Brian Niiya

Once and always a "Spoiled Sansei," Brian Niiya is currently the content director for Denshō: The Japanese American Legacy Project.

Updated May 2014

war en

Ten Little Known Stories About Topaz Concentration Camp - Part 2

Read Part 1 >>

HOSTILE RECEPTION FOR OUTSIDE FARM WORKERS

As at many camps, inmates were encouraged to go out on short term leave during the harvest season to do agricultural work in states like Utah, Idaho, and Colorado. Because so many workers were moving to the coast to take relatively well-paying war industry jobs, there were serious shortages of agricultural workers, leading to many farmers attempting to recruit incarcerated Japanese Americans. Thousands of Japanese Americans did do this, particularly in the falls of 1942 and 1943. So many left some of the camps in fact, that they created labor shortages ...

Read more

war en

Ten Little Known Stories About Topaz Concentration Camp - Part 1

The “Central Utah Relocation Center”—more popularly known as Topaz—was located at a dusty site in the Sevier Desert and had one of the most urban and most homogeneous populations of the camps, with nearly its entire inmate population coming from the San Francisco Bay Area. Topaz is perhaps best known as the site of the fatal shooting of an inmate by an overzealous camp sentry in April 1943 and for its art school, which included a faculty roster of notable Issei and Nisei artists. It was also the site of significant protest against the “loyalty questionnaire” in the ...

Read more

war en

Thieving Guards, Mass Food Poisoning, and Other Facts of Life in Fresno Assembly Center

The Fresno Assembly Center* (FAC) opened on May 6, 1942 and held a total of 5,344 Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the Fresno and Sacramento areas. One of fifteen dedicated short-term detention camps opened in the spring of 1942, the facility closed six months later when the population was transferred to a more permanent prison camp in Arkansas. Though surrounded by barbed wire fences and guarded by military police—all the while facing oppressive heat in a nearly shadeless camp and a nightly curfew and roll call—Fresno inmates did their best to make the best of things. We ...

Read more

war en

10 Little Known Facts of Life at Minidoka

Located in Southern Idaho, Minidoka concentration camp opened on August 10, 1942 and held some 13,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. The incarcerees — most of whom hailed from Washington and Oregon — were accustomed to relatively mild climates and struggled to adapt to Minidoka’s extreme temperatures and relentless dust storms. They also endured lesser-known travails. Read on for untold stories of life at Minidoka.

 

1. “A Source of Unpleasantness and Inconvenience”

Due to a parts shortage, the sewage system was late in being completed, which meant that the flush toilets could not be used initially. Thus, for the ...

Read more

war en

10 Little-Known Stories About Rohwer Concentration Camp

If there’s one true thing about studying history, it’s that there’s always more to learn. Less (in)famous than sites like Manzanar and Tule Lake, Rohwer was one of two WRA concentration camps located in Arkansas, where inmates were exposed to the unique climate and racial politics of the South, and had regular interactions with Nisei soldiers training at nearby military facilities. This year’s Rohwer Pilgrimage took place on April 11, and Densho Content Director Brian Niiya collected ten little-known facts about the former incarceration site.

1. A Particularly Hostile Reaction by State Government*

The influx ...

Read more