My grandmother, Tommy, was a first generation Japanese American living in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1916 – 2009. After she passed away, I found suitcases of photos and her diary detailing her life farming in Silicon Valley and taking road trips to landmarks across the Bay Area.


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Once the U.S. entered WWII in 1942, her life was disrupted when the U.S. Government ordered the incarceration of all Japanese Americans on the west coast. Her diary and photos tell a heartbreaking story of life in an American internment camp. 

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Tommy sitting on her boyfriend’s Model T in San Jose, CA 1938

Tommy’s brother, Mits, taking his motorcycle for a spin on the farm in San Jose, CA 1938

Tommy’s brother-in-law Freddie in front of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park 1938

Tommy’s cousin George in front of the Coolidge Tree, Leggett, CA 1938

Tommy and friend visiting Treasure Island after it first opened to the public, San Francisco, CA 1940

Newlyweds Tommy and Frank, shortly after they married in response to news of Japanese internment, San Jose, CA 1942

Tommy and fellow interned coworkers at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center General Store, Heart Mountain, WY 1943

Family friend Joe sent this from Europe while serving in the 442nd battalion, 1944

Note reads: “To Frank, the best cabron int the world. From your pal, Joe.”

Tommy and her baby Wayne born in Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Heart Mountain, WY 1944