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Santa Fe Scrapbook

    Santa Fe Scrapbook

    Page from Sante Fe Scrapbook
    Text reads “Minidoka former internees, the last dinner party, May 13, 1945.”
    1943-1944
    Paper, ink
    Gift of Kay Takeoka
    1998.4.1

    Page from Sante Fe Scrapbook
    Un-attributed poem that can be translated as:
    “Celebration of being released
    To (purple?) path.
    As one likes
    Without worries.”
    Page from Santa Fe Scrapbook
    Painting of the city of Santa Fe as viewed from the detention facility. Text reads, “Draw by Inuzuka, Santa Fe.”

    After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the FBI immediately started to detain first-generation Japanese immigrants (Issei) in the U.S. Within hours of the bombing, over 1,200 men on the West Coast had been arrested. Eventually, this number would balloon to over 5,500. The men, despite never being charged with crimes, were shuffled from one Department of Justice camp to another, all across the U.S. They were often subjected to lengthy interrogations, accused of spying and espionage, and denied the civil right of due process. 

    One such camp was the Sante Fe detention facility in New Mexico. By the end of World War II, over 4,550 Issei had passed through its gates. The barracks that housed the men were cheaply built and insufficient in protecting the prisoners from the heat of the summer sun or the biting winds of the subzero winters. Despite this, the Issei worked to build the camp into a more livable environment by adding a softball field, Japanese-style hot baths, and a rough golf course. Some also whiled away the hours drawing, writing poetry, or making art from material collected around the camp. 

    Daiichi Takeoka, a community advocate and law-school graduate from Portland, Oregon, put together this scrapbook of drawings and poetry created by him and his fellow incarcerees. Throughout the scrapbook are pages of signature rings where individual prisoners signed their name and hometown in a ring formation. By signing in this fashion, no one person stood out over the rest, meaning it was impossible to determine who the “ring leader” was. 

    The poetry and musings are written in a calligraphic style, making it difficult to fully translate. Some Issei wrote of wanting to get out, others drew inspiration from the natural world around them. Western influences on Japanese art can be seen in a few pages, speaking to the decades that some of the Issei had already spent living in the United States. 

    One of Daiichi Takeoka’s children donated this scrapbook to the Japanese American Museum of Oregon in 1998, the very first year of the museum’s existence. It has since served as a tangible reminder of dark days and the perseverance of those who strove to call America home.