Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Yooichi Wakamiya Interview
Narrator: Yooichi Wakamiya
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 4, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-wyooichi-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: How were you called to meals? Was there a...

YW: There was fixed times, but you can tell. They rang a triangular bell. You know, ding ding ding. But that was it. Hour and a half for lunch, hour and a half for breakfast, hour and a half for dinner.

RP: Did your family eat together?

YW: Yes. We did. Lot of times lot of families, kids scattered, 'cause the older kids, they wanted to be with their buddies, so I think that had a lot to do with breaking down of the family structure in many ways, because the parents were really not in control anymore. The schedule was not set by them, they didn't cook the food. But it kind of, a lot of sociologists have studied this problem. They said they think they, the family structure was somewhat destroyed because of this looseness of the way things were run that way.

RP: That, did that occur with you and your parents?

YW: No, we were too young yet to be wandering off on our own, so we just, just ate with the family.

RP: Were tables assigned to families?

YW: No, you just, first come first served, you sit where you, you sit where you can. And there's a bunch of what looks like picnic benches, tables. Two rows, I think maybe three, four rows of these things, and that pretty much serves the block.

RP: How was the food in your mess hall?

YW: My parents thought it was awful, 'cause they were primarily used to Japanese food, but the chefs tried to mix in some of that where they could, but you got to get special ingredients for that and that was always hard. They had the rice. They got the rice. They were able to get soy sauce.

RP: You have any tofu or miso?

YW: Tofu, in fact, that's interesting, in 1944, '45 time period my father worked in the tofu factory in camp, (...) after he quit his carpenter's job. He found this other job, so he learned how to make tofu, and by the time he left camp he was the manager of the tofu factory in camp. 'Cause all the other guys had left, so he was the senior guy there, so he said he had to run the place.

RP: Did you ever get to see the tofu factory?

YW: I never saw it, no. But I knew it was there 'cause he would bring some home. [Laughs] He said, "Had a little extra, so I brought some home." But that was a big deal. You couldn't get that kind of food just anywhere.

RP: So the food changed over time?

YW: Yeah, a little bit, but it's hard to prepare food for a lot of people, for one thing, and when you don't have the proper ingredients it's tough. And for me, an innovation for me was stew, beef stew. We didn't have a lot of that sort of thing at home, so when they started servin' us this in camp I said, what in the world is this? So it was a little strange, but I got used to it.

RP: Were there other foods that also kind of attracted your attention?

YW: I'm trying to think what else they fed us. It's hard to imagine.

RP: In Manzanar people always complain they got a lot of mutton, you know, old sheep.

YW: Yeah, that, that's a problem for sure. I don't think we were fortunate that way. [Laughs]

RP: I don't know if you'd call it fortunate. Apple butter was another...

YW: Yeah, apple butter. Oh my.

RP: Never experienced in Japanese...

YW: Yeah, it was too much. Apple butter was too much. I remember that.

RP: Liver, liver and onions.

YW: Some things were familiar; lot of things were not. I just... what do you expect? This is, there just tryin' to keep us alive, not keep us happy. [Laughs]

RP: The latrines were also another sort of communal part of life in the block.

YW: The restrooms?

RP: Yeah, the latrines.

YW: Yes, yeah the restroom facilities were men and women, split up into two halves there, and the toilet seats were not private. They were just lined up, so there's no separation walls. Doing this to Japanese people is a little crude because we were used to our privacy. And the showers were also open, so it was a communal shower, so that was awful. A lot of people went to the showers late in the evenings to get a little more privacy.

RP: Do you remember a time later on in camp when there were stalls separating...

YW: Only if they put 'em in themselves.

RP: And did some people do that?

YW: Some people did that, yeah. The men's side I don't think they did that, but they did it for the women's side. Men decided they would build 'em something. They went and got some scrap lumber and put together some temporary walls for them. Yeah.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.