PORTLAND–The Japanese American Museum of Oregon (JAMO), formerly known as Oregon Nikkei Endowment, has announced the date for the opening of its brand-new museum space at Naito Center. It is in the heart of downtown, just off NW Glisan, four blocks west of the Willamette River waterfront. The address is 411 NW Flanders St., Portland, 97209 (on the ground floor of the Old Town Loft building).
Due to COVID 19 restrictions, the museum opening celebration will take place virtually on Thursday, May 6, 2021. The date holds significance for Portland’s JA community. On this day in 1942, Portland declared itself the first major city on the West Coast to be “Jap free.” All people of Japanese ancestry had been forcibly removed the day before and were incarcerated in repurposed animal stalls at the Portland Assembly Center.
“Seventy-nine years ago, May 6th marked a very dark chapter in our country’s history, but this year it will be a day of joy as we celebrate perseverance, resiliency, and reclamation in securing a permanent place where lost and hidden stories will be shared and preserved, [and] cultural identity is reclaimed and uplifted to celebrate diversity and promote respect for the multicultural society we live in. It is a place to reflect upon and honor the collective struggle and spirit of not just the Nikkei, but [of] all-important immigrant stories, past, present and future. We can’t wait to welcome everyone to the museum,” says Lynn Fuchigami Parks, JAMO Executive Director.
The new museum space will feature several immersive and interactive exhibits celebrating the lives and contributions of Oregon’s Nikkei Community – from early settlement, through the unique challenges of World War II, and into the 21st century.
One of the highlights of the new museum will be the historic jail cell where young attorney Minoru Yasui spent nine months in solitary confinement for purposely violating the military curfew imposed on JAs before their forced removal and unjust incarceration during WWII. The cell was removed from the Multnomah County Jail, near the Portland airport, and relocated to the new museum space where it will house. Yasui’s Presidential Medal of Freedom. There, visitors will hear his voice describing what it was like to be held there. He was the first JA attorney to become a member of the Oregon State Bar. He is the only Oregonian to have been awarded the Medal of Freedom.
In addition to a sneak peek at the exhibits, virtual guests will enjoy performances from singer Kishi Bashi and Portland Taiko. Onsite, perhaps this summer, other local attractions include the JA Historical Plaza, designed by landscape architect Robert Murase, featuring haiku on boulders.
Japanese American Museum of Oregon
Grand Opening (virtual)
May 6, 2021, 5 PM