The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Friedman Program Winners

Program Overview

The Fannie Kenin Friedman Japanese-American Studies Summer Research Grant seeks to promote the study of Japanese American history, literature, society or similar topics specifically relevant to Americans of Japanese descent. 

Award Winners

2022: Sophie Tachibana Miller

"Little bronze Toko: 'The race war that flopped'"

2021: Lucas Carmichael-Tanaka

"Japantown Lost: Negotiating the Cultural Geography of Portland’s Historic Nihonmachi and Postwar Resettlement of Nikkei"

This paper seeks to address the ‘felt’ loss of the place known as Nihonmachi, or ‘Japantown’ by interrogating how its Nikkei (Japanese immigrants and their American-born descendants) residents defined that space and how it contributed to the identity of Portland’s Nikkei community. By using data compiled from the US census, Japanese directories, and oral histories to reconstruct a firm sense of Nihonmachi’s physical space and the character of its residents, this paper aims to understand both the geographic bounds of Nihonmachi, as well as the community and structures inhabiting that space. Additionally, this paper briefly explores the effects of Japanese internment at the Minidoka War Relocation Center and how that disrupted and reaffirmed the place-identity of Nihonmachi. At Minidoka, Portland’s Nikkei (along with other Japanese Americans from Oregon and Washington) would re-engage in a burst of community building, potentially drawing upon or alternatively abandoning communal traditions carried over from Nihonmachi. Lastly, data from the resettlement of Japanese Americans to Portland’s Nihonmachi area will be used to compare pre- and postwar demographic patterns to determine how postwar settlements within the same physical area of old Japantown continued to be defined.

2017: Isaiah Silvers

I will investigate how the history of Japanese Americans working in Portland, Oregon during the 1930s either mirrors or challenges the nearly triumphal narratives of unionism and the Japanese American community in Hawai’i and Seattle which assert the unique inclusiveness of certain places and certain organizations. This period was particularly fraught both for Japanese Americans and for workers on the west coast in general. In Oregon during the 1920s and 1930s, anti-union forces and anti-Japanese forces were often one and the same. The Ku Klux Klan and the American Legion targeted labor groups like the IWW as well as incoming Japanese immigrants. Meanwhile, the Great Depression reached its peak, industrial unions continued to organize and consolidate, notably into the Congress of Industrial Organizations, and the first large generation of nisei (second generation Japanese immigrants) were growing to adulthood. In addition to industrial labor, organizations of Japanese barbers, grocers, launderers, and other urban professionals figured prominently in Portland.