29 November 2007

Tessaku Seikatsu, May 1942

From Life behind Barbed Wire [鉄柵生活 Tessaku Seikatsu]: The World War II Internment Memoirs of a Hawai‘i Issei, by Yasutaro Soga [1873–1957] (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2008), pp. 61-62
We all welcomed newcomers and anything they could tell us of the outside world, but we were also cautious. Many new arrivals held grudges, blaming their arrests on others and calling them "dogs" for collaborating with the FBI. We heard many such allegations. Those of us arrested on December 7, the day the war began, had no such complaints. From the outset we had been listed as persons to be interned if war broke out between the United States and Japan. Some people who should have been listed were not, which of course did not sit well with most of us. A colleague of mine from another island was in Honolulu on business when war was declared. Desperate to return home, he asked a prominent Japanese to speak to the military authorities. When he returned to his hotel, however, an FBI agent was there to arrest him. Both men were in newspaper-related work, so they were prime candidates for internment anyway, but the prominent one escaped incarceration. Similar examples of perceived discrepancies led to suspicion and malicious gossip.

Among the newer arrivals was a minister from Honolulu who joined us at Sand Island about six months later. He gave a lecture one evening, saying: "Quite a few of you who arrived here early on have grown timid. You must be strong! Japan is now waging a sacred war of hachigen ichi-u!" (The correct phrase is hakko ichi-u, meaning "the whole world under one roof.") Disgusted by his pretentious exhortation, a half-dozen listeners walked out. They ridiculed the priest, saying, "Humph—what nerve! He talks big now, but before his arrest he was running scared. He doesn't even know his Japanese!"

Most internees worked inside the barbed-wire fence. Even the authorities could not force us to work beyond the fence. The vegetable gardens were located outside the camp, so only volunteers could work there. One Sunday, defense workers at a nearby site took the day off, so some internees were recruited to take their place. The camp authorities got into trouble when the labor union protested.

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