Leading up to WWII, in an attempt to broadcast loyalty to the United States and avoid hostile associations with Imperial Japan, many Japanese cultural practices and objects were abandoned or destroyed. Yet, many treasured possessions were brought to Amache, where Japanese traditions were still practiced, as documented in historic photos, oral histories, and the archaeological record. After the war, continued pressure to conform to mainstream American culture resulted in the widespread loss of connection to many of these aspects of Japanese heritage, which has had lasting effects on generations of Japanese Americans. Read more in Wrestling with Tradition: Japanese Activities at Amache, by Zachary Starke.
Many gardens in Amache featured traditional Japanese elements. They appear in barrack entryway gardens, such as this one created by Mataji Umeda in Block 7G. There are also larger gardens in common spaces that included features such as koi ponds.
In 2014, this karesansui garden, or dry-landscape zen garden, was found in Block 12H. Learn more about this and other gardens in a presentation on Amache gardens prepared for TADAIMA! A Community Virtual Pilgrimage. The archaeology of Amache gardens will be featured in a new book by Dr. Bonnie Clark this fall.
In addition to typical American sports, the WRA recreation department at Amache provided funding and reporting coverage for Japanese sports, including judo and sumo. At least two sumo rings were built at Amache where a number of tournaments were held. While sumo was more popular with the Issei, there was also a boys’ sumo wrestling group.
In 2014, the DU Amache Archaeology Field School confirmed the location of the 9F sumo ring. Historic photos and oral histories led them to the sumo platform area which is still evident today as a flat, square-shaped terrace.