Skip navigation

My Division


Amache Archaeology Collection

Connecting the Pieces: Dialogues on the Amache Archaeology Collection Online Exhibit  


Likely carved from dimensional lumber, 8'' long. Found in Block 11F.


It's hard to imagine people in America resorting to wearing sandals hand-carved from pieces of scrap lumber, isn't it? Yet resourceful Japanese Americans found themselves having to do exactly that while in internment camps. Many internees at Amache wore these handmade wooden shoes, and remnants of these sandals, called getas, were found at the camp. This geta is among the smaller of those recovered during research. Getas are traditional Japanese sandals made from wood and look like flip-flops.

They have a platform elevated by two "teeth" and a fabric thong threaded through the toe. Traditionally worn with kimonos, getas elevate the wearer to protect their feet and clothing from rain, snow, mud, and dirt. The handmade getas at Amache were functional, helping internees deal with the camp's harsh conditions. But they were also culturally important, worn during traditional activities such as Obon, a Buddhist festival celebrated yearly at Amache.

- Emily Barriball and Nick Beeson, DU Student Curators

Historic photograph from Amache scrapbook of girls wearing getas with kimonos for Obon.
Courtesy of Helen Yagi Sekikawa.

Personal Reflection

"Assigned to 11G, 11D. dirty brick floors. Ants and other insects keep coming up. A sand storm greeted us upon arriving at camp."
9/21/42 Journal entry from Yoneko Uyemura, age 21

Seeing the wooden geta brought this entry from my mother's journal to mind. Living in Amache, meant dirty floors and often muddy passageways. I'm sure footwear that could elevate, if only for an extra inch or two, would have been welcome–especially for that trip to the latrines. I imagine that this geta belonged to a small person, perhaps even my grandmother who stood only 4'8" tall. My mother and other incarcerated family members would often recall how difficult life in camp was for the Issei and elderly. The lumber, out of which this geta appears to have been carved, also brought to mind a small table in our home in Trinidad, Colorado.

I later learned that my dad and uncle built it from scraps of discarded lumber from the hastily built barracks. My mother also kept a beautiful bird pin carved as a gift in camp. Wood provided a welcome avenue for resourcefulness, creativity, and a break from the monotony of camp life. Like many Nisei, my parents were such remarkable individuals, but very reluctant to speak of their Amache experiences. These objects provide even deeper insight about the internees, all of whom deserve our continued respect, admiration, and most importantly, remembrance.

- Janice Reiko Ogawa, Community Curator, Sansei (third generation Japanese American), grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles incarcerated at Amache

Left: Janice Reiko Ogawa, Community Curator. Center: Emily Barriball, DU Student Curator. Right: Nick Beeson, DU Student Curator.