Asian/American: Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest

Fall 2018
Winter 2019
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

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 13 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, Idaho, and British Columbia, 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 North America, through the traumatic events of the World War II period, and beyond. Although we will examine the overall experience of Nikkei in the U.S. and Canada, our particular focus will be on those in the Pacific Northwest. In fall quarter, Washington and Oregon will be at the center of our exploration; in winter quarter we will widen our lens to include Idaho and British Columbia.

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 writing and other workshops; and screen and critically analyze films. In addition, we will take field trips to Pacific Northwest locations with Nikkei historical and cultural connections. Finally, each quarter, students will complete substantial, individual research projects and make summative presentations of their work.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

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


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$100 per quarter for entrance fees.

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

Located in: Olympia

2018-05-04Fees reduced (from $150 to $100 per quarter)