Chet and the Prisoners - 6
Some days there is simply nothing much to do, so many of my friends are engaged in a card game called Hanafuda. I do not normally play, but I have watched and they are trying to explain it to me.
Perhaps I can explain it here. It is also called Koi-Koi. There are 48 cards in a pack, and they are in groups of 4 of a kind – like 4 views each different but each with something like Cherry Blossoms on each set to show their identity..
Each player gets eight cards from the deck. There are eight cards face up in the central area. Play starts with the dealer and proceeds counterclockwise. The player takes a card that was dealt to them and matches suit with a card that is on the table. If there isn't a matching card, the player discards a card to the center of the table. I have been told that this is similar to American card game called Fishing.
I must ask Chet if he knows where we can get some books, as I long to have something more intellectual to do. A man called Harry came to see me. He has lived in North Dakota for many years now, so is used to the weather. I asked him how he coped with the freezing conditions, and he just said, “You get used to it. And the summers are really hot.”
I have heard from my wife. I was allowed to send her a telegram telling her my address, on the 11th of February. Since I have written to her the two allowed letters per week, but this is the first time I have heard back. She and our daughter are currently still at my her mother's home, but they have been told that they will be going to a detention center, but don't know which one. One I have heard of, from some of our internees here who were there previous to coming here. It is notorious for being
very smelly, as it was quickly made from a stables, and the smell of horse permeates everywhere. She would not like that move as strong smells make her sick during her pregnancy.
I need to practice writing in English. We are allowed to use characters when we write our letters, but our envelopes must be addressed with English letters. On the front of the envelope, I must put the full name and full address of the addressee, with my name in the upper left hand corner. On the back, I must put my name, Room number, Area Number, Fort Lincoln., Box 300, Bismarck, N.D. USA.
Many of us are giving or taking lessons from each other in various things. Some are learning to speak English, and others to write it. I shall see if I can join one of those classes.
I have developed a sort of flu and am feverish. But somehow I manage to go with my friends for the second dose of the inoculation. I look forward to seeing Chet again. I am burning up inside, and shaking from this cold. We had no chance to chat.
We often are called to be interrogated by one of the wardens. The content of these is mainly asking us about names of family members, most particularly those who still live in Japan, and their occupation, and persons to contact in case of death. There are two questions that we have heard that others were asked, but so far they have not had a part in our meetings here. The person is asked if they would join the army against Japan if asked to do so. And they are asked if they would kill a fellow Japanese in a combat situation. If they say no to both of these questions, they are called the “No-nos” and are thought of as those who would not be loyal to the US, and need to be
under special scrutiny. They also will most likely be deported back to Japan.
We have had a death from our group – Jinoruke Higashi who died by hanging himself. He has been very depressed all the time we have been here, and we rather suspected this would happen. Mr. McCoy said that when the check was made during the night, it was noted that he was missing
from his bed. One of the Japanese doctors was immediately called, as he was still warm, but artificial respriation didn't work. He was called Joe most of the time, and he came from Terminal Island. His wife is dead and nobody knows where his only son lives. We'll have a funeral service for him. He is the second to die since we have been here.
He came to Terminal Island about the same time as my father and I did. I started remembering our home. There were some 500 families of us, primarily occupied in the fishing and canning industries. A half-dozen fish canneries, each with its own employee housing, were located on the island. In 1942, the Japanese population of the island was approximately 3,500, of whom approximately half were American-born Nisei. This means they were automatically American citizens. That includes my wife. Those of us born in Japan are called Issei.
Because Terminal Island was somewhat isolated, we developed our own culture and even our own dialect. We called it "Furusato" which means "old village". An English equivalent would be "home sweet home."
The village had a Fisherman's Hall where the martial arts judo and kendo were taught, a Shinto Shrine, ethnic grocery stores, candy stores and billiard parlors. The Island children attended Walizer Elementary School and took the ferry to high school at San Pedro High School.
I understand that after we 400 were taken away, the non-Japanese people on Terminal Island were made to leave too. So only the older Japanese women and minor children were left. These women and children, who were unaccustomed and ill equipped to handle business transactions, were forced to make quick financial decisions regarding their property and possessions. And they were taken advantage of. They were offered a pittance for practically new furniture and appliances: refrigerators, radio consoles, etc., as well as cars, and many were falling prey to these people. Our boats were all taken off by someone. My wife is lucky that she still has a place to live, as many were living on the streets. My friend Henry Murikami owned three sets of purse seine nets valued at $22,500. They were just left on the shore, and anyone could take them.
I manage to go to the laundry room about once a week to wash my soiled garments. I do need some new clothing so badly, and my profits from cutting hair has grown now to several dollars. I have been told that a department store from the middle of Bismarck called Sears Robuck supplies some the products they sell, and another one called Mongomery Ward might soon follow. I wish I had the money to spend in these stores.