- Purchase/rental options available:
Manoa 13.1 (2001) 103-108
[Access article in PDF]
A Lifetime of Images: The War Years in Japan
Francis and Irene Haar
A year and a half after our arrival in Japan, war suddenly caught up with us. All foreigners were ordered to leave Tokyo. Nationals belonging to the Allies had to leave Japan or be interned in a prison camp near Kobe. Those from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were sent to a place near Mount Fuji. Because Hungary was not considered an enemy nation Irene and I, with our two babies, were sent to the resort town of Karuizawa along with citizens of other neutral nations, including Swiss, Turks, and South Americans. Our first child, Thomas, had been born in 1941, and our second child, Veronica, was born the following year. We evacuated to Karuizawa in the spring of 1943.
Karuizawa is a town in the mountains northwest of Tokyo, a plush summer vacation spot popular both with wealthy Japanese and foreigners. We had been there twice before to escape the midsummer heat in Tokyo. We managed to rent the same house we had used before, but this time we had to prepare for the long, cold winter. Although it was a two-story house, basically we lived in one small room on the first floor, which was heated by a small wood-burning stove that we fed with dry branches collected from the nearby woods.
We were fortunate to have a Japanese maid, who helped take care of the children while Irene and I gathered firewood and did the domestic chores necessary to survive. Shizuko had been with us in Tokyo, but when war broke out and we had to leave the capital, we regretfully told her we would have to let her go because we would no longer have an income to pay her wages. She dismissed the idea and insisted she would stay with us. Because she had worked for us so long, she felt she was part of the family. Shizuko stayed with us in Karuizawa through three and a half years of hardship, until the end of the war.
Once the youth of Japan had been mobilized, food was rationed and soon became scarce. We received about a pound of bread a week for the whole family. Our main problem was finding a way to get milk for the children and food for us. I made a small vegetable garden beside the house, but this did not yield enough to get us through the long winter months. Fortunately, a small stream ran near our house with a lot of watercress growing in it, and this is what saved us, as it grew even in wintertime. Irene used it [End Page 103] [Begin Page 105] in many ingenious ways--sautéed in soup, or raw as a salad. We lived almost on watercress alone.
We managed to buy from a Japanese farmer a milking goat, which we fed with cut branches and leftovers from the kitchen. Irene milked it daily for the two young children, and for a while things seemed to improve.
We had our goat mated, and it gave birth to one kid. In the summer, when the kid was big enough to eat leaves, I would cut branches for both of them. One day, I tethered the kid with a rope around its neck at the side of the stream, where it could eat the grass growing there. A couple of hours later, when I went back to check on it, I was shocked to discover the kid had slipped into the stream and hung itself on the rope. When I touched it, it was motionless but still warm. I ran back to the kitchen, picked up a sharp knife, returned to the stream, and cut the throat of the small creature to let the blood out. This way we could eat meat, something we hadn't tasted for months. After the hide was dried, I made boots for both of our children. The soles were made from a piece of wooden...