projected location of nuclear power plant, which can be seen from Highway 8 and 12 after about a 30 minute drive from Olympia, another site related to the earthquake is a “dead forest” on Copalis River near Ocean Shores.

The site, a symbolic site of the possible mega-earthquake damage, was washed off by a tsunami from the 1700 Cascadia Earthquake. The earthquake linked to Japan, where an unknown tsunami was hit at the time, according to many historic documents around the Japan’s coasts. The tsunami mystery and a pacific tie was unveiled in the “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700” written by the researchers including David Yamaguchi, a columnist of this paper.

Heading south on Highway 101, the coast’s Willapa Bay holds as a Mecca of the oyster farms, where Giro Nakagawa of New Washington Oyster Company had run a factory for decades. The site remains massive oyster shells and old buildings that can tell enough about the early oyster farming stories like Nakagawa’s, who passed away last October.

A tsunami boat from
Japan displayed at Columbia River Maritime Muiseum in Astoria.

Scott Murase, a landscape architect from Portland, has been working on a project to build a marker to recognize the oyster famer. Murase, who also is known as a lead architect of the Seward Park torii project, is the son ofhas father Robert Murase, who is a builder of the Japanese American Historical Plaza along the Willamette River in Portland, where local residents enjoy dozens of cherry blossom trees are enjoyed by local residents.

Back to the story of the earthquake, the debris from the tsunami hasve been arriving arrived on the pacific coast including this region. A washed away 20-foot boat washed away reached Long Beach, Wash., in 2013, and it is now displayed at Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Ore.

The museum is also known to display various Japanese war items from flags to rifles, which were picked by U.S. soldiers as souvenirs and are now in processject to be returned to Japan led by Keiko and Rex Ziak of Obon Society.

The small town, Astoria, and the neighboring towns even have other Japanese connections.

Ranald MacDonald memorial
in Astor ia.

A memorial monument of Astoria-born Ranald MacDonald, the first native-speaking English teacher in Japan, isare located in the Astoria downtown Astoria. Another monument in Wa r renton, a small coastal town next to Astor ia, spots signifies where a Japanese submarine attacked the U.S. costal defense on June 21, 1942.

The area across some mount ains down hHighway 26 going to Portland cross some mountains, that area may have some secret spots of precious matsutake cultivated by the local Nikkei. The highway is eventually reachesing Beaverton, home to one of the most competitive grocery store businesses per capita, according to Uwajimaya Beaverton manger Jack Ayers.

Even in large cities in the Pacific Nor thwes t , the cha r acter of the community may be slightly different, like the landscapes of the Seattle and Portland Japanese Garden.

But how theyo build the friendship among the communities and with Japan is similar to Washington. Oregon has had a tight business relationship with Japan from decades ago, that could help the long time friendship, according to Yoshio Kurosaki, chairman of Japan-America Society of Oregon.

The history of proved that high interest in Japanese culture by residents, as Japanese Consul General Hiroshi Furusawa said, proved that the state has the highest rate of Japanese language learners in educational institutions per capita in the U.S. mainland.

He added that the Japanese companies in the state haves increased 38 to 135 since 2012.

A memor ial
monument marking a site of Japan’s
attack during World War II.

Sadafumi Uchiyama, garden curator at the Portland Japanese Garden, recently visited Hachinohe in Aomori to observe the dedication ceremony of rebuilding the torii, which was washed out in the Great East Japan Earthquake tsunami in 2011on March 10, 2011. The two parts of the torii gate were reached found on Oregon beaches and saved at the Japanese garden to later reach seek the original site.

A happy ending story came last year when the torii was returned to Japan. But Uchiyama recalled com ments and welcomes from the residents in Hachinohe saying that they were thankful for him and the Oregon community remembering the earthquake story.

Such actions, remembering and recognizing, also cont inue i n the Portland Nikkei community, such as like by the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center and Japanese American Citizens League leading the Minoru Yasui Day March on March 28, recognizing the Nisei lawyer who fought against the World War II incarceration and was awarded the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Again, this Pacif ic region has a variety of stories and ties with Japan and Japanese Americans. As a travel season will come around, another educational and discovery opportunity to discover may brighten together.

More related articles will be printed in coming editions.

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