The Japanese American Historical Plaza (at NW Davis Street and Naito Parkway) is a beautiful and solemn reminder of the rights and freedoms held by United States citizens. As you walk through the permanent art installation on the Willamette River, you can explore the story of Japanese American citizens of Oregon and the indignities that they experienced through internment during World War II, and the rights they were denied.
A series of brief and heart-rending poems written by Oregon poets Lawson Inada (a beloved former Poet Laureate of Oregon), Shizue Iwatsuki, Masaki Kinoshita, and Hisako Saito have been inscribed on stones lining the walkway. The stone at the center of the plaza lists the ten internment camps that Japanese American citizens were sent to during the war. The last stone in the series contains a bronze plaque with excerpts from the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, in which the United States government issued a formal apology to the Japanese American citizens for their unlawful imprisonment.
The plaza is a free and easily-accessible attraction that is well-paired with a trip to Portland Saturday Market, Lan Su Chinese Garden, Old Town Pizza or just a stroll down the length of Tom McCall Waterfront Park. You can learn about an important piece of Oregon history (with a powerful emotional impact!) in a brief amount of time. The plaza also boasts a gorgeous view of the nearby Steel Bridge, one of downtown Portland’s best views during any time of day and year.
The Japanese American Historical Plaza was dedicated in 1990, and is administered by the local nonprofit Oregon Nikkei Endowment, who also operate the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center at NW 2nd and Davis Street, where you can learn more about the history of Japanese Americans in Oregon.
Learn more about the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center: https://www.shareoregon.com/en/listings/124823-oregon-nikkei-legacy-center-japanese-american-history
Learn about a biking route to the Plaza: https://www.shareoregon.com/en/listings/125468-bike-ride-on-portlands-waterfront