This is the view from the inside of the reconstructed Block 14 women's latrine. Outside, in the foreground, you can see the foundation where the men's latrine once stood, and beyond it the reconstructed historic basketball court. Of the many privacy problems incarcerated Japanese Americans faced in Manzanar, people often recall the latrines as the worst. Initially, no partitions divided the ten toilets in the women's latrine. When construction crews finally installed partitions, they had no doors. The showers were communal, lacking any privacy whatsoever between the closely placed shower heads. Windows like this one were so low that any passerby could see inside. As a result, many latrine windows were papered over, and in a number of blocks people hung curtains to add some color to otherwise dismal surroundings.
In recent months, Manzanar rangers have noticed that lizards frequently hang out on the latrine window screens, perhaps catching flies and other insects in the latrine -- an opportunity the great-great-great grandparents of these lizards likely took advantage of during WWII, as well. 🦎
ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT
College student Shig Ochi was one of just over a thousand people who "volunteered" to come to Manzanar at the end of March 1942. A week and a half later, the first group of Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes under Executive Order 9066 would arrive on April Fools Day. "Volunteers" like Shig came early for a number of different reasons. Some intended to prepare the camp for family and friends. Others simply wished to face the then inevitable incarceration without days or weeks of waiting. In a 2007 oral history interview with Manzanar National Historic Site, Shig recalled: _____________________
"When Manzanar was being set up, there was a call for volunteers. I really did not have much enthusiasm for studying when the outlook was so gloomy, and at the urging of friends, they said I should volunteer for Manzanar because I would be helping my family out by doing so. So I volunteered. It was quite an experience to see the MPs when we got on this little train to go to Manzanar from downtown Los Angeles – Union Station I think... When we got to the camp...it was towards dusk. I guess they bused us from the train station and took us into the camp, and all of a sudden you find the next morning that you're essentially incarcerated. I volunteered to go. You say, 'Wait a minute.' You're volunteering and suddenly you're behind bars."
Clem Albers, a photographer hired by the War Relocation Authority, captured these two photographs on April 2, 1942. Though taken ten days after Shig Ochi arrived, they serve to illustrate the dusty, confined conditions Japanese Americans faced when they first set foot in Manzanar. Some would remain incarcerated here for the next three and a half years.
There are extremely strong winds at Manzanar right now. Please travel with caution.
Members of the UCLA Kyodo Taiko performed at yesterday's 49th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage. What was your most memorable Pilgrimage moment?
In less than two weeks, on April 28th, 2018, the @manzanarcommittee
will be hosting its 49th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, followed by the intergenerational Manzanar At Dusk program. Will you be here? #manzanarpilgrimage2018
Come for the rainbows, stay for the history. 🌈 (We also recommend coming for the history and staying for the history! Trust us, it's impossible to get bored here.) #manzanarnationalhistoricsite
Spring is here! 🐝 🌸 Manzanar's historic orchards, which are around 100 years old, as well as some newly planted fruit trees, are in full bloom. Don't miss out on admiring pretty pear, apple, cherry, and peach blossoms. This particular peach tree (featuring a very happy bee) has grown from the rootstock of a tree planted in Block 14 by incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII. Who can explain why these orchards are so important to Manzanar? (Hint: use your Spanish language skills!) #findyourpark
Manzanar Rangers have been very busy lately working on some exciting things, one of which is an upcoming exhibit about education in Manzanar. What do you think it was like for incarcerated Japanese American high school students to study subjects like US government and democracy under the shadows of guard towers? How did teachers educate students in classrooms that -- at first-- lacked even desks, books, and heaters? Stay tuned for updates as the exhibit comes closer to reality over the next few months.
This snowy photo was taken this morning. Pack your coats, warm hats, and gloves if you're visiting this week!
Last night’s storm painted a snowy mountain backdrop for your visit to Manzanar National Historic Site this week! We’ll see you soon, right? #findyourpark
Do you ever find yourself wondering about all the history, all the stories, these trees have seen?
This locust was most likely planted during World War II by an incarcerated Japanese American assigned to live in Block 14, Building 2 in Manzanar.
It has stood as a silent witness for three-quarters of a century.
On April 3, 1943, a Dodge fire truck arrived at Manzanar, adding a 500-gallon pump capacity to a fire department in great need of some extra resources. Japanese American firefighters -- both paid and volunteer -- used this Dodge truck to fight Manzanar's fires until the camp shut down in November 1945. Over the course of three years and eight months, Manzanar's firemen successfully fought nearly 100 fires.
Almost 75 years later, the truck has returned to its wartime home, joining Manzanar's original Ford fire engine. After World War II, the Dodge was picked up by the Lone Pine Fire Department, 10 miles south of Manzanar, and later by the Keeler Fire Department, 25 miles south, where it lived until today.
