Portland’s waterfront cherry trees are rooted in history

The 100 cherry trees in Tom McCall Waterfront commemorate the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II.

A stone with the names of Japanese American incarceration camps sits in front of blooming pink cherry trees in Portland's Japanese American Historical Plaza.

One stone depicts the names of camps across the US where Japanese Americans were incarcerated.

For just a few weeks in late March and early April, crowds flock to Portland’s waterfront to pose for pics among the cherry trees in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. But beyond the dainty pink blossoms, each of the “Akebono” cherry trees are rooted in history.

They were gifted to the city by Japan in 1990 as part of the dedication for the Japanese American Cultural Plaza, designed by award-winning landscape architect Robert Murase. On the edge of Old Town Chinatown, also known as Japantown, the space serves as a memorial to the 120,000+ Japanese and Japanese American people (~4,000 in Oregon) who were incarcerated during World War II.

Visit to appreciate the various sculptures and poems that commemorate their hardship and “raise public awareness of the diversity of cultural experiences in America.”