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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

In the Name of Security, the Faces of Those Repressed

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | May 5th, 2007 | Comments No Comments

“I brought clothing, but I left my violin, left my typewriter, left my Shirley Temple collection, left my cat,” said Carol Hironaka, 82, who was interned at Manzanar when she was 17, describing what she packed into her allotted 2 suitcases with only a week’s notice. “I had no idea how long I’d be here.”
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She would be at Manzanar for 3 years. No high school prom. No walking across the stage to collect that diploma. No nights out with friends in the streets of Florin, a small town near Sacramento.

“The government made us sell our house at a very chickeny price. They eventually tore down our beautiful Victorian home. So we had nothing to go home to,” Hironaka shrugged. “We went to the Florin Japanese hostel and stayed there through the winter.”

Following their release, “many people had nothing to go back to. They had to find a home, find a job, and they still faced tremendous discrimination,” said National Park Service Ranger Richard Potashin. “Some City councils passed ordinances saying ‘No Japanese Allowed.’”

“But, what is past is past,” sighed Hironaka.

Honoring the past during the 38th annual pilgrimage to Manzanar, Hatz Aizawa, 82, a former internee at Topaz, Utah (where the temperatures vacillated between -30º in winter and 106º in summer), joined his longtime friend, Kozo Kimura, 66, who lived in Japan during the war. “He was the ‘enemy,’” joked Aizawa. The two men now live in San Francisco and were touring Manzanar for their first time with a group from the SF Japanese Chamber of Commerce.
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Also touring Manzanar for the first time was Al Hida, now of Carmichael, CA, but formerly interned at an assembly camp near Sacramento as a 7th grader, then the Tule Lake concentration camp as an 8th grader, then the Amache, CO, camp as a 9th grader, before traveling to Milwaukee, where he finally entered a stable school again as a sophomore at the end of the war.

“On May 8th, the signs went up all over town,” said Hida, describing the government-issued, English language signs declaring that “anyone of Japanese extraction had to be out by the 15th of May, 1942.

“The first sign I saw was when I was walking home from my junior high class. Everybody was around the sign, and I knew it was not good news.”
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Hida, who later served 3 years in the Marines during the Korean War and was stationed in Japan, “wiped off the experience. If you carry a lot of baggage, it will weigh heavily on the psyche.”

He practiced shikata ga nai, the Japanese sense of ”it can’t be helped.”

“Why worry,” said Hida, ”when you can’t do anything about it? This goes back into Japanese history, especially if you were a farmer subject to [the whims of] warlords and samaris.”

The National Park Service is collecting oral histories of former Manzanar internees, said NPS Chief of Interpretation Alisa Lynch. Working with Densho (www.Densho.org), which has an on-line photo and film archive, and with California State University at Fullerton, they have conducted 45 interviews. The impressive interpretive center, housed in what was the Manzanar camp’s auditorium, opened just 3 years ago this week. Future plans include restoration of a mess hall, reclamation of the apple orchard, for which the camp was named (“manzanar” means “apple” in Spanish), and an archaeological dig.

Although 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were “relocated” from America’s west coast in the name of national security following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the 158,000 Hawaiians of Japanese descent were not. Comprising a whopping 1/3rd of the Hawaiian population, their labor was considered essential for the war effort.

Manzanar, however, was ringed in barbed wire, 8 security towers, searchlights, and military guards armed with bayonets. In 1942, the US government spent $4 million to construct Manzanar, and $80 million overall to construct 10 concentration camps in order to intern Americans.

All in the name of security.

For more information about Manzanar’s National Park Service’s visitor center, visit Manzanar Historical Site (www.nps.gov/manz). It’ll make you feel glad you pay taxes.

Category: , Manzanar, California
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