Haiku My Heart: Remembering The Search for Belonging in America: Homeless Once More in Japan ~ We Offer Our Love to the Japanese People


Keiko Haiku Begun in 1915 and shared in groups before and after the internment of Japanese Americans, was free style, did not involve the counting of syllables did not need to talk about scenery and often used direct statement. It was especially popular during the period of Japanese American Internment.

Children at the Weill Public School 1942 (2)

Children at the Weill Public School in San Francisco in 1942 saying the Pledge of Allegiance together just before the Internment of Japanese Americans.

Violet Kazue Matsuda de Cristoforo's is the best known of the haiku poets of the Japanese-American internment camps. Her Poetic Reflections of the Tule Lake Internment Camp, 1944, was published after 1984. She also collected and translated the concentration  camp haiku in her book There is Always Tomorrow: An Anthology of Japanese American Concentration Camp Kaiko Haiku (1996). Only 15 of  Matsuda de Cristoforo's haiku from the camps survived.

Grandfather and Grandson Manzanar Wikimedia CommonsGrandfather and Grandson at Manzanar Internment Camp by Dorothea Lange (Wikimedia Commons)

She was a major advocate for the plight of Japanese Americans who were held in internment camps during the war. The work of Cristoforo and other activists ultimately led the United States government to make reparations and issue an official apology to the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II.

Here are some lovely examples of her poems:


"Like-minded people gather
new shoots sprout from the pine tree
early summer sky."'

she likens the people gathering. to "new shoots" from a pine trees, giving an image of hope during the desperate times.

"Myriad insects
in the evening
my children are growing"

she matter of factly tells about endurance: the insects endure while her children grow up.

"Misty moon
as it was
on my wedding day"

the moon brings back poignant memories of her own wedding.

all keiko haiku are written by ~Violet Kazue Matsuda Cristoforo

In this 1942 Dorothea Lange photograph from the newly published “Impounded,” a family in Hayward, Calif., awaits an evacuation bus. NY Times © 2006  (Wikimedia Commons)

Dec 1, 1945

(This is a letter from Tetsuzo Hirasaki, a young boy in the internment camp who is writing to a friend of his outside of the camp.)

(Full Text Below)
Poston, Arizona
November 16, 1942
Dear Miss Breed,
Guess who? Yup it's ole unreliable again, none other than yours truly, Tetsuzo. Gosh the wind's been blowing all night and all morning. Kinda threatening to blow the roofs down. Dust is all over the place. Gives everything a coating of fine dust.
The food has been all right except for quantity...The medical situation here is pitiful. For that matter in all three camps. The main and the only hospital is at Camp I 15 miles away. Here in Camp III there is one young doctor with not too much experience and one student doctor working in an emergency clinic. They are supposed to take care of approximately 5000 people!!!! and they (the Big shots) wonder why we squawk about inadequate medical attention.
No I haven't hiked to the river yet. I'd better do it soon cause there is going to be a fence around this camp!!!!!! 5 strands of barbed wire!!!!!!!!!! They say it's to keep the people out. . . . It's also to keep out cattle. Where in the cattle countries do they use 5 strands of barbed wire??
If they don't watch out there's going to be trouble. What do they think we are, fools?? At Santa Anita at the time of the riot the armored cars parked outside of the main gates, pointed the heavy machine guns inside and then the army had the gall to tell us that the purpose of that was to keep the white folks from coming in to mob the Japs. Same thing with the guards on the watch towers. They had their machineguns pointed at us to protect us from the outsiders, hah, hah, hah, [I'm] laughing yet.
I am sending you a few things in appreciation for what you have done for me as well as for my sister and all the rest.... Your name plate I made from mesquite as are also the lapel pins. However the dark pin is made from a pine knot from Santa Anita. The rest are all Poston Products.
I've got to close now so that I can make the outgoing mail today.
Very truly yours,
P.S. Have a nice Thanksgiving dinner. TH
P.S. Do you think you could send me some Welch's peanut brittle?

 An adult rendering of childhood memories of the camp in Manzanar

Children of the Camps ~Internment History

"Most of the 110,000 persons removed for reasons of 'national security' were school-age children, infants and young adults not yet of voting age."
- "Years of Infamy", Michi Weglyn

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which permitted the military to circumvent the constitutional safeguards of American citizens in the name of national defense.

The order set into motion the exclusion from certain areas, and the evacuation and mass incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, most of whom were U.S. citizens or legal permanent resident aliens.

These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to 4 years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

They were forced to evacuate their homes and leave their jobs; in some cases family members were separated and put into different camps. President Roosevelt himself called the 10 facilities "concentration camps."

Some Japanese Americans died in the camps due to inadequate medical care and the emotional stresses they encountered. Several were killed by military guards posted for allegedly resisting orders.

At the time, Executive Order 9066 was justified as a "military necessity" to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage. However, it was later documented that "our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage." (Michi Weglyn, 1976).

Rather, the causes for this unprecedented action in American history, according to the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, "were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."
Almost 50 years later, through the efforts of leaders and advocates of the
Japanese American community, Congress passed the
Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Popularly known as the Japanese American Redress Bill, this act acknowledged that "a grave injustice was done" and mandated Congress to pay each victim of internment $20,000 in reparations.
The reparations were sent with a
signed apology from the President of the United States on behalf of the American people. The period for reparations ended in August of 1998.

