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-02-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

EO: Describe to me your living space.

AH: When we first were assigned to barracks, I was sharing a room, there were seven of us. The room size, I believe, was 16 x 20 feet. There were three different families: my brother-in-law, his newlywed -- and his wife, newlywed, a sister-in-law, her husband and a small child -- a little girl -- and me, my husband and I. So there were seven of us in this room, 16 x 20. We separated our living quarters by putting up slats and putting blankets or sheets, I think it was blankets, GI-issued blankets, to give us a little privacy. That's the second thing, privacy. We just didn't know what it meant anymore. These barracks were built so quickly and with poor quality wood that, where the wood shrank, and it was, the tar paper was slapped onto it quickly, so the walls between each apartment -- and there were four or five apartments to each barrack -- the walls between each apartment did not go all the way to the ceiling. So if somebody sneezed in apartment 1, you could hear it in apartment 5. If you snored loudly it could be heard. [Laughs] Which now it stands to reason that if something like carried, like that carried... conversations were never private because you could hear everything. The lack of privacy did a lot of damage in the camps, I think. You couldn't, you had to go outside if you wanted to carry on a confidential, private conversation.

EO: And here you are, true newlyweds, one young couple, and you have no privacy. This is sort of your honeymoon.

AH: Oh yes, it was some honeymoon. I don't know how the others felt. I know how I felt. That I had never had any sexual experience before I went to camp, and so making love on a straw hay mattress was noisy. Every time you moved a toe, crackle, crackle, crackle... [Laughs] I don't know how I lived through it, or perhaps we just respected each others' need for, for togetherness and sexual activity that we ignored it. But I couldn't ignore it very easily. It was difficult. It was very difficult to have a honeymoon under those situation, under that condition. But I managed to have a child, and one year afterward, unfortunately not a very healthy child, due to the lack of nutritious food, lack of milk during my pregnancy as well as for my child after she was born.

EO: What was the food like?

AH: At first it was just dreadful. It became better after the residents had learned to, after the residents had cultivated the land and started growing the vegetables. But it was, I guess it was supposed to be like army fare, but I think it was less nutritious. I'm sure it was. It was boring. And when you have to cook for so many people, I don't think you can ever expect real delicious food, unless you go to a fancy restaurant. Now this was a situation in which each camp prided itself, prided itself -- is that right English? -- on how little they spent for each resident. They would report back to the government in Washington, "We only spent 49 cents per person in our camp." Some camps would be bragging they only spent 35 cents. So you could tell the quality of the food was not good just by that, the price, virtue alone. And of course, there were a lot of problems with people stealing from the mess halls.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.