California Magazine: Children of Topaz Return to the Prison They Once Called Home
L-R: Gerry Furuzawa, Richard Furuzawa, Kiyoshi Ina, Stan Umeda, Satsuki Ina, Christine Umeda, and Nancy Ukai/ Detail of photo by Akemi Yamane
On April 22, 2017, six tour busses left Berkeley for a trip—the passengers called it a pilgrimage—to the place where 15 of them grew up more than 70 years ago.
But it wasn’t a sentimental journey. They place they visited was a dusty, heat-baked, windswept prison camp called Topaz in the middle of nowhere in central Utah. They were some of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast who were arrested after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were sent to euphemistically named “relocation camps” further inland, where they were imprisoned behind barbed wire and watched over by armed guards in towers like those of high-security prisons.
Around 65 percent were American citizens, having been born in this country. The other 35 percent had been forbidden by law to apply for citizenship.