SAS Senior and current AP Research + Catalyst student, Hana Matsudaira, has spent the year working on her research paper titled: "The ornamental gardens: A Japanese-American experience during World War II."

The write up to her paper is as follows (written by Hana herself): Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the mass removal and incarceration of all 110,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. By 1943, agriculture dominated camp life, especially at the Manzanar Internment Camp in Owens Valley, California. During their internment, the Japanese Americans, unbeknownst to each other, raised a variety of gardens, including traditional Japanese ornamental gardens. The ornamental gardens ranged greatly in size and consisted of raked gravel dry gardens, cactus gardens, showy flower gardens, and ornate rock gardens.

In an effort to preserve the history of the near-extinct generation of Japanese Americans, this study seeks to understand the purposes and implications of the ornamental gardens, with a focus on the Manzanar camp. Through a qualitative retrospective ethnographic case study, the overarching themes arising from 10 interviews with World War II internees who lived at the Manzanar internment camp were deduced using the thematic analysis approach.

This study found that the Japanese Americans raised the ornamental gardens to resist and combat their desolate, harsh environment but had unforeseen consequences for the Manzanar community. While the gardens functioned as a pastime, a means to preserve and revive Japanese culture, and paradoxically an avenue to strengthen relationships with the War Relocation Authority officials, they also ultimately helped the inmates to conceptualize their highly complex experiences during World War II.

This study’s findings, with a deep examination of the Manzanar camp, are aligned with broader environmental studies on the Japanese Americans during World War II, specifically in regards to the gardens functioning as acts of resistance.

Looking towards the future, I recommend that further research should examine how defiant gardens throughout history compare with one another and drive the narratives of those involved.

If the topic of Japanese internment camps during World War II interests you, come check out Hana's presentation on April 23rd in the High School Center of Innovation from 12:10pm to 12:40pm.

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