Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the opening of the Honouliuli internment camp – one of at least five sites used to house local Japanese who were detained by the federal government in the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In honor of the occasion, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii coordinated a pilgrimage to the site, busing in 90 relatives of the internees and members of the media.

Today, there’s nothing but overgrown trees, grass and debris covering what was once a facility built to house several thousand people behind barbed wire fences. None of those detained were accused of any specific crime, but the camp held influential male leaders of the Japanese community in Hawaii as well as a few Italians, Germans and women. Some were released after a short detainment, while others were transferred to camps on the U.S. mainland.

Interestingly enough, scholars were not even aware of the camp until 2002, when the JCCH was in the midst of gathering artifacts and photographs for a project on the internment experience. Shortly after, Monsato Group purchased the 160-acre camp site and the 2,140 acres that surrounded it to preserve the historic area.

Of the dozen former internees from the Honouliuli camp still alive, two of them, Chojiro Kageura and Harry Urata, attended Sunday’s pilgrimage ceremony. The program featured a brief description of life in Honouliuli, prayers and blessings by religious leaders and a recap of some of the recent archaeological finds at the site. Closing the ceremony was the singing of “Kankin Bushi” (Internment Song) by Ramsay Hishinuma, “Hawaii Aloha,” and the offering of rose petals by the audience.

Keep an eye out for our next issue as we will be offering an in-depth look at the pilgrimage ceremony and the Honouliuli experience.

Honouliuli Internees

Honouliuli internees Chojiro Kageura (left) and Harry Urata (right) – two of the 12 former Honouliuli internees still alive – enjoy the ceremony.

Nishimura Family 2

Members of Sam Nishimura’s family. Nishimura, a tailor, was confined at Honouliuli for two years.

Jana Lillie

Sam Nishimura’s 10-year-old great-granddaughter, Jana Lillie, scatters rose petals at Honouliuli.

Ramsey Hishinuma

Ramsay Hishinuma sings the “Kankin Bushi.”


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