Journey to Topaz Questions and Answers
by Yoshiko Uchida

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Yuki’s mother says Mr. Kurihara was a “victim of the war.” He was not a solider. What does she mean, exactly?

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Mr. Kurihara is one of the inmates at the Topaz internment camp. He's there with his wife and their orphaned granddaughter, Emi. Yuki soon establishes a firm friendship with Emi, one of many forged behind the barbed wire fences of this truly terrible place.

However, friendships here are not like friendships in the outside world; they are subject to a whole set of completely different stresses and strains. Yuki and Emi and everyone else in the internment camps are victims of the war, even though none of them are soldiers. If it hadn't been for the war, none of them would've been rounded up by the authorities and deported to internment camps. They have done absolutely nothing wrong; they are innocent civilians loyal to the United States. But because of their ethnicity, they are treated like common criminals, like potential traitors and saboteurs.

Mr. Kurihara is just one of many such victims. He's shot dead by a watchtower guard as he and Mr. Toda approach the camp's barbed wire fence. The men were only looking for arrowheads and fossils, but the watchtower guard thought they were trying to escape. So, Mr. Kurihara becomes the latest victim to die in a domestic war waged by the authorities against Japanese Americans and set against the backdrop of a wider war against Imperial Japan.

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