May 25, 1944

From the Minutes of May 23. “No word that cannot be found in the dictionary may be used on monthly correspondence cards. . . . The shortage of rice amounted to 731 kilos. The Sergeant promised to supply us with 400 kilos, which would allow the camp to go on half rations for the balance of this month. He was urged to make up the entire shortage and to check weights at the bodega so that this shortage would not occur again. Attention was called to the fact that in spite of decreased rations, rice is still being wasted by some individuals, while others have to be satisfied with small portions. Owing to shortage of waste food for the pigs, members are requested not to throw suitable livestock feed in regular garbage cans, but to put it in special pails or the “pig buckets.” All waste garbage in camp is needed for camp livestock. Three camp-raised roosters were recently supplied for use of special and childrens’ diets. Six more are available for that purpose. Another pig died, leaving 12 in the camp-owned herd. . . . Food prices have soared so markedly in the past few weeks that the camp store is now attempting to limit stock items to simple staples.”

Miss McKim arranged for Mr. Tomibe to tell us in Nippongo the story of the Forty-seven Rōnin in class held in our dugout. I asked Jane to make the ikebana (flower arrangement) on the tokonoma (alcove). She made a lovely one of green pine branches, tall and short, with the lower cluster of red-orange nasturtiums, their round green leaves and rock ferns in Jane’s charming, low, oval bowl with turquoise glaze inside, gray outside. It was perfect on the dried palm fronds below the furoshiki with birds, flowers on blue and orange hanging against the runo wall which is very Japanese. Ten of us crowded into the little space. I sat in the doorway. Mr. Tomibe was late for he would not come without his bath. He looked very spick and span indeed. I had finally memorized a greeting of “Kon ban wa. Irasshaimase! Ohairi kudasai!” (Good evening. You are welcome. Please come in.) I forgot all the “dōzo” (please) in between which is politeness in greasing the wheels, but it did not matter. Jerry said I should pass American cigarettes to him so I had some Camels ready and Miss McKim’s second phrase ready, “Tabaco—ikaga desu ka?” (Do you wish tobacco?) Mr. Tomibe looked much surprised, smiled, bowed, and took a cigarette from the package. Then I passed the matches. We gave him the seat of honor with his back against the tokonoma, Miss McKim sitting next to him as translator. He spoke of the pleasure and honor it was to come, then gave a brief description of the setting for the story which was 240 years ago with the rich. picturesque costumes of the men in those days.

After he finished, he turned around to look closely at the bamboo wall construction, the decorations, the flower arrangement, He said that most of the furoshikis were used for special occasions—the one with a character in red would be a wrapping for a bride present. I said I had not known the character then, had bought it because I liked the color. He pronounced it all “Nihon rashi” (like Japan), a very nice “home” indeed. I wonder what he really thought at seeing furoshikis used for wall hangings for the first time. Did it shock him a little, or merely give pleasure.