American-born Kenji and Amy Ota were teenage lovers when they were loaded aboard a train with its windows covered for the long journey from the Bay Area to Topaz. They were married in 1945, shortly before Kenji was drafted and sent to Japan as a U.S. Army translator. 

“Topaz was a very important part of my life,” Amy Ota says after participating in the ground-breaking ceremony. “I feel robbed. I lost those years.”

The Otas also have little confidence that camps like Topaz won’t reappear in America. 

“Oh, yeah,” says Kenji Ota, 91. “It all depends on who the government is fighting and who they decide is the enemy….” Amy Ota, 87, finishes her husband’s sentence, “… and who’s in charge.”

Though many internees, ashamed of the history, avoid talking about their imprisonment, the Otas, who have visited the sites of all 10 internment camps, told their three children about their imprisonment as soon as the kids were old enough to understand. 

“I told them, ‘I want you to know what happened to us,’“ Amy Ota says. “When I finished, I told them, ‘It’s a little better now.’”

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