The Art of Gaman in Internment Camps, a Display at Hina Matsuri Festival


An amazing display of the Art of Gaman at the recent Hina Matsuri Festival.  Art of Teizo Nonaka created during his four year internment at a “camp” where the family was imprisoned after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Gaman is a Japanese term which is hard to translate.  It is best described by a feeling in your heart and a determination of your will.  The words from your heart and spirit are hard to find but Gaman has sometimes been translated as “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity”, “perseverance”, “patience”, “tolerance, “self-denial”, “stoic endurance”.

Gaman for those imprisoned in the internment camps was to act with honor, to maintain self-control and discipline.

120,000 men, women and children were living in these internment camps.  They faced guards with machine guns in towers and barbed wire.

They had no furniture except for a black potbellied stove and cots.

My mom had many stories of making do in “camp” as she called it.  My dad was a soldier and interrogator for the US Army so he was not relocated to camp, although his wife was…

The internees used any piece of scrap wood and metal they could to practice their art.  A form of meditation, keeping their souls alive, practicing Gaman.  If they ran out of scraps they used anything they could, such as these peach seeds, for their art and carvings.





Can we today imagine how long four years of such uncertainty felt?


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