Bainbridge Islanders arrived at Manzanar as it was still being constructed, the living quarters long barracks designed to house four families in 20'x20' rooms. Eventually 10,000 people would reside within the square mile of camp. At the edge of the Sierra Nevadas, Manzanar was a dusty expanse of barracks surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers manned by soldiers and searchlights, pointing in. Almost all of the remaining inmates were from California, many accustomed to city life.
The farm families from the Northwest found little in common with them, and by 1943 had successfully petitioned to transfer to Minidoka in southern Idaho, where the others from Washington and Oregon were incarcerated. To be near family members from California, five Island families chose to remain at Manzanar. Minidoka was similar to Manzanar: dusty and hot in the summer, muddy and cold in the winter.
There is a stark contrast between the Issei (first generation) and Nisei (second generation) experiences in camp. Hardships fell primarily on the older Issei who lost their homes, livelihoods, and freedom. Forced to leave before harvesting what was to be a bumper strawberry crop, many Island Issei had no means of supporting their family or paying rent and thus lost their farmland. The widowed Masa Omoto soon found herself alone in camp while her four sons were away serving in the army. Many Issei couples, such as the Amatatsus, Kinos, and Nishis, were separated for the duration of the war because the men were interned in Department of Justice camps. Isseis, who were not permitted to hold leadership positions in camps, were forced to take a back seat to the younger Niseis.
For some of the younger Niseis, free from the daily chores of farming, camp–life proved to be a chance to explore new opportunities. Many took on leadership roles in camp, learned a trade such as nursing or carpentry, or enjoyed an extracurricular activity such as baseball or dancing. Some applied for indefinite leave from Minidoka for education, employment, or to join the army. These young adults from rural Bainbridge Island may never have left the Island and life as a farmer had it not been for the war. Perhaps the youngest camp residents had it the easiest. Parents shielded their children from the shame and humiliation of evacuation and tried to make their lives seem as normal as possible. Hisa Hayashida, age six, remembers a carefree youth where she could explore the camp and just had to open her front door to find many other playmates.
Though cameras were confiscated as contraband immediately after Pearl Harbor, later in the war the Japanese Americans were allowed to have and use them again. Many of the following images are family photos taken while in camp.
- Manzanar barracks, work, rec hall, picnics - Michi Noritake (OH0009)
- Manzanar arrival, food, winds - Vic Takemoto (OH0016)
- Manzanar first days, basic facilities, cleaning house - Kay Nakao (OH0022)
- Manzanar food - Iku Watanabe (OH0024)
- Minidoka freedom in camp - Tats Kojima (OH0028)
- Manzanar first day, initial reactions - Yae Yoshihara (OH0037)
- Manzanar becoming Christian, 7–Ups, riot - Yae Yoshihara (OH0038)
- Manzanar/Minidoka Twin falls, nurse's aide, swim in canal - Yae Yoshihara (OH0039)
- Manzanar Loyalty Questionnaire, camp conditions - Frank Kitamoto (OH0044)
- Minidoka oil furnace, spit wads, smoking - Frank Kitamoto (OH0045)
- Minidoka playtime - Hisa Matsudaira (OH0050)
- Manzanar poor conditions - Nobi Omoto (OH0054)
- Manzanar barracks and bathrooms - Matsue Watanabe (OH0065)
- Manzanar school - Matsue Watanabe (OH0066)
- Manzanar, Mother worked in kitchen - Matsue Watanabe (OH0067)
- Manzanar family life got distorted - Sally Kitano (OH0071)
- Manzanar snakes - Sally Kitano (OH0076)
- Manzanar Jello Party - Sally Kitano (OH0077)
- Camp correspondents and column in The Review - Mary Woodward (OH0086)
Photo Information: Manzanar Relocation Center Sign — Wooden sign at entrance to the Manzanar War Relocation Center with a car at the gatehouse in the background. 1943. Copyright: Ansel Adams Collection