It was sunny, windy, and dry day when we visited Manzanar camp on February 7, 2019. Manzanar National Historic Site, located in west Los Angeles, was one of ten camps where Japanese and Japanese American were forced to send during World War II just because of being Japanese American or Japanese; even 2sei, who are born in America and having U.S. citizenships. We had already visited at Japanese American National Museum and Go For Broke National Education Center, and heard a story from Japanese American people in Kizuna and Sakura, the nursing home for elderly. Through the long drive way from Little Tokyo to Manzanar about four hours, we saw nothing but dry rock, land and mountain which makes me very anxious and tired.
When we have departed for Manzanar camp from motel in the morning, I feel like it was one of scenes of a movie which person who committed to crime and being prisoned in desert. Of course, there was no fault on them, and what make worse is that they had to manage to live there under the control of US army. What most appealed to me is smelled nothing, saw nothing but mountain covered with snow had surrounded us, which was far away from the American cities as far as I knew. The ranger at the National Historic Site, who gave us a tour, told us that camp was built in Manzanar was chosen because of isolation, owned by Los Angeles, transportation, and farming. They didn’t know where they were taken, when it ends, what they should bring into just two suitcases, which was maximum allowed to bring with them, until they arrived in camp.
There were about 36 blocks, and forty barracks for one block. One barrack, which I saw the same one in Japanese American Museum, was assigned to six people, but too small and simple for them to make a living 365 days; no wall, no bathroom, and no kitchen. There was just a tiny, hard bed. One of the reasons why it was not suitable for Japanese American families was the barracks were originally built for military use. While the military accommodate mainly young men around 20 years old, Japanese American communities, as you would imagine, have a range of population like from babies to elders. So, problems would be occurred all times, all places; in bathroom, mess hall et al. I was strongly moved about their effort to make their lives better to distract their fate. For example, they make furniture, radio, curtain, and clothing. In addition, they built rock gardens, alignments, and water spigots in outside of the barracks. They also played baseball for fun, which built a strong community.
I deeply thought that we cannot simply generalize their experience into one single story; there was a life story in each person. Some people have died, other was born in there. Some were torn up, and others married. Some swear loyalty to the United States and others refused filed a lawsuit. We, as Japanese, do not forget about history of Japanese American, who ware struggling about their loyalty and identity issues between the United States and Japan during the war. ware
Midori Hisadomi, 21, was born in and raised in Tokyo.
I am a 3rd student at Toyo University and studying Japanese American Community. I was studying abroad in Thompson Rivers University, Canada, for about ten months.