Katherine Itoh

The Historic Preservation Honor Awards are the state’s highest recognition for projects, organizations and publications that help in the preservation and restoration of Hawai’i’s historical and cultural sites. The annual award is presented by the non-profit Historic Hawaii Foundation, which seeks to protect Hawai‘i community legacies from destruction and to educate future generations on these legacies’ meaning. This year, three Japanese American projects and businesses received awards: the documentary “Voices Behind Barbed Wire: Stories of Hawai’i,” the mural wall at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, and specialty bakeshop Ishiharaya.

Written and directed by Ryan Kawamoto, “Voices Behind Barbed Wire: Stories of Hawai’i” is about Japanese Americans from Hawai‘i who lived in internment camps during World War II. Receiving an Achievements in Interpretive Media Award from HHF, this film tells of the personal accounts of Hawai’i’s Japanese American wartime internees from their initial arrest and imprisonment in the islands to their incarceration in mainland concentration camps. The documentary also explores internment camps in Hawai‘i (Sand Island Detention Center, Kalaheo Stockade, Haiku Camp, Kilauea Military Camp) as well as later grassroots efforts by volunteers from the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i (the non-profit which produced the documentary) to have the Honouliuli Internment Camp be designated as a National Historic Site. “Voices Behind Barbed Wire: Stories of Hawai’i” was made to bring awareness about the Japanese American incarceration experience within Hawai‘i that would otherwise have been left untold.

As the Herald previously reported on May 1 (see p. 6 of that print issue, or if you are a digital subscriber, go to thehawaiiherald.com/2020/05/05/herald-salutes-historic-hawaii-foundation-to-honor-nvmc-mural-wall/), the mural wall at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in Kahului, Maui, was given a Programmatic Award as an educational resource. Local artist Kirk Kurokawa reproduced black-and-white original photographs of Nisei World War II veterans on the wall. Kurokawa also gave his own spin to the artwork by adding pink flowers to resemble cherry blossoms, cultural symbols of hope and renewal. “Everyone just kind of stops in awe and is amazed, but they also get a really strong feeling and emotion of gratitude,” said Jill Tokuda, now director of external relations for the Memorial Center. The mural wall continues to serve as a reminder of the veterans’ sacrifices and a continuation of their legacy.

The family-owned bakeshop Ishiharaya will receive a Centennial Anniversaries Award this year. Locals may recognize the senbei and snack producer for its famous plantation-style tea cookies and rice crackers found on the shelves of some supermarkets. Ira Ishihara, grandson of original owners Nobuo and Sasayo Ishihara, continues the tradition of making senbei in the family shop in Waipahu. Ishiharaya continues to grow as new items, such as ginger and coconut senbei, have grown in popularity.

The 46th Annual Historic Preservation Honor Awards will be streamed live on Wednesday, July 22, from 5-6 p.m. via Zoom and YouTube Live. Twenty-three preservation awards and 15 anniversaries of local organizations will be recognized. The program will also include a conversation with photographer David Franzen, winner of this year’s Frank Haines Award in Lifetime Achievement. Attendance is free of charge, but registration for the event is required. For more information, visit the Historic Hawaii Foundation website at historichawaii.org.

Katherine Itoh is currently participating in The Hawai‘i Herald’s internship program. She was born and raised in Hawai‘i to shin-issei parents. She is currently attending Syracuse University, double majoring in journalism and international relations. In the future, Katherine hopes to pursue a career in news broadcasting and tell stories about people and cultures from around the world.



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