We are grateful to the Keeler Fire Department for donating the Dodge fire truck to Manzanar National Historic Site, and further helping people connect with this important aspect of Manzanar's WWII history.
Planning to visit Manzanar? Stop by the Manzanar Fire Department exhibit, where you can see both the Ford engine and the Dodge truck sitting atop their original foundations. Be sure to take a close look at what's underfoot: Japanese Americans who helped build the fire station's ramp inscribed their names, dates, and phrases into the wet cement.
About this historic image: The Pirsch Company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, took these inspection photos of the new Dodge fire truck before sending it to Manzanar. The color photo was taken today, January 30th, 2018.
ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT –
Yesterday we were excited to welcome siblings Tamiye Oda Kasamatsu and George Oda, who visited Manzanar with their extended family. Both Tamiye and George have recorded oral history interviews with Manzanar National Historic Site, and donated countless photos, documents, and objects, some of which you can see on display in the visitor center.
In the spring of 1942, when they were uprooted from their family farm in California’s San Fernando Valley and brought to Manzanar, Tamiye was 22 and George was 18. Tamiye remembered they were worried that their father, Jiromatsu, would be picked up by the FBI, which had been arresting Issei men in West Coast Japanese American communities since December 7th, 1941. In the months preceding removal to Manzanar, she recalled, “We had a little bag with his clothes, underclothes and clothes by the door, because the FBI used to come and just pick up the men. So if they came after my father, we said, ‘We have to have his clothes ready . . . ’”
George remembered that, at first, he was surprised by the government order to leave. “Then it finally dawned on us that we have to do what they said. But there were some people who were like my friend – he had things and people came over and said, ‘I'll give you fifty dollars,’ or something, for it. This fellow says, ‘Nope, I'm not going to sell it that cheap,’ so we just piled it up and burned it.” Tamiye recalled that their family had always been poor. “We were finally able to buy a truck and a car. We had to sell it because we had to go to camp. In the end, they were flipping a coin to settle the price.”
In reflection, George noted that he met his wife, Fujiko, in Manzanar. “She was from West Los Angeles. So if we didn't go to camp . . . my kids wouldn’t be here.” Tamiye said, “Going to a camp like that wasn’t good. But I think going to camp like that changed my life, too, my friends, the way I think.” —————————
Want to learn more? You can watch George’s entire oral history interview in the archive at www.densho.org.
ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT –
In June 2016, Yoshiye Okimoto Hayashi reached out to us at Manzanar to let us know she would like to record her story with us in an oral history interview. We’re so glad she did. In this brief excerpt, Yoshiye, who graduated with Manzanar’s High School Class of 1944, describes how she and her parents and brother felt when they first saw Manzanar:
“It was very windy, just as it is today. Desert all around us. It was April so it was kind of cold. And we looked at the barracks and the places we’d have to sleep, straw mattresses. I mean, we were poor, but at least we had a fairly clean place. My mother worked very hard at keeping the place clean. So this was really a disaster for us, and being stuck in with so many strangers, to me, it was the worst part. We didn’t have a big enough family to get a room of our own . . . We had one side of the room and there was a couple and two bachelors on the other side.”
After a few months, the living situation grew even more uncomfortable for her family.
“The fact is, one of the bachelors had an affair with the married couple, the woman. So my dad goes down to the housing department and says, ‘I have two impressionable young children, teenagers, and there’s something going on. There’s business going on in my room. I can’t have that.’ We were in Block 16 and we moved all the way down to 31, which . . . was a new area that was opening up. They had just finished it. So there at least we had the same size room for the four of us rather than the eight of us, and we had a little bit more privacy.”
This photo of Yoshiye, her brother Jun, and her parents Yoneji and Miyano was taken in Manzanar a couple of years later.
Though we received some snow on the Sierra Nevada in last week's storm, we're still looking for our first snowfall on the valley floor -- perhaps something like what 4th grader Ronald Osajima wrote about in February 1945:
________________________________________________________"In Manzanar we had a blizzard,
The wind came very fast,
Everything hid, even the lizard.
And very long did it last..."
Manzanar got quite a bit of rain today, and the Sierra Nevada and Inyo mountain ranges were painted with snow. This puddle formed atop the historic foundation of what was once the Block 14 laundry room, and vividly reflected the reconstructed women's latrine. #findyourpark
The storm that rolled in yesterday has almost completely hidden the mountains on either side of Manzanar from view. When the clouds parted briefly, rangers (looking though a pair of binoculars) were excited to see fresh snow on the Inyo mountains to the east. #manzanarnationalhistoricsite
This is the perfect time of year to come visit Manzanar -- where you'll find history in all directions. #findyourpark