Leaving Topaz

“Right now, they want us to relocate to our homes on the West Coast or other parts of the United States. We want to go back but are afraid. Why? Because the Japanese-Americans are treated bad by some people I call not-Americans.” —anonymous Topaz High School student

Nagare no Tabi (A Stream's Journey)
“Nagare no Tabi” (A Stream’s Journey). This is an illustration and story by Chiura Obata, a renowned art professor and artist interned at Topaz. The story was originally published in the New Year’s edition of the Topaz Times in January 1943.
[Click on image and scroll down for a translation]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Topaz Internment Camp Documents, MSS 170, Box 1, Fd. 2)

In October 1942, less than a month after they arrived at Topaz, the WRA allowed Japanese Americans, including many high school students, to leave the camps for temporary employment through farms and factories.[1] During this time, many high school graduates began leaving to go to college outside of the camps. Families were not able to move back to the West Coast until early 1945, after the Supreme Court ruled in Endo v. the United States that the WRA must allow loyal citizens to leave the camps. Topaz closed in October 1945.[2]

Leaving camp was almost as hard for many youth as coming to camp was. For adults, relocation meant that many had to reapply for jobs, rebuild the wealth they had lost, and find a place to live. Adolescents, however, were more concerned with acceptance than rebuilding their lives. Only 10 percent of adolescents considered a shortage of housing, food, and jobs as the major problem they would face outside of the camps while 90 percent believed that discrimination would be the major problem.[3]

[1] Taylor, 117.
[2] Brian Niiya,“Mitsuye Endo: The Woman Behind the Landmark Supreme Court Case,” Densho, March 24, 2016, accessed February 5, 2020, https://densho.org/mitsuye-endo/.
[3] “The Education Program,” 120.