Brian Niiya

Brian Niiya is a public historian specializing in Japanese American history. Currently the content director for Densho and editor of the online Densho Encyclopedia, he has also held various positions with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i that have involved managing collections, curating exhibitions, and developing public programs, and producing videos, books, and websites. His writings have been published in a wide range of academic, popular, and web-based publications, and he is frequently asked to give presentations or interviews on the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. A "Spoiled Sansei" born and raised in Los Angeles to Nisei parents from Hawai'i, he lived in Hawai'i for over twenty years before returning to Los Angeles in 2017 where he is currently based.

Updated May 2020

war en

Terrorism, 1945 Style

One of the articles I’ve been working on for the Densho Encyclopedia on and off is a piece on the terroristic incidents that greeted the first Nisei to return to the West Coast in the early months of 1945. I had remembered reading a bit about houses being burned down, shots fired, and the like and wanted to have a short piece on that mostly forgotten topic.

In looking at the secondary literature, I was surprised to find that very few authors did more than touch on this subject. The book that devotes the most space to this topic, Audrie …

Read more

sports en

Getting It Right

By now, I’m sure most of you are aware that Don Wakamatsu has been named the manager of the Seattle Mariners, making him the first Asian American to hold such a position in major league baseball and the first Japanese American to hold a head coaching position in any of the major professional sports. Just a few months prior, Erik Spoelstra (who is Filipino American) was named head coach of the NBA's Miami Heat, making him the first Asian American to hold a head coaching position in any of the major professional sports.

I am happy for Wakamatsu, whom I …

Read more

war en

Journey to Honouliuli

“We’ve got to find a way to preserve that,” Jeff said to me. “You know that’s an original building.”

Jeff was Jeff Burton, an archeologist who works for the National Park Service and who is the recognized expert on the archeology of the sites where Japanese Americans and others were confined during World War II. It was late February, and we were on the site of the Honouliuli internment camp in central O‘ahu where Burton and his team were conducting an archeological survey.

The journey that brought Burton and company to Honouliuli was a long one that had started some …

Read more