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Finding Honouliuli: Rediscovering an Almost-Forgotten Chapter of Hawai‘i History

How a phone call to a retired librarian led to the rediscovery of the state’s largest internment camp.


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Honouliuli is one of 17 known internment sites in the state. “We’d like to find a way to memorialize and recognize all 17,” Carole Hayashino says.


Just as there are lessons to draw from internment and the site itself, there’s just as much to learn from the process of researching, finding the site and getting it the recognition it deserves. JCCH president and executive director Carole Hayashino says, “It’s inspiring to know that a small community like ours could create a national movement to create a new national monument for this state and nation. As Jane and Betsy said, every step of the way there was just this incredible support, from the farmer to the teachers, to the students, to business leaders, to Monsanto (which purchased the land from Campbell in 2007 and has since donated 123 acres to the National Park Service). As the movement grew we found support where we never expected it, support where we never even thought of asking.” Seventeen years is a long time to work on a project, she says, “but this national monument is forever.”



When it was announced in February that Honouliuli would become a national monument, Kurahara and Hayashino were called to Washington, D.C. “When I first heard the news that President Obama was going to sign, all I could do was sit there and cry,” Kurahara says. “I kept thinking about all those people along the way that had helped us get to where we were.” It was a surreal experience for the two of them—especially as they waited in the Roosevelt Room. “Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had signed Executive Order 9066, which had led to the mass incarceration [of Japanese-Americans, among others, during World War II]. And here we are, all lined up waiting in the Roosevelt Room,” Hayashino says. “I kept thinking, my parents were interned in Mainland camps. My grandparents, my parents. I don’t think they could ever imagine that someday I would be invited to the White House to witness a president say that the internment was wrong or unjust and to recognize a place like Honouliuli. Honouliuli is very unique to Hawai‘i, but, for all Japanese-Americans across the nation, it symbolizes recognition of an injustice. It’s pretty amazing.”


Kurahara remembers that, when she first started volunteering at JCCH 21 years ago, she could count the number of cars in the parking lot on one hand. She would bring pencils from home. Not many people knew what the organization did outside of its New Year festival. “I don’t want to brag,” she says, and you can tell she means it, “but I think it’s been very fortunate for JCCH to be allowed to be the instrument that brought this to where it is. And for that I’m very grateful.”


Hayashino looks over at Kurahara and Young. “This is the soul and the spirit of JCCH,” she says. “It really is.”



Breaking the Silence

Photo: Odeelo Dayondon 


To read more about Honouliuli and internment in Hawai‘i, check out Breaking the Silence: Lessons of Democracy and Social Justice from the World War II Honouliuli Internment and POW Camp in Hawai‘i, Social Process in Hawai‘i, Volume 45, Guest Editors Suzanne Falgout and Linda Nishigaya, University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014 




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Honolulu Magazine July 2020