JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ramsay Hishinuma reflected on the time his father, Jinjuro Hishinuma, spent at the Honouliuli Internment Camp during a forum and gathering yesterday at the Japanese Cultural Center marking the camp's 65th anniversary.
Internees are ‘not so nostalgic’
Former residents of Honouliuli camp have mixed feelings
Harry Urata returned yesterday to what was once Honouliuli Internment Camp, where he and some 300 people were held on Oahu during World War II.
"Not so nostalgic," he said. "No buildings and only bushes. The place was an Army camp, right now all bushes."
Urata was part of a pilgrimage to the former detention camp yesterday. The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and the Japanese American Citizens League arranged the pilgrimage and a summit afterward on WWII internment camps to prevent similar incidents from recurring.
During the war, 120,000 Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps. About 1,200 local Japanese were interned.
At the center of the ceremonies yesterday was Honouliuli camp, which opened on March 1, 1943, and once housed up to 320 internees, including Germans and Italians, on a strip of land in Kunia.
One of at least five Hawaii internment camps, Honouliuli housed mostly second-generation Japanese Americans, none of them convicted of a crime.
JCCH officials said little was known about Honouliuli about a decade ago, but it has now has been rediscovered. Monsanto Hawaii, which owns the land, pledged to keep the site preserved.
After the pilgrimage, Urata, 89, recalled his time at the camp. Born in Hawaii, Urata had moved to Japan as a youth to learn the language and returned in 1937, unable to speak English.
Federal authorities arrested him in 1942, sending him to a camp at Sand Island before transferring him to Honouliuli in 1943.
"For me it's good because I was single yet," he said. "I used to play guitar and all that and read lots of books."
For Chinatown resident Masamizu Kitajima, 75, who spent time as a youth in a internment camp on the mainland, the memories were mixed.
On Dec. 8, 1941, authorities detained his father, a Japanese priest.
Kitajima, then 8 years old, was told by his mother that he would be responsible for the family. His family, living on Kauai, relied on anonymous donations from the neighbors for food.
"Everybody was under suspicion," he said. "Nobody would come near our place."
Eventually his family went to the mainland, expecting to live with his father in an internment camp. He was comfortable in the camp, never lacking playmates.
But things were different for his father.
"My dad was very bitter," he said. "He wanted to go back to Japan."
Honouliuli internee Jack Tasaka attended the 65th anniversary of Honouliuli to see old friends. "These are my alumni," he said.
Tasaka, 93, was born in Hawaii but lived most of his youth in Japan. He believed the internment was the law at the time, and as a citizen wanted to follow the law, he said.
"This is my fate, so everything I try my best," he said. "While I was in Honouliuli, I just study English."
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Ramsay Hishinuma's father, Jinjuro Hishinuma, was interned at the Honouliuli Internment Camp during World War II. A photo caption incorrectly said Jinjuro was Ramsay's grandfather.