Utah Stories from the Beehive Archive

Grace Oshita

Grace Oshita.jpg

Dublin Core


Grace Oshita


The experiences of a young girl who lived in Utah’s Topaz Internment Camp.

Shortly after the United States declared war on Japan following the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, Grace Oshita’s father was picked up by the FBI and detained as a suspected enemy alien. Only a few months later, Oshita herself, along with the rest of her family, was removed from her San Francisco home, her neighborhood, and her high school, and sent to live at California’s Tanforan racetrack. One of several thousand Japanese and Japanese Americans forced to make a temporary home among the racetrack’s converted stables and makeshift barracks, Oshita still remembers the lack of privacy and primitive conditions she had to deal with at Tanforan

But the racetrack was really just a temporary stop for the Oshita family. Their final home for the next few years would be Utah’s Topaz Internment Camp. To make the move east from California, Oshita recalls, she and her family were loaded onto antiquated train cars that slowly wended their way across the arid landscape of the Intermountain West before finally halting in western Utah’s rough wilderness. Conditions at Topaz were distinctly unpleasant. Living quarters were crowded and dust found its way into nearly everything. But life went on. Oshita finished high school at Topaz, and went on occasional excursions to Delta or Oak Creek Canyon.

After the war, Oshita moved to Salt Lake City to be with her parents who earlier had been released from Topaz to find work. Once in Salt Lake, the family resurrected the old miso business they had owned in San Francisco. When Oshita’s father died in a fishing accident, her stepmother took over and managed the business until a Japanese company finally bought her out. Oshita, who’s now in her eighties, is one of the few remaining Japanese Americans imprisoned at Topaz. 


Brandon Johnson for Utah Humanities © 2009


Image: Grace Oshita and Family. Grace Oshita, third from left, and her family in 1942 when they were detained. Courtesy of Deseret News

See Grace Oshita’s oral history at www.densho.org.


The Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities. Find sources and the whole collection of past episodes at www.utahhumanities.org