Kali D. V. Oliver “Traditional Health: Wakamoto Bottle”

Courtesy: Wakamoto Pharmaceutical Co. LLC


Kooskia Interment Camp was the only all-male, volunteer based, paid work camp during WWII. Kooskia was open from May 1943 to May 1945, and the internees were responsible for constructing what is now a large part of US HWY 12.


The 2010 excavations at Kooskia unearthed a pharmaceutical bottle from Japan with characters around the neck translating to: Wakamoto. Jordan Wrigley, a University of Idaho graduate student, sent out an inquiry in Japanese, on 24 February 2012.The Wakamoto Company responded two days later, providing a product history. The Wakamoto Company began production of one product: the “Source of Youth,” a gastrointestinal supplement infused with vitamin B, in 1929. This product posed two benefits to internees: both digestive aid and energy supplement.(Wakamoto 2012: elec. comm).


Kooskia Wakamoto Bottle Fragments
Blog Post Picture
Blog Post Picture from Heisei Bottle Club Dairy

The Wakamoto bottle consists of 5 fragments, and is uniquely identifiable as the only “irregular, lighter” shade of amber glass found from the 2010 excavations. The seam goes over the lip of fragment 10-2-317 which has no threading, indicating it is both machine-made and had a cork top. Embossed Japanese characters on neck portion of sherd: wa(わ)ka(か)mo(も)to(と), signify the company’s name. Fragment 10-2-205, part of the body, is embossed with an “O” character, standing for the last letter of “Wakamoto” in English. This conforms to the style of font and format of the first bottle in the Wakamoto series, providing an origin date of between 1929 and 1936. During this time in Japan, there was a heavy emphasis on Westernization, perhaps explaining why both Japanese and English inscriptions are found on the bottle (Wakamoto 2012: elec. comm). A raised embossed design follows the vertical seams and four rings encircle the top of the body. None of these fragments cross-mend.


Heisei Bottle Club Dairy

Since there were restrictions placed on imports and exports during WWII, the bottle was likely brought into one of the family camps as a personal item; then into Kooskia afterwards by a male volunteer.There are many likely possibilities such as several men who were importers/exporters,  a pharmacist, or a medical student prior to internment who had all volunteered at different periods.

Conclusion: Last Slide

United States government, may exhibit a stepping stone towards the combination of two cultures; an example of how the internees, as a group, were finding a Japanese-American niche within a society that promotes the individual. In looking at the Wakamoto bottle, there is the possibility of not just seeing one culture over another, but how they might have worked together for imprisoned migrants (Wagers 2010: Appendix).


¨  Special thanks Dr. Stacey Camp from the Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project

¨  Daisuke Fujita, International Student at the University of Idaho for his aid in translation.


¨  Wegars, Priscilla

2010     Imprisoned in Paradise: Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II       Kooskia Internment Camp. Asian American Comparative Collection, Moscow, ID.

¨  Wakamoto Co. LLC. 26 Feb. 2012. Electronic Communication.


4 thoughts on “Kali D. V. Oliver “Traditional Health: Wakamoto Bottle”

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  1. Just to leave a comment:

    At the Northwest Anthropological Conference I had someone approach me and ask why I had felt I could use the color of this glass as a unique identifier. Color is helpful for archaeologists during a refitting process of glass it is true, but normally more identifiers would be needed to assert it is from the same bottle. So, this was a perfect question for someone to ask me as I did include one otherwise unidentifiable piece of glass in the fragment collection for the Wakamoto bottle. This piece is almost an olive green, and very much unlike all the other “amber” glass we would normally find among the artifacts, such as an Owens-Illinois beer jug, etc. So much so, I am able to pick it out amongst any other glass in the collection confidently. I have been communicating via email with the Wakamoto Co., who are still in production and have already provided us with a product history of the company that has been translated by a graduate student and an international student from Japan (see acknowledgements). It is my hope I will be able to obtain a chemical composition of the original bottle glass from them to confirm this color distinction. I will continue to post this information, likely later this summer. Thank you for asking!

  2. I have just returned from work in the solomon Islands working to clear the airstrip in Munda from UXOs and came across a wokomoto bottle in good condition. Having surfed the web I was happy to see that it had its time in history. Thanks for the information.

    1. This is fascinating, Brian! Do you happen to have a photograph of it? Do you have any additional information on how the bottle ended up there? Thank you so much for your comment! Stacey Camp (scamp@uidaho.edu)

  3. I have a whole wakamoto bottle (clear like one above) Found in the Bonin Islands in a medical kit used by a Japanese Medic in WWII

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