Despite this redress, the mental and physical health impacts of the trauma of the internment experience continue to affect tens of thousands of Japanese Americans. Health studies have shown a 2 times greater incidence of heart disease and premature death among former internees, compared to non-interned Japanese Americans.

All information above is directly quoted

from http://www.children-of-the-camps.org/history/index.html )

Seattle Post-Intelligencer "Bainbridge Island, Wash. March 30, 1942: Evacuation Day" [photo from Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans. By Maisie and Richard Conrat. Copyright © 1972 California Historical Society]

"Imagine that one day you received notice that you and your whole family must be ready to move within 48 hours. You could take only the possessions you could carry and no one would tell you when you would be permitted to return home. Sound like a bad dream? This happened to over 100,000 United States citizens and legal residents during World War II." ~ Martha Daly

Japanese_American_Internment_-_Members_of_the_Mochida_Family_Awaiting_Evacuation_1942 (1)Members of the Mochida Family, awaiting evacuation 1942.

Relocation, as described by poet and historian Violet Kazu de Cristoforo in her book May Sky~ There is Always Tomorrow:  “The internment of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast involved a process by which they were registered, numbered, tagged with shipping labels, and placed aboard buses, trains or trucks for shipment, under armed guard, to temporary location euphemistically called ‘Assembly Centers’” (51).

Note From Noelle ~

When my mother was growing up, she had a best friend in grade school, Grace Takemura, aged 7 in 1942. I have a school photo of them together ~ one of those photos where the children all form a queue , each child holding the waist of the child in front of them. She was a lovely little girl in a yellow- sashed dress with a silk bow in her hair and sweet straight bangs across her tiny forehead. She had a winning smile. My mother told me that one day, Grace simply disappeared with her whole family. Her house was boarded up, and no one ever saw her again. My grandmother never explained it to my mother and my mother’s teacher said nothing to the class. It was a terrible mystery, as if someone had died and no one cared.

In Summary

I have shown you a brief review of some very tragic Japanese -American History, some of which I connect to personally.  History, however, is still being made. Once again, the People of Japan have had to leave their homes behind quickly, taking only what they could carry but for a different, more real and more urgent reason-- the desire to survive, live on, thrive and see a future for themselves and for their children. We, as Americans, can help our brothers and sisters overseas. We are no longer limited by fear, prejudice or isolationism. We are now opened and expanded by the spirit of compassion, generosity and love for our fellow human beings who are undergoing so much suffering and loss. You have a choice. You can do nothing, or you can open yourself up to the highest good and do something. Even the smallest contribution makes a difference in the life of someone who has lost everything ~ family, home, possessions and hope.  You have the power and the opportunity to transform past history, regardless of whether or not it is taking place on American Soil. Be a part of that change!

N. R.

For More Wonderful Haiku My Heart Please Go To Recuerda Mi Corazon. Rebecca also supports ShelterBox and Haiku My Heart is her Vision. Thank you.

ShelterBox in Iwate Prefecture March 26, 2011

1,574 ShelterBoxes and 10,000 of our kit's winter hats, scarves and gloves committed to #Japan already. http://bit.ly/fC3MuA

Mission To Help Bring AID and Comfort To Japan:
The Aquatic Angels  is a fundraising team that has formed online in an effort to help the wonderful and deserving people of Japan who need our mercy, compassion and care.  We are giving you the opportunity to Join Us in Offering the Japanese People, who have faced the disaster of both Earthquake and Tsunami ~Shelter, Comfort, Warmth and a Chance at Human Dignity in the Face of True Disaster. If you would like to help  our team, Aquatic Angels,~ simply Sponsor us by clicking on any one of the colored links in the narrative above or the team name link in this paragraph or any of the “other colored links, which will lead you to our team page where you may offer whatever  gift of Love your heart leads you to give.  In addition, there is a wonderful image of a Japanese doll  taken by my teammate Rebecca Brooks at the bottom of my blog page.  It says “ShelterBoxUSA” and Aquatic Angels Team. You may click on her as well to reach the Aquatic Angels’ team page. We are trying to reach a $2,000 goal and we are nearly there. If we reach it, we may raise it to $3,000. The cost of sending one ShelterBox is $1,000 USD. Our money has already gone to sending various boxes and we want to keep contributing. Please open your hearts and give whatever you can  to help our Japanese Brothers and Sisters. Lift up your hands to Bless the World and Reach Toward Japan in Love and Peace.

~Noelle Renee Aquatic Angels Team Captain

One More Opportunity For Love

Here is something wonderful you can do immediately that will add to any donation you might make. You can send a message of Hope to the People of Japan, showing your support and concern for them. Just go to the following link for Toyota who is sending these messages of hope and support to the people of Japan from all over the world. It is a lovely website. Just click below and follow instructions:



  1. The idea that we must help our brothers and sisters in Japan, and anywhere in the world for that matter, where humanitarian help is needed because of tragedy is fantastic. The history you reminded us, or in some cases taught us, is a great segway into our ties with the people of Japan.
    So sad that it reminded me of another "repatriation". That of the Mexican Americans in the 1930's.
    See HERE and HERE and read about the 2 million Mexican Americans that were forced back to Mexico.
    I know we must help the Japanese, and we are, but the world needs us as well.
    You did a fine job here Noelle. This is great stuff, and lessons need to be learned. Thanks for bringing these facts to light.


