“Journey to Topaz is the story of what happened to one Japanese American family during this wartime tragedy, then called ‘the evacuation.’ Although the characters are fictional, the events are based on actual fact, and most of what happened to the Sakane family also happened to my own.” – from “Prologue,” Journey to Topaz, by Yoshiko Uchida
Journey to Topaz : a Story of the Japanese-American Evacuation, by Yoshiko Uchida (Berkeley, California : Heyday Books, 2005; originally published in 1971)
“Yuki began to feel apprehensive. If this meant that the United States and Japan were at war, what was going to happen to them?” – Journey to Topaz, by Yoshiko Uchida
Journey to Topaz : a Story of the Japanese-American Evacuation, by Yoshiko Uchida, follows 11-year-old Yuki Sakane and her family during the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. We watch their stable lives quickly change when their father is taken away by the FBI and the rest of the family – Yuki, her mother, and brother – become prisoners in their own home. We watch the family pulled further apart when Mr. Sakane is sent to “an Army Internment Camp in Missoula, Montana,” while Yuki, Ken, and Mrs. Sakane must pack all “they can carry” and report to the “Tanforan Assembly Center” in Oakland. The deplorable conditions at Tanforan are somewhat offset by their reuniting with friends and the meeting of new ones. Just as they learn to cope with conditions at Tanforan, we follow Yuki once again as her family is sent by train to Topaz, “the Central Utah War Relocation Center.”
Uchida reaches back into her own family history as she describes the Sakane family’s life at Topaz where “there was no vegetation at all and they were surrounded by a vast gray-white desert where nothing grew except dry clumps of greasewood.” They must adjust to barrack life, find their way around the internment camp, acclimate to heat and altitude, and adjust to the desert landscape. Friendships and the return of the father ease some of their discomfort. Eventually, after “one long dreary year,” the Sakanes find their way “back in the world again,” as Ken joins the military and their father takes a job in Salt Lake City “outside the prohibited West Coast zone.”
While Uchida wrote Journey to Topaz for older children, the novel is of interest to all. Like Farewell to Manzanar, Journey to Topaz shares a connection with a past that must never be repeated.
“…The whole camp seemed to be festering with irritability. People seemed to be overwhelmed by a despair that was fed by the harsh weather, the drab desert, and the frustration of living behind barbed wire with whole families crowded into one small room.” – from Journey to Topaz, by Yoshiko Uchida
“…she remembered…what Mother had said… ‘Fear has made this country do something she will one day regret, Mr. Kurihara, but we cannot let this terrible mistake poison our hearts. If we do, then we will be the ones to destroy ourselves and our children as well. Don’t you see?’ Mother had said. ‘We must make the best of it.’” – from Journey to Topaz, by Yoshiko Uchida