Activities

The humorous poem “A Letter of Lament” expresses the difficulty encountered because people were so absorbed in activities that they never had any time to spare1. There were certainly many opportunities for people to keep themselves busy, especially as the relatively liberal regime meant that people were not constantly behind barbed wire. In addition to the activities detailed in the following sections, people who had occupations in civilian lives - “blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, tailors, bookbinders, watchmakers, bakers, photographers, barbers” etc. were able to practice their professions within the camp2. Within the boundaries of the camp there were two ponds, and there was even a “shipyard” which made small boats to sail there3. Many ship models were displayed in the exhibition.

A model of a ship which was shown in the exhibition
DIJ Tokyo Shelf Mark H57-07: A model of a ship which was shown in the exhibition.

One which was made subsequently was singled out for particular praise in the newspaper4.

A team of men dedicated themselves to building bridges – three in all – in the surrounding area. The first one was made of wood, while the second and third ones were stone-built 5.

Starting in February 1918 as a result of increased costs, it was agreed with the authorities that the men would be permitted to fell trees to provide the wood needed for cooking and baking6. This proved to be a strenuous but popular alternative to peeling potatoes7. Once the wood had been felled, the whole camp turned out to transport the logs down from the woods.

A human chain passing logs to the camp
DIJ Tokyo Shelf Mark H57-09: A human chain passing logs towards the camp

On Ascension Day 1918 the woodcutters’ work party was turned into an excursion 8. On the 21st of June 1918 one of the woodcutters sadly died as a result of a heart attack while swimming in a reservoir to cool down9.

Although the camp apparently did not possess the means of letterpress printing, they made the best use of what they had10, even producing coloured prints11.

In addition to the informative articles in the newspaper, the camp provided a number of educational courses, including the teaching of Japanese.

All the entertainment in the Camp was provided by local initiatives. From October 1918 onwards there were four slide-shows on civilian topics, and there were three film shows – two of which related to the war, but most of the entertainment took the form of musical and theatrical performances. Sporting and gymnastic activities were also popular, while others developed a practical interest in agriculture.