  2. Thank you Spadoman. I am familiar with Mexican repatriation and the Bracero program as well. It is indeed a tragic history. I agree that the world does need us as well, and the Japanese are part of our world. We are all inextricably connected. Each of us must do his or her part as he or she feels called to service. I was also reading about Japanese Repatriation during WWII. Racism and prejudice have the same consequences regardless of the group at which they are aimed. Both you and I know that my dear friend. We must work together to bring light and love where there was or may still be darkness.

  3. I have read this fully but do intend to come back. People the world over are one, we are brothers and sisters to each other.

  4. Thank you for your compassionate insight Marilyn.


  5. I am very touched by the images and words in your post today, and all of the posts honoring and supporting the Japanese people and more locally Japanese-Americans. What I know to be true is that what we do to one, we do to all. When a child cries, the Universe sheds a tear, and when a child laughs, there is great celebration. As we move toward an ever-expanding awareness of our oneness with God and with each other, may we remember to encounter each other always with kindness and compassion and love.

  6. Dearest Russ,
    Your words ring out with clarity and bright truth. Thank you for your deep compassion and your open heart. When we walk in such an awareness, we walk in Peace.
    Blessings My Friend,

  7. Such a terrible time in our history, Noelle. Terrible and shameful. The letter is especially chilling. Sometimes I think that nature does these terrible things to remind us of our humanity and charity.

  8. Dear Annie,
    If natural disasters produce compassion, humanity and charity then it is a
    wonderful thing. This was a terrible time in our history. But we are here
    now, offering love and support, and connection in the spirit of mutuality
    not fear or reprisal. We can be grateful for that.

  9. Here is a note from a friend who lives in Tokyo. I asked him about news of Japan on Facebook and he sent me this reply:

    Thanks for your message. I am aware of how the foreign media have been reporting that scary event at the Fukushima nuclear power plants that followed the tsunami damage for weeks. Not only the news source in your country such as CNN, PBS, ABC, etc, we can also watch the news from EU countries as well. It is very impressive that people all over the world have been showing various supports to Japan. I believe everyone here, whether damaged or not, are very grateful about them.

    To tell you my personal living condition, since my residence is located in the western outskirt of Tokyo, which is over 200 miles away from Fukushima, so far no severe damage has been experienced. Even though the life in Tokyo overall has certainly become less convenient due to the shortage of electric power, it is still far better than the area that was hardly hit by the disaster such as Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures. Still, we pay attention to the news about the possible nuclear pollution everyday and try to remain calm by gathering as much information as possible. Nobody here knows exactly how long things will go on like this, but we can only live one day at a time anyways...

  10. Dearest Noelle, It feels difficult to comment on the past, the inhumanity to fellows the world over fills our history books. For our part we can try to learn the lessons, showing love and compassion, fellow feeling in the hope that this will gain a ground swell, that as individuals we might see more clearly how in our everyday lives this is best achieved!

    Sue x

  11. Magical Mystical TeacherApril 2, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    Thank you so much for this post. I visited Manzanar a couple of years ago, and I am still haunted by images of this infamous place...

  12. You are very welcome. It is important to remember and to never let fear and
    prejudice guide our actions again.

  13. Seeing what Japan has gone through, I realize the futility and insignificance of our day to day problems and how much unwanted importance one gives to them.
    Nature has the ultimate power and we're like puppets in its hands.
    It's great work you're doing here.
    Thanks for visiting me. I much appreciate your comments!

  14. Thank you for your visit and your compassionate insight and empathy for the
    People of Japan.

  15. dear one,
    this is an amazingly heartfelt post noelle. thank you for the time you took to so throughly weave the past to the present and evoke love, humanity and compassion.
    as soon as i regain my strength i will return to help with this important offering of shelter and love.

  16. Thank you, Rebecca. Sending love and prayers of recovery your way.

  17. Noelle, what a treasure box of memories. So much of it was simply swept under the table, and now you've brought it to light. Do you remember from a few years ago the book by David Guterson, Snow Falls on Cedar? That recalled the extreme prejudice of the people in the Puget Sound, Washington area against the Japanese. I remember the hollow tree where the children hid out; it could have been haiku, too. Here is our chance to come from a place of love toward them. Love

  18. Yes, dear Margaret. I remember that lovely book very well. It wond the Penn
    Faulkner award. It was beautifully written and deeply moving. I have never
    forgotten my mother's story about her little friend, Grace. Lately, I have
    been noticing Japanese people everywhere I go. I am not sure if it is
    because I have become more sensitive to it or because they are here in Santa
    Barbara now. I have spoken to two women recently in a grocery line. I think
    that the Universe is trying to reach out to me in some way, to encourage me.
    I am willing to accept that message.


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