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Six Japanese American high school students playing in a brass band in Rohwer concentration camp.

Four Nisei Jazz Stars You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

As the music genre that defined the United States for the first half of the 20th century, jazz had a deep impact on Japanese Americans. For many Nisei, music served…

A Japanese Peruvian family on a plantation.

Photo Essay: Japanese Peruvian Lives Before World War II

During World War II, the United States colluded with several Central and South American nations to imprison some 2,200 Japanese Latin Americans on US soil. The majority—nearly 1,800—were abducted from…

Thirteen incarcerees at the Manzanar Children's Village. Original photograph inscription: "Left to right: Sunny, Haracy (?), Tatsue, Shizuko, Kazuye, Susumi, Yetsuko (Yetsudo?), Tadashi, Dickie, Hideko, Kindo (?). Courtesy of the Lawrence de Graaf Center For Oral and Public History, California State University, Fullerton.

Manzanar Children’s Village: Japanese American Orphans in a WWII Concentration Camp

Kenji Suematsu was living with his parents and siblings in Costa Mesa, California at the outbreak of World War II. His father, an immigrant farmer from Japan, was apprehended by…

Social Science as a Tool for Surveillance

In the wake of inmate unrest at Poston and Manazanar in the winter of 1942, the War Relocation Authority decided they needed to better understand what they dubbed a “trouble…

A group of cute and happy queers standing under a banner that reads "Asian/Pacific Queer n Proud"

Where to Learn the Queer Asian American History You Absolutely Missed in School

Let’s face it. It’s hard to find queer voices within Asian American history. They’re often erased from both mainstream (read: white) LGBTQ and Asian American narratives — but thanks to…

A woman farmer standing in a field next to her son. The woman is wearing protective clothing and holding a basket of strawberries, and her son is wearing a U.S. Army uniform.

Issei Mothers Played an Important—and Largely Forgotten—Role in the Japanese American Draft Resistance Movement

The resistance of nearly 300 young men who refused to be drafted into the U.S. military out of U.S. concentration camps has become a prominent part of the Japanese American…

T. K. Pharmacy Was a Lifeline for Incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII

T. K. Pharmacy was one of few Japanese American businesses that remained open during World War II. Operating out of Denver—outside the so-called “exclusion zone”—it offered a lifeline to Japanese…

Black-and-white photo of a Mojave man and his horse in the desert. He is wearing jeans, a button-up collared shirt, and a brimmed hat, standing in front of the horse with his arm resting on the saddle.

Japanese American Incarceration on Indigenous Lands

Japanese American incarceration, like all of American history, took place on occupied Indigenous land. These threads of displacement, confinement and forced assimilation are rooted in a much larger history of…

Two men holding a dog in front of a barrack in a Japanese American incarceration camp. The men stand side by side with the dog in the middle. The man on the left wears an army uniform, and the man on the right is wearing glasses and a peacoat. The dog is white/light brown.

Pets in Camp: Dogs, Cats, Canaries, and “Even a Badger”

It is one of the most poignant—and often told—stories of the WWII roundup and incarceration of Japanese Americans: the wrenching decision that had to be made about a beloved pet…

5 Queer Nikkei Ancestors Everyone Should Know About

As we uplift the achievements and ongoing struggles of LGBTQ communities this Pride season—which, friendly reminder, exists because Black trans women rioted against police violence—we want to highlight the stories…

Epidemics in American Concentration Camps: From the “White Plague” to COVID-19

On the afternoon of April 15th, detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington filled the narrow triangle that serves as the facility’s recreation area. In a carefully choreographed…

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…

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…

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…

Smashing the Patriarchy since 1895: The Anti-Violence Advocacy of Issei Pioneer Yeiko Mizobe So

Yeiko Mizobe So was born in Fukuoka on December 4, 1867 to samurai Nobuhara Mizobe and his wife Ino. She and her three siblings grew up in a fairly privileged…

“What an Ungodly Place to Meet”: Tales from Camp Toilets

In stories of the forced removal and incarceration, certain types of stories recur. There is the shock of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent exclusion orders, the preparations for removal including…

Sexual Violence, Silence, and Japanese American Incarceration

In recent months, an outpouring of stories of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault has sparked long overdue conversations around the prevalence of sexual violence and the policies, attitudes, and silences…

Wordsmith and Renaissance Woman Guyo Tajiri

In honor of National Women’s History Month we are excited to introduce the Guyo Tajiri Collection, new to the Densho Digital Repository. Guyo Tajiri was a journalist and writer at…

What We Can All Learn from One Family’s Century of Solidarity

Michael Ishii is a New York based activist and organizer whose deep ties to interracial solidarity began decades before he was even born. In remarks made to a crowd gathered…

Ship Jumpers, Border Crossers, and Other “Illegal” Issei Immigrants

Here at Densho, we often draw parallels between the forced removal and subsequent incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and the treatment of marginalized groups today. Sadly, the…

Photo Essay: Hikaru Iwasaki’s Sunny Views of Resettlement Americana

While the photographs of Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange have helped shape visual understandings of World War II incarceration, there are many lesser known photographers who documented the Japanese American…

Of Spies and G-Men: How the U.S. Government Turned Japanese Americans into Enemies of the State

On December 7, 1941, Sumi Okamoto, then 21, was busy getting ready for her wedding. Oblivious to the reports of bombs falling on faraway Pearl Harbor, Sumi put on her…

Exceptions to the Rule: How Caretakers Helped Some Japanese American Families Minimize WWII Property Losses

Japanese Americans subject to forced removal seventy-five years ago suffered tragic losses of property, business assets, family heirlooms, and more. But there were some notable exceptions—cases where non-Japanese Americans stepped…

4 Bad Ass Issei Women You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

If you’re into strong women who like to color outside the lines and aren’t afraid to take what’s theirs, then you came to the right place, my friend. Following the…