The Recreation and Leisure
Pursuits of Japanese
Americans in World War II
Alison M. Wrynn
Yoshiko Uchido's Desert Exile recounts the story of family life in the assembly centers and internment camps established during World War II. These camps, opened in March 1942, displaced more than 100,000 Japanese Americans from their West Coast homes. 1 Sitting in the converted horse stall in the Tanforan Assembly Center which had become her family's home, Uchido reflected upon the bleak and dreary surroundings, commenting that the "north wind tore through the camp each day, sweeping with it the loose dirt of the track and its surrounding grounds." Although only across the San Francisco Bay from her former Berkeley home, she observed that the sun "seemed harsher and less benevolent. 2 This description surely does not conjure up images of leisure, diversion, and recreation.
On the contrary, Tanforan Assembly Center, like the other camps, brings to mind the conditions that so many Japanese Americans experienced from 1942 to 1945: dust, wind, desert, mountains. These are impressions that those who did not experience the cruel restriction of civil rights that Japanese Americans did during World War II can only imagine. Those who survived life in the camps, however, recall the endless boredom, limited opportunities, and lack of freedom. Since the publication of Dorothy S. Thomas' The Spoilage (1946) and The Salvage (1952), a growing number of scholars have examined the political purposes for the evacuation as well as the effect of the internment on the structures of Japanese-American society and family life. Others, such as John Tateshi, have published works based upon personal testimony of life in the camps. 3
In recent years some scholars have begun to use games and sport to study the experiences of individuals who have been interned or whose ability to