Tuesday, November 18, 2014

WWII Japanese Internment Camps - Part 2

With Nancy J. Farrier

In October, I shared with you the story of the Japanese Internment CampsYou can look back here to read about the Japanese people, most of them American citizens, being taken away from their homes and forced to live in concentration style camps. I said that this month I would share some personal thoughts from people who were kept in these camps.

Baggage of Japanese Heading to Camps
One of the books I recommended was written by Miné Okuba. She was at the Topaz Camp and taught art to the children. In her book, she has drawings she did while in the camps, along with her commentary about what life was like. You can view some of her pictures here. The book, Citizen 13660, is a quick read, and I was very impressed with Ms. Okuba’s positive outlook in the face of many difficulties. However, sometimes, you see her discouragement. Of the train trip from the holding camp at Tanforan to the Topaz camp, she says, “The trip was a nightmare that lasted two nights and a day. The train creaked with age. It was covered with dust, and as the gaslight failed to function properly we traveled in complete darkness most of the night…All shades were drawn and we were not allowed to look out the windows.”

Children at Jerome Camp
A newspaper staff person, interred at Minidoka, wrote to a friend, “[T]his life behind a fence is not a pleasant one, but nothing can be pleasant in these times, could it? I can now understand how an eagle feels when his wings are clipped and caged. Beyond the bars of his prison lies the wide expanse of the boundless skies, flocked with soft clouds, the wide, wide, fields of brush and woods—limitless space for the pursuit of Life itself.”

Not all messages were put into words. Henry Sugimoto was interred in Camp Jerome in Arkansas. The paintings he did of camp life are very moving. Here is a link to a page of his artwork. I was very touched by his Easter painting. 

The online collection of Estelle Ishigo's drawings depicts camp life in Heart Mountain, Wyoming and the detention center she was sent to first. Here is the page link to her artwork at the Japanese American National Museum. You can see the crowding in the mess hall and some of the dreariness of daily life.

Approximately 50 years after their interment, many of the Japanese returned to
Artifacts from Gila Camp
the sites where they were held. Nao Takasugi commented to a reporter, "I was just a 19-year-old kid, full of idealism and hope...and overnight to be brought to some place like this in the middle of the desert was just crushing." He goes on to talk about the difficulty of losing his civil rights as a citizen, something that is just as tough to live with today as it was then.

Many have good memories along with the hard memories. They formed lasting friendships in their community. My uncle, Toshio Odano, loved people and held no grudges. To the many, like Toshio, who were held in the camps, I would say, "I am blessed by your courage and honor."

Have you ever suffered an injustice, or a time of great difficulty? Share some blessing God has given you to be entered in a giveaway. I am giving away a surprise book and a handmade book thong.

Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and one grandson. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.


  1. When I was in junior high, I was the victim of bullies. My parents took me out of the public school and enrolled me in the small church-sponsored school. I wasn't excited about that, but it gave me the opportunity to become good friends with church members I hadn't known well, and I still enjoy those friendships today.

    1. Thank you, Terri. Bullies are difficult to deal with. I'm glad your parents got you away and that you have some lasting friendships from that time.

  2. Thank you for sharing this interesting post, Nancy. God has blessed me with a wonderful family, who are always supportive in times of trial.

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

    1. Britney, how wonderful it is to have supportive family. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Very interesting post! We visited Manzanar this past summer and read Hotel on Ccorner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, so the art you showed from the Wyo camp was very interesting to us. Our biggest difficulty was when we left a church as pastor. It was awful but God was faithful! We survived! Sm. wileygreen1@yahoo.com

    1. Sharon, I will have to look for that book. Thank you for the recommendation. Ministry can be tough, but you're right, God is always faithful.