View slideshow Kawashima recalls internment camp experience (VIDEO, PODCAST)
Tule Lake internee shares childhood memories, harsh conditions
Junior Jimmy Chang poses for a picture with Tule Lake internee Hope Kawashima, Feb. 3. Chang was partnered with junior Jason Kim for their English project, which required them to interview a World War II Japanese internee.
Juniors Jason Kim, Eric Cowin and Jimmy Chang chose to interview Japanese internment survivor Hope Kawashima as part of their oral presentation after reading Jeanne Wakatsuki's novel, Farewell to Manzanar. The following is part of Kim's research and presentation of the Japanese internment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He relates Wakatsuki's Manzanar experience to that of Clovis resident Kawashima, including a podcast of the local internee.
During World War II (WWII), minority groups suffered due to hostilities and prejudice. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, resentment towards a minority group increased. As a result, the civil liberties of Japanese American citizens and immigrants were taken away by the United States government.
A year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government decided to take direct measures against the Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans. On Feb 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted the Executive order 9066, which forced more than 127,000 Japanese American and immigrants in to so called internment camps.
This controversial order angered many Japanese American citizens who remained loyal to the United States. The internees were often moved by government trucks and buses to the camps.
Most of these camps were located in California, not to mention the Camp Pinedale in Fresno. The rest of the camps were scattered across the western United States.
Some say that the camps were only terrible and discouraging, while others believe that internment was not so bad. The internees possessed different point of views. However, they all agreed on one point: their civil rights were violated.
Circumstances in the camps varied due to different point of views held by others. In most of these camps, internees lived in numerous small one room (about 12-20ft. by 20 ft.) barracks where dust and bugs can come in through the know holes on the walls.
The well known author of "Farewell to Manzanar," Jeanne Wakatsuki, describes the camps, including barracks, recreational halls where kids played and dining hall where the internees received food. In her memoir she also recalls receiving coats and pants from World War I. Overall, Wakatsuki's experience in the camp had positive and negative sides.
Hope Kawashima, who was interned at Tule Lake during WWII, describes her situation different to that of Wakatsuki's. Because they were not interned at the same camp, their experiences often varied.
"Educate yourself and know your constitution very well so that what happened to us cannot repeat again in this country," Kawashima said. "Try to receive much education as you can so that you can help others to protect their rights too." --Hope Kawashima, Tule Lake internee
Kawashima recalled some of the conditions in her barrracks at the camp. Despite going through the undesirable situation, she is willing to speak about it.
"At night when I went to sleep in those barracks, dust and insects came through the holes on the wall," Kawashima said. "It was certainly not a good circumstance to sleep."
Kawashima explained more situations at Tule Lake Internment Camp. According to Farewell to Manzanar, Tule Lake camp was where all the "disloyals" were sent. The most important thing that the camp did not provide was rice. As many people know, rice is the common food of Asian diet.
"Our camp at Tule Lake was worse than the Manzanar camp," Kawashima said. "We received foods such as pork rinds, and in general, the diet was terrible, especially without having rice."
Tule Lake camp was one of the worst camps in the United States. It was also the last camp to close, shutting down in 1946. Those who tried to escape the camp were warned they would be shot by the guards. Because of that, no one dared to run away from the camp.
PODCAST: Japanese internment camp interview: Hope Kawashima: Feb. 3, 2013--
Even when the internees were freed from the camp, most lost all their properties and savings. Unfortunately, when Kawashima returned to her house, there were only burnt remnants of it. However, her family, led by her father, bought farmland with their savings, and proceeded with their lives to recover from the scars of the camp.
Affected by childhood memories in the camp, Kawashima remains positive, yet still mourning for past internment experiences that happened during WWII in the United States.
"Educate yourself and know your constitution very well so that what happened to us cannot repeat again in this country," Kawashima said. "Try to receive much education as you can so that you can help others to protect their rights, too."
Kawashima now lives in Fresno and attends United Japanese Christian Church (UCCJ) church in Clovis. For more information, contact Kawashima by email, or check out the power presentation linked below.
Interview with California Reads Author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston - Farewell to Manzanar
For more features, read the Feb. 21 article, Rivera dedicates time, maintains FC grounds.