The Topaz Bus Rolls Out for Last Time – Japanese Americans Visit War Relocation Camp in Utah

Heading out from the Bay Area to the Topaz War Relocation Center in the godforsaken high plains of Utah might not sound like much of a trip but that’s a journey that some of the Bay Area’s Nikkei had to make back in 1942.

The Central Utah Relocation Center (Topaz) is all gone, but its site is still available for visits, and there’s a museum not too far away. So that’s the destination – some people left today from the East Bay to take a ride back into history.

As seen in Japantown:

Anyway, looks like this will be the last trip.

Bon courage, Topaz Bus.

Some of those at Topaz in the 40’s:

  • Karl Ichiro Akiya (1909–2001), a writer and political activist.
  • Richard Aoki (1938–2009), an American civil rights activist.
  • Yuji Ichioka (1936–2002), an American historian who coined the term “Asian American“.
  • George Ishiyama (1914–2003), a Japanese American businessman and former president of Alaska Pulp Corporation. Also interned at Heart Mountain.
  • Tsuyako Kitashima (1918–2006), a Japanese-American activist noted for her role in seeking reparations for Japanese American internment.
  • Fred Korematsu (1919–2005), who challenged the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066 in Korematsu v. United States.
  • Toshio Mori (1910–1980), author.
  • Robert Murase (1938–2005), a world renowned landscape architect.
  • Chiura Obata (1885–1975), a Japanese-American artist.
  • Miné Okubo (1912–2001), a Japanese American artist and writer, noted for her book, Citizen 13660.
  • Mary Yamashiro Otani (1923–2005), a community activist.
  • Goro Suzuki (1917–1979), the Oakland-born entertainer remembered by millions under his stage name, Jack Soo, star of the original stage and movie productions of Flower Drum Songand remembered for his role as Detective Nick Yemana on the 1970s sitcom Barney Miller. Suzuki was a favorite performer at Topaz gatherings.
  • Dave Tatsuno (1913–2006), a Japanese American businessman who documented life in an American concentration camp on film.
  • Yoshiko Uchida (1921–1992), a Japanese American writer, most notable for her books, Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family and Picture Bride.
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