The Japanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon, Oral History Collection consists of digital recordings of interviews from Japanese-Americans living Eugene, Lane County, Oregon and the surrounding areas. These oral histories document the immigrant experiences of the interviewees' parents and grandparents; their World War II experiences in the United States or in Japan, and their lives in Eugene and neighboring communities in the years following the end of the war.

The Japanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon

The Japanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon (JAA) was founded by residents of Eugene, the Oregon coast and the surround areas who are of Japanese descent. The Association was instrumental in developing the Eugene Japanese American Art Memorial as a public reminder of the internment of Japanese-Americans citizens during World War II.

Most of the individuals interviewed as a part of this oral history project were born and raised in Hawaii or California before moving to Oregon.

The Interviews

The Interviews

The following are links to each interview with transcripts, sound files and photographs of the interviewee.

Many of the interviewees described their experiences in World War II relocation camps at Manzanar, California, Tule Lake, California, Minidoka, Idaho, Crystal City, Texas, Gila River, Arizona and other camps and detention centers during the forced removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. Some of the interviewees also described their experiences in Hawaii and Japan during the war. A majority discussed the experiences of their Issei, the immigrant generation of their parents and grandparents, who were the first to settle in the United States as well as their experiences as the second generation, or Nisei.

These interviews document the growth and development of the Japanese- American community, and the establishment of the Japanese-American Association of Lane County and county/local events or projects like the Asian Celebration, and the Eugene Japanese American Art Memorial.

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Collection Information

The Japanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon, Oral History Collection is a collection of oral histories, digital sound files, images, videos and documents of eleven community members and influential people from Eugene, Lane County, Oregon, as well as Elkton, Douglas County, and Waldport, Lincoln County, Oregon. This collection is open for research, with materials in Japanese and English available. The collection was donated to the Oregon State University Archives by the Association in 2008, with materials gathered from 2006-2008. A major portion of the collection dates to 1994-2008.

This Oral History Collection is a component of the Oregon Multicultural Archives, a vast archive documenting cultural, ethnic and underepresented communities in Oregon. Components of the archives are available in the Oregon Multicultural Archives digital collections and the ScholarsArchive@OSU.The Japanese-American Association Oral History Collection is one of several oral history collections available through the University Archives.

For more information, please visit this collection's search guide:
Guide to the Japanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon, Oral History Collection, 1994-2008

The History of Japanese-Americans in Oregon

Oregonians of Japanese descent have a long and rich history. In the early 20th century, laborers emigrated from Japan to Eastern Oregon and Idaho for farming and agriculture. Many Japanese businesses were centered in Portland, establishing a Japantown in Old Town district where hotels, bathhouses, and other services and goods were located. A majority of Japanese Oregonians lived and worked in rural, agricultural regions on orchards and farms raising fruit and vegetables. Outside of Portland, communities like Salem and Hood River had many Japanese-American families and farms. Prior to 1940, the Japanese-American community was primarily composed of immigrant Japanese, or the Issei, and their 2nd generation American-born children, or the Nisei.

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OMA, Japanese Farmers

Executive Order 9066

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 granting Lt. Gen. John DeWitt of the Western Defense Command to designate areas considered strategic for military purpose with the ability to "exclude any or all persons." Executive Order 9066 relocated and interned those of Japanese descent living on the West Coast into designated concentration camp or "War Relocation Camps." Many were forced to leave behind their businesses, homes, and livelihoods, relocating and interning citizens and permanent residents who had been living in the United States for many years.

During this time fear and turmoil, the Japanese-American community was subjected to controversial "loyalty" tests to determine their allegiance to the United States. At the same time, many Japanese-Americans were proving their loyalty by fighting for the nation in the 100th Infantry Battalion,all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) becoming the most decorated military unit. Many others belonged to the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), using their knowledge of the Japanese language in intelligence gathering.

Following the end of World War II, many Japanese-Americans resettled in new homes, but the communities that had once existed in rural Oregon did not return to their previous capacity. Many returning families and servicemen found discrimination and exclusion in their old communities. Japantown eventually became less prominent in Portland, and Japanese-Americans began resettling away from their farming and agricultural roots. Eventually, new communities appeared as Japanese-Americans resettled in new areas, like Lane County.

It is important to note that Lane County prior to World War II did not have a very prominent Japanese-American community.

Boarding Train to Relocation

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The Community Today

The post-World War II community and their resettlement marked a major shift for the culture and demographics of Japanese-American community. At this time many Nisei Japanese-Americans were of age and raising families. Although they were raised within Japanese culture, many Nisei and the generations following them identified with American culture, spoke English as their first language, and had the ability to obtain jobs that were traditional unavailable to their Issei parents and grandparents. From this point onward, it can be said that the Japanese-American community became fully integrated and encompassed by American culture and way of life.

For more information on the Japanese-Americans in Oregon and around the country, please visit:

The Oregon Encyclopedia Japanese-Americans in Oregon

The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center Japanese-American History Musuem

Photos of WWII era Japanese-American students at Oregon State University

National Japanese American Student Relocation Council Records at the University of Oregon

Oregon Poet Laureate Lawson Inada reflects on his internment experience PBS Newshour

Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives University of California

Facebook the Japanese-American Association of Lane County

Ruth Nomura