"California of the Past" -- stories of Japanese American Relocation and Internment

The collection features 33 compelling, personal stories, which demonstrate how government action affected the lives of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans - 65% of them being American citizens.

Included are stories of mass relocation to the Assembly Centers, a WWII Silver Star hero who was initially denied the right to join the military service, a young girl’s high school experiences and employment in camp. These and other stories paint vivid pictures of assembly, camp life and life outside of camp.

The California of the Past Digital Storytelling Project is funded in part by Federal Library Services and Technology funds administered by the California State Library and supported by the Media Arts Center in San Diego.

  • Winter in Topaz by Andrew Okumoto

Andrew Okumoto tells us about Winter life as a child at Topaz Relocation Center in Utah after the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.



  • Momotaro (Peach Boy) by Alice Neishi

Alice Neishi tells us the story of separation from a friend when leaving to go to a relocation camp, as a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, and their reunion 60 years later.



  • My First Anniversary by Anna Towata

Anna Towata tells us of her experiences after the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, as a newlywed at Topaz Relocation Center in Utah and how she spent her first wedding anniversary.



  • Beauty is as Beauty Does by Cookie Takeshita

Cookie Takeshita tells us of an experience while working at UC Berkeley, after her internment at Amache Relocation Center in Colorado.


  • The Other Side of the Fence by Fred Kaneshige

Fred Kaneshige tells us of life after moving from Spokane, Washington to an area outside of the exclusion area boundary limits as a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.


  • Not Fit to Serve by Frank Masuoka

Frank Masuoka tells of being denied to enlist in the military the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 during World War II. Included is the Orders to Award the Silver Star to Frank as a result of his gallant courage and devotion to duty during the war.


  • I’m Home by Ginger Masuoka

Ginger Masuoka tells us of going to Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California, as a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, without her mother and what she experienced upon returning home.


  • Keeping Busy by Kimiko Fujii Kitayama

Kimiko Fujii Kitayama tells us about her experiences first as an assistant activities leader at Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California, then as a middle school P.E. teacher at Topaz Relocation Center, Utah after the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942. She also tells how she was able to continue her education because of the American Friends Service Committee.


  • Such a Barren Place by Kikuko Naruo

Kikuko Naruo tells us about her experiences, after the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942, as a young, newly married woman living in Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California and Topaz Relocation Center in Utah, and how she was able to leave camp after three months.


  • Special Delivery by Hisaye Mary Misaki

Hisaye Mary Misaki tells us of her experience as a DMV employee being suspended by the State of California in 1942 along with 350 other Japanese Americans and how she was reinstated 10 years after her internment in the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California.


  • Drastically Impacted by Mas Takano

Mas Takano tells us about his education during internment at Amache Relocation Center in Colorado after the signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 and how his school life after was effected.


  • Apple Butter by Yumi Root

Yumi Root tells us about how different life was and the things she missed during her internment at Topaz Relocation Center in Utah as a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.


  • My Favorite Hat by Gary Oda

Gary Oda tells us about a hat given to him by his uncle, who was in the military and his uncle's experiences as a Japanese American soldier in World War II. Gary was interned at Topaz Relocation Center.


  • "You disappeared!" by Walter Hashimoto

Dr. Walter Hashimoto tells us about his experience as a 10 to 13 year old boy selling his bicycle before going to Tule Lake Relocation Center in California after the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942. He also talks about his life in camp and his fears when he returned home.


  • My Glorious Moment by Mas Yamasaki

Mas Yamasaki tells us about the experiences of a 12 year old boy living at Tule Lake Relocation Center in California as a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.


  • See the USA by Moss Fujii

Moss Fujii tells us of his experiences as an 12 year old living in internment camps in Tule Lake, California, Jerome, Arkansas and Heart Mountain, Wyoming after the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.


  • Shigata ga nai by Takeo Kato

Takeo Kato tells us of life at Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California where his father and brothers filled canvas bags with straw to make bed mattresses during their internment as a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.


  • Images from the Past by Cowl Adachi

Cowl Adachi shares with us her photo album showing life as a teen at Amache Relocation Center in Colorado after the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942. She also shares life after camp in Detroit, Michigan.


  • The Sting of Prejudice by Yuriko Yokota

Yuriko Yokota tells us of her experiences as a 27 year old internee during internment at Topaz Relocation Center in Utah during World War II as a result of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.


  • “30 Minutes in Manzanar” by Lawson Sakai

Lawson Sakai’s and his Japanese American family spend only 30 minutes in Manzanar Relocation Center.


  • “A Big Mistake” by Kathryn Korematsu

Kathryn Korematsu tells about meeting and marrying Fred Korematsu. She reacts to the legal battles which he eventually won.


  • “Are you loyal?” by Fred Shimasaki

As a young man in an internment camp Fred Shimasaki is asked to sign "The Loyalty Questionnaire".


  • “Bittersweet” by Ellen Shimasaki

Learning about nursing and meeting lifelong friends are the good memories that Ellen Shimasaki of life at Topaz Relocation Center.


  • “First and Last” by Jane Tsushima

Jane Tsushima has the distinction of having the first baby born in Poston Relocation Center and last baby born in Tule Lake Segregation Center.


  • “Gaman” by Shig Naito

Shig Naito tells the story of his father’s internment camp wood carvings that end up in the Smithsonian exhibit The Art of Gaman.


  • “I Remember” by Lillia Yamada

Lillia Yamada’s recollections as a young girl about internment in Amache Relocation Center.


  • “In the Same Boat” by Alice Hikido

Alice Tanaka Hikido tells the story of her father being arrested after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the relocation of her family from their home in Juneau, Alaska to Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho following the signing of Executive Order 9066 in 1942.


  • “It can’t be about my father!” by Karen Korematsu

Karen Korematsu tells how she learned about her father, Fred Korematsu’s, famous legal case.


  • “Lucky” by Jack Matsuoka

Jack Matsuoka, well known cartoonist, tells about the FBI arrest of his father, completing high school in Poston Relocation Center, a year long stay in the Poston hospital and attending Cleveland Art School.


  • “Professor Henry Tatsumi” by Miyo Tatsumi Harvey

Miyo Tatsumi Harvey tells of her father, Professor Henry Tatsumi’s contributions to the Navy Language School during the Second World War.


  • “Lost Family Values” by John Yamada

John Yamada describes the dissolution of the Japanese American families before and during internment.


  • “So Proud” by Ginger Masuoka

As a high school graduate Ginger Masuoka is reunited with her father for the first time in a few years because he was in Colorado training the military police in martial arts.


  • “Topaz – Jewel of the Desert” by Kikuko Ishida

Kikuko Ishida tells of falling in love with Sodie Ishida at Topaz Relocation Center and his joining the 442nd RCT.