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Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple (book)

Creators: Louis Fiset

Book cover. Courtesy of University of Washington Press
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

An intimate history of one Issei couple's experience of World War II, including transcriptions of the letters they sent each other when they were incarcerated apart.


This work consists of two distinct sections. The first is a brief overview of Iwao and Hanaye Matsushita's lives, from their respective childhoods and marriage in Japan, to their immigration to the United States in 1919, to their separation and then reunion during the war, and finally their lives after the war. Iwao and Hanaye were both well-educated and arrived in the U.S. with considerable resources, making their process of settling into life in Seattle distinct from that of many immigrants. Active in the Seattle Camera Club and frequent hikers, they enjoyed a busy social life. Iwao eventually found employment with Mitsui, then the Japanese Chamber of Commerce; it was largely these connections that led to his arrest by the FBI on the evening of December 7th , and his detention in a number of immigration centers before being sent to Fort Missoula along with other Issei community leaders.

The second section is a compilation of letters Iwao and Hanaye sent to each other during the two-year period they were separated. These letters provide valuable insight into multiple aspects of life for Issei during World War II. Iwao writes about life in a Department of Justice camp, including living near Italian prisoners of war, taking up new hobbies to pass the time, and observations about Issei's efforts to organize self-government. Hanaye reveals the uncertainty and anxiety that Issei women whose husbands had been arrested by the FBI faced in the months leading up to being incarcerated. She shares with her husband her frustrations and irritations with living in Puyallup and Minidoka ; she becomes depressed and stops writing for a time. Eventually Iwao is released to Minidoka, and the couple are reunited. They return to Seattle once the exclusion order is lifted.

Author Background

Louis Fiset is a professor in University of Washington's School of Medical Education who oversees a program that trains native Alaskans to perform dentistry in remote villages. He is also a researcher whose other publications include Camp Harmony: Seattle's Japanese Americans and the Puyallup Assembly Center (University of Illinois Press, 2009).


Imprisoned Apart was very positively reviewed in a number of academic journals. In particular, reviewers commented on the Fiset's meticulous overview of the organization and administration of Department of Justice internment camps like the one in which Iwao was detained, as well as the in-depth description of the censorship process inmates and detainees had to navigate while corresponding with friends and loved ones. Reviewers also praised the volume for containing ample primary sources from the time period that illuminate the daily challenges of living in such places.

Authored by Emily Anderson

Might also like Family Torn Apart: The Internment Story of the Otokichi Muin Ozaki Family , edited by Gail Honda; Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and His Internment Writings, 1942-1945 by Yamato Ichihashi; A Brother Is a Stranger by Toru Matsumoto

Media Details
Author Louis Fiset
Publication Date 1997
For More Information

For More Information .

Matsumoto Tōru, and Marion O. Lerrigo. A Brother Is a Stranger. New York: The John Day company, 1946.



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Mackey, Mike. Pacific Northwest Quarterly 90.2 (April 1999): 93–94.

Taylor, Sandra C. Pacific Historical Review 68.4 (November 1999): 680-81.

Toll, William. Journal of American History 85.4 (March 1999): 1650–52.

Walz, Eric. The Western Historical Quarterly 30.1 (February 1999): 97.