Doris Hayashi

Name Doris Hayashi
Born March 13 1920
Died July 21 2012
Birth Location Alameda, California
Generational Identifier


Doris Hayashi (1920–2012) was a social worker who participated in the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study as a researcher while incarcerated at the temporary detention center at Tanforan , in California, and the permanent concentration camp at Topaz , Utah.

Early Life and Mass Roundup

Doris Shigeko Hayashi was born on March 13, 1920, in Alameda, California. Her father, Ryuichi Harry, was born in Japan in 1883 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1906, and her mother, Margaret Mitsuru (Matsuda), was born in 1903 in Kauai, Hawai'i. Her siblings included Gladys Shizuko (born in 1922), and Harold Tadashi (born in 1929).

As a teenager, Hayashi was active in local Christian activities, including Alpha Omega, a Japanese American club modeled after a Christian sorority. [1] In October 1940, she participated in the sixteenth annual Northern California Young People's Christian Conference and Symposium on "Problems and Attitudes of the Kibei-Nisei," serving on the program's research committee. [2] She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1942 with a B.A. in political science, although she wouldn't receive her diploma until seven decades later, since the war abruptly interrupted her education. She and her family were forced from their home in Berkeley and sent to live at the temporary detention camp at Tanforan Assembly Center, a converted horse race track, in Barrack 68, Apartment 3.

At Tanforan, Hayashi worked as a secretary in the employment department in mid-May 1942 and later transferred to the housing office. Later that month, Tamotsu (Tom) Shibutani , a former classmate of Hayashi's at Berkeley, wrote to Professor of Rural Sociology, Dorothy Swaine Thomas, who directed the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS), an academic project based at the University of California, Berkeley, that was approved by the War Relocation Authority . In this letter, Shibutani recommended that she hire Hayashi for the project as "one of the most reliable people here. Doris, a political science student, has always been interested in social problems. She is a very intelligent girl and her sympathies and attitudes are sound. She might be a good worker to have on the staff." [3]

JERS Fieldworker

Hayashi joined the JERS project as a part-time assistant, on a month to month basis, in exchange for providing detailed diary entries of her day-to-day life and a series of articles she dubbed "Discussions" that included observations of the removal and incarceration. Her JERS diary begins on May 1, 1942 and ends on November 30, 1942. Hayashi was particularly interested in the camp's religious life and activities, although she reported on her circle of friends regularly and documented a range of the opinions and activities of her peers. She occasionally commented on the injustices incurred on the detainees, such as the inspection for contraband. For example, in June 1942 she reported that "Anything written in Japanese language is now contraband, except hymnal and religious writings as Bibles and dictionaries." and "No more meetings can be held in Japanese (unless directly translated.) No posters or bulletins can be in Japanese. The Issei will have to develop their English or else not read or speak." [4] She also writes in July 1942 that "It's too bad about the intolerance of the administration toward any complaints by the Nisei. If they complain, the guilty person gets sent elsewhere (as the doctor who headed the staff at this hospital who complained about the lack of supplies there.)" [5]

In July 1942, Dr. Thomas of JERS visited Tanforan to inquire if any of the current assistants were interested in being transferred either to Tule Lake or Gila . Two Japanese American fieldworkers chose to go to Gila (with their families) but the rest of the group chose to remain in Tanforan. Hayashi left Tanforan on October 1, 1942, arriving at the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp two days later. At Topaz, she shared a single barrack apartment at 20-5-B with her parents and two younger siblings. Within days after her arrival, she announced "For myself, I have obtained a position as junior administrative asst. to Lorne W. Bell in research" in a letter to Thomas. Bell was in charge of community services at Topaz, which included the churches, schools, and libraries as well as recreation and inmate "self-government." [6] Hayashi kept busy at Topaz: she was the volunteer coordinator of interest groups for the Topaz College Intercollegiate Fellowship, and chairman of the Young People's Sunday Evening Conference. [7]

