Asian/American: Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest


Fall 2013 quarter

Taught by

American studies
Native American studies, history, women's studies

“The rain feels heavy/on the gray sidewalks of America.”
—James Masao Mitsui, Japanese American poet of the Pacific Northwest

Embedded among the bricks of the Japanese American Historical Plaza—part of a picturesque waterfront park in Portland, Oregon—are thirteen granite and basalt stones. Engraved on those “story stones” are poems that, in harmony with the overall design of the plaza itself, help illuminate the tragedies and triumphs of Japanese in Oregon. Along with their counterparts in Washington State, communities of Oregon Nikkei (Japanese emigrants and their descendants, including “war brides” and a “mixed-race” population) have helped define—historically, culturally, and in other ways—the Pacific Northwest. Yet, their story is not well known, either nationally or here in this place of “rain and gray sidewalks.”

This program will explore the rich, but still frequently overlooked, history and culture of Nikkei, from their first arrival in this country, through the traumatic events of the World War II period, and beyond. Although we will examine the overall experience of Nikkei in the United States, our particular focus will be on those in the Pacific Northwest. Accompanying us on our interdisciplinary journey will be historical studies, oral testimony, fiction and poetry, photographs and film, and music, among other texts and tools. We will immerse ourselves in topics such as the earliest Japanese immigration; the 19th- and 20th-century struggles against discrimination and exclusion; the World War II internment experience (including an examination of the resistance movement in the internment camps, and the legendary exploits of Nikkei soldiers in both theaters of the war); the post-war efforts by Nikkei to reassemble their lives and, for some, to seek redress and reparations; the saga of Japanese “war brides” (women who married U.S. servicemen in Occupied Japan and eventually migrated stateside); and the world of “mixed-race” Nikkei.

Each student will read a series of seminar books and articles related to program topics and themes; participate in weekly seminars and write weekly seminar papers; participate in workshops; and screen and critically analyze films. In addition, there will be field trips to Pacific Northwest locations with Nikkei historical and cultural connections. Finally, students will complete substantial, individual research projects and make summative presentations of their work.


This program was formerly entitled Nikkei in the Pacific Northwest: "We carry strength, dignity and soul."

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

American studies, Asian American studies, U.S. history, U.S. literature, cultural studies, and education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$150 for museum admission and overnight field trips


Date Revision
June 12th, 2013 New title (formerly Nikkei in the Pacific Northwest); description has been revised.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 10254
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 10427

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