Karleen C. Chinen

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i opened the doors to its new Honouliuli National Monument – JCCH Education Center on Oct. 22. The event was attended by family members of the former Honouliuli internees, supporters and elected officials.

In February 2015, President Barack Obama designated the Honouliuli camp site as a national monument, bringing it under the auspices of the National Park Service.

The opening program included both Buddhist memorial rites and a Shinto blessing. The Buddhist rites were conducted by Bishop Shugen Komagata of Soto Mission of Hawai‘i. Bishop Komagata has a connection to Honouliuli: His grandfather, the Rev. Zenkyo Komagata, was interned there during the war. Komagata said the education center is a place where the stories of the Honouliuli internees will be preserved, shared and studied.

Honouliuli was the largest and longest-used confinement site in the territory of Hawai‘i. Internees were sent there beginning in March 1943. The camp remained open until 1946. Imprisoned at Honouliuli, which the internees referred to as Jigoku Dani, or Hell Valley, were approximately 4,000 prisoners of war from Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Taiwan and Italy; American-born citizens — most of them Kibei-Nisei (American-born and Japan-educated second-generation Americans of Japanese ancestry); and about 400 permanent resident aliens from Japan living in Hawai‘i, who were barred by American law from becoming U.S. citizens.

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