She continued to work with JERS along with Fred Y. Hoshiyama , who was also a UC Berkeley graduate and had joined the JERS staff with Hayashi back in Tanforan. While continuing to contribute an occasional field report to JERS, she soon became focused on leaving camp. In November 1942, Thomas wrote a recommendation letter on behalf of Hayashi and two other students (presumably for leave for college), claiming "Doris Hayashi, now at Central Utah, is an earnest, competent young woman. She graduated with a major in Public Administration at the University of California last spring. She wants to continue with graduate work in sociology, and we have suggested that the University of North Carolina would be an excellent choice for her. She is by no means as talented as Miyamoto and Shibutani, but she is a very good student, and a very careful observer. She, too, has done good work for me on the Evacuation and Resettlement Study." [8] Hayashi eventually secured a scholarship to Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, Tennessee, a school dedicated to training female Christian Missionaries. As she wrote to Thomas, "Altho' I am not primarily planning a religious career, the whole atmosphere of the college is so enticing that I have accepted." [9]

Leaving Camp and Postwar Life

She left Topaz on March 22, 1943, for Scarritt. [10] Her sister Gladys Shizuko had left just a few weeks earlier, on March 2, 1943, for Winkley, Utah; her brothers Ryuichi, Harold Tadashi, and mother Margaret Mitsuru left on August 15, 1945, returning to Berkeley. About this time, she got engaged to Roy Gancho Mita, who was also a UC Berkeley graduate in 1941, with a degree in political science, before he joined the army and served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team .

Hayashi married Mita on February 12, 1944, in Davidson, Tennessee. [11] She and her husband settled down in Wisconsin, where Mita attended at the University of Wisconsin and joined the World War II American Legion in Madison. In 1947, he was admitted to the Wisconsin bar and hired by the State Attorney General's office. He later built a successful career working as general counsel for the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs, the Industrial Commission, and served for over 35 years in the State Department of Justice. [12] The couple had three children, Roy Gerald (Jerry), Ted, and Carol. Following the war, Hayashi was employed by the Dane County government in Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin Sociology Department, and as an outreach worker for the Dane County Commission on Aging. She was a member of the League of Women Voters, the United Nations Association, the American Association of University Women, the University League, and volunteered at the Madison Public Library. Church remained an important part of her life as well, and she was a member of the Bethany United Methodist Church for fifty years. She died in a nursing home at age 92 on July 21, 2012, in Madison, Wisconsin, twenty-one years after the passing of her husband. [13]

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information


  1. Shin Sekai Asahi Shinbun , Mar. 19, 1938, 8, accessed June 3, 2020 at .
  2. Sixteenth Annual Northern California Young People's Christian Conference booklet, Oct. 25, 26, 27, 1940, 7, accessed on June 3, 2020 at 150ppi.pdf.
  3. Letter, Tamotsu Shibutani to Dorothy Thomas, May 22, 1942, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive (JAERDA), Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 1.33:1, accessed on June 4, 2020 at .
  4. Doris Hayashi diary, June 23 and 25, 1942, 83, 90-91, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder H9.02 (2/2), .
  5. Doris Hayashi diary, July 12, 1942, 152, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder H9.02 (2/2), .
  6. Letter, Hayashi to Thomas, Oct. 8, 1942, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder H9.02 (2/2), .
  7. Topaz Times , Feb. 6, 1943, 6 and Feb. 27, 1943, 7.
  8. Letter, Thomas to Edward Marks, Nov. 5, 1942, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 1.45:1, .
  9. Letter, Hayashi to Thomas, Jan. 21, 1943, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 1.08, .
  10. Carroll Van West, "Scarritt College for Christian Workers," The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture , .
  11. Pacific Citizen , Apr. 22, 1944, 7.
  12. Pacific Citizen , Feb. 4, 1983, 2.
  13. Doris Mita obituary, accessed on June 4, 2020 at .

Last updated Feb. 12, 2024, 10:26 p.m..