ArchaeoCafé Podcast – Episode 2-09 – Japanese American internment during World War II: An interview with Koji Lau-Ozawa

hosted by Otis Crandell and Tommy Ng

In this episode we talk with Koji Lau-Ozawa about the history of Japanese internment camps in the U.S.A. during the Second World War and his archaeological research into the camps.

Listen to this episode online:



Some useful terminology and links

Japanese American Internment during WWII
The forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps in the western interior of the country of over 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry. More than two thirds of the internees were United States citizens.

WWII Gila River Incarceration Camp
An American concentration camp in Arizona, built by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) during the Second World War for the incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. It was located within the Gila River Indian Reservation (over their objections) near the town of Sacaton. The camp held over 13,000 inmates, most of whom were from California and was known for its baseball team, the Gila River Eagles, its prolific produce that fed most of the camps, and for being visited by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project
A non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington whose mission is “to preserve and share history of the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans to promote equity and justice today.” Densho collects video oral histories, photos, documents, and other primary source materials regarding Japanese American history, with a focus on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Various euphemisms
For a look at some of the commonly used euphemisms connected to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during this period of time, see the website of Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project.

Historical archaeology
A form of archaeology dealing with places, things, and issues from the past or present when written records and oral traditions can inform and contextualize cultural material.


Selected reading

Inscriptions and Silences: Challenges of Bearing Witness at the Gila River Incarceration Camp
by Koji Lau-Ozawa
International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 2021, Vol. 25, p. 851–876

Critical Mass: Charting a Course for Japanese Diaspora Archaeology
by Koji Lau-Ozawa and Douglas Ross
International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 2021, Vol. 25, p. 577–591


About Koji Lau-Ozawa

Koji is a historical archaeologist at Stanford University currently researching the Japanese diaspora in the U.S.A., examining the material connections and landscapes of Japanese American communities. In particular, he has been working in collaboration with the Gila River Indian Community to investigate the site of the WWII Gila River Incarceration Camp. This long-term project combines archaeological, oral historical and archival research. A second site of his investigations looks at the material culture of a pre-WWII urban Japanese American community in Santa Barbara. He has previously also worked in the Bay Area for the National Park Service and Stanford Heritage Services.






Leave a Reply