Skip navigation

My Division


Amache Archaeology Collection

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


Tin can lid, 5'' long. Found in Block 9G.


An internee at Amache fashioned this grater from the lid of a large tin can with the sharp edges folded over. The craftsmanship is impressive considering the limited resources in camp. Notice the size and shape of the holes. What could they have used to make the smaller, square holes? The clandestine cook could have used the large hole on the end to safely hang this sharp item on the wall.

The War Relocation Authority banned personal cooking in barracks, yet it was an important way for individuals to maintain their cultural roots. Internees often fabricated their own cooking implements from materials available in their respective camps. This grater is just one of the many clever uses of items to infuse the flavors of home into an institutional diet.

- Mackenzie Mantsch, DU Student Curator

Erin Yoshimura, Community Curator

Personal Reflection

This artifact, thought to be a home-made grater, caught my eye because it provides a snapshot into camp life. Although it would be suitable for ginger, it seems more likely made to use with daikon (Japanese radish) because shoga (ginger root) grows in hot climates. Farmers incarcerated at Amache grew many crops in the fields associated with the camp, including daikon. A versatile vegetable, daikon can be cooked, pickled and eaten raw but when it's grated or what we call oroshi, its flavor comes alive. The sharp edges of this homemade grater are just the type needed to grate daikon into a pulverized texture. Daikon oroshi is a condiment and adding a little shoyu (soy sauce) and eating it with grilled fish or steak enhances the flavor. Adding daikon oroshi to ponzu or tempura dipping sauces is a must at our table. Perhaps the ability to make daikon oroshi could have served a dual purpose for whoever crafted this item. Not only would it enhance the flavor of poor quality food, it could provide some familiarity and culinary comfort in an unbearable time in their lives. Both shoga and daikon are staples in our refrigerator and I often reach for my special Japanese graters without a second thought. Would I risk working with a sharp can lid to fashion my own grater? Yes!

Erin Yoshimura, Community Curator, Yonsei (fourth generation Japanese American), parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were incarcerated in Tule Lake and Rohwer

Daikon growing in the fields associated with Amache.
Photograph by Joseph McClelland. Courtesy of the Amache Preservation Society.
Daikon oroshi.
Photograph by Gil Asakawa.
Left: Kevin Blunt, DU Student Curator. Right: Mackenzie Mantsch, DU Student Curator.