Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewers: Emiko Omori (primary), Chizu Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: March 20, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-02-0008

<Begin Segment 8>

EO: And when you got to Manzanar, how did you get there?

AH: We first boarded a train in Los Angeles, went north and we were, we came off the train and buses were there to take us to this desolate, desert area, to this camp called Manzanar, which was still being built, actually. An area between the towns of Independence and Lone Pine in the eastern half, sort of north, not too far from the border of Nevada, in northern California. The day we arrived was hot, dusty. When we got off the bus we were, we lined up and were told which barrack we should go to, to leave our suitcases, then told to go to a certain area where we were issued a sack, long sack which served as the mattress cover, told to fill it with hay, which was, served as our mattress for the period that we were in the camps. It was devastating.

EO: Tell me a little about the landscape and conditions, weather conditions at Manzanar.

AH: Manzanar was, of course, a desert, and all around us was sagebrushes. There were mountains way, way beyond, east and west of that area. There was no way that anybody would even want to escape from the place, because the nearest place was so darn far away, and besides, if you're Asian and you escape, you can't melt into the crowd. I mean, it's ridiculous for anybody to think they could escape and be, go undetected. The area was known for... what do they call it? Dust storms where it looked like a tornado, shaped like an upside-down cone. We were besieged by these dust storms day after day after day. The summers were desperately hot and winters were quite cold. The ill, those persons who were ill, the people who were senior citizens, and mothers with little infants, the infants, these persons were the ones who suffered the most because of the unavailability of water in the barracks, the unavailability of food, immediate, which was of such importance.

EO: Can you recall... they had not told you where you were going.

AH: That's right, they didn't tell us where we were going or for how long.

EO: Can you recall how you felt when you saw this place?

AH: Yes. As I got off the bus, I could not believe that people were going to live in a place like that. I'd never seen a desert before and there was no civilization. It was just barren, sagebrush-filled area. And it was so depressing. I think the parents, the Issei, were happy to be there simply because at least they were together with their family and they weren't separated from their children. And I must say, many of the Issei had some free time for the first time. They didn't have to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn, farming, or running stores and they did have some free time. But I think they also lost their liberty which to me was one of the biggest deprivations that we suffered those three or four years. Loss of liberty was something I felt very, very strongly.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.