Manzanar Relocation Camp: The Bittersweet Beauty of Memory

Remembering Manzanar is hard because there are so many complex layers of sadness, dignity, shame, loyalty, good intentions, bad intentions, confused intentions, life and loss mixed into the memories. Approximately 10,000 Japanese Americans were abruptly relocated here after Pearl Harbor, including some of my husband’s relatives and some of our friends.

This was the auditorium that was used for social functions and as a gym. It has been remodeled inside as an interpretive center, a museum of sorts.

One of the living barracks in one of the 36 blocks, each block containing around eight living barracks each.

Inside a living barrack

Home base of the makeshift baseball diamond

There were all kinds of areas labeled this way. One area was labeled “Nurse’s Qtr’s,” another labeled “Post Office,” another “Pet Cemetery.”

They were all similar in their barrenness.

It is now left to the imagination, what the residents originally did with this “Hospital Garden” space.

An origami tribute

The guard tower, the constant reminder that this was not home, it would never be home. Our friend tells us that he would sneak out sometimes at night and taunt the guards with his friends. But ultimately, he would have to endure many years in this place before he tasted true freedom once again. Here’s to hoping that we can continue to learn from the mistakes of our past.

2 thoughts on “Manzanar Relocation Camp: The Bittersweet Beauty of Memory

  1. I have been visiting the Manzanar since before they started to restore it. When we first started stopping there nothing was labeled. It was a wooded area we could stop for a picnic on the way to Bishop. Walking around there we found the rock work of Merritt Park and it’s water garden. With just a bit of imagination you could see the beauty among the rock work. I wanted to learn more so we stopped at the museum in Independence and bought a book written by a woman who was just a girl when her family was sent there. When I walked to grounds of Manzanar I always treaded lightly in respect for those who came before me.

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