Gail Honda
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

The following interview write-up is the third of seven that will be published in The Hawai‘i Herald this year. It is part of a series titled, “In Their Own Words.”

In the spring of 1980, I had the opportunity to interview seven former internees of Honouliuli Internment Camp and the Sand Island Detention Camp at a time when their memories of being interned were still quite vivid. (The backstory on these interviews is explained in the March 16 edition of the Herald.)

The internees were: the Rev. Gyokuei Matsuura, Mrs. Haru Tanaka, Shigeo (Robert) Muroda, Dan Nishikawa, Shinzaburo Sumida, Edgar Genpachi (Jukichi) Tsushima and Harry Urata.

These write-ups were crafted from extensive notes taken during the interviews. The interview write-ups will become part of a book I plan to write, tentatively titled, “In Their Own Words: Issei, Nisei and Kibei Share Their Stories of Being Interned in Hawai‘i During World War II.”

Here is Mrs. Haru Tanaka’s story.

I was born in 1893 in Japan and turned 87 years old in March of this year (1980). I came to Hawai‘i in 1920 to visit my brothers in Hilo on the Big Island and ended up  staying.

The occupation of “teacher” was printed on my passport. Over my lifetime I taught for 60 years. On the Big Island, I taught at Olaa Japanese School for two years and also Hawaii Shima (Hawai‘i Island) School. I got married during this time.

I then moved to Wahiawä on the island of O‘ahu, where I taught at Dokuritsu (Independence) Japanese School and Shöwa Japanese School.

I was at home in Wahiawä on the morning of December 7, 1941, sitting down, still in my nightgown. A Japanese plane crashed nearby, and a bomb fell. I thought I was hearing practice exercises for the military. A man nearby went to buy bread at the store and found a bomb in his car seat. He went to the police station to find out what was going on and found out that it was real. Japan was bombing O‘ahu. I was scared of what “they” were going to do to us.

I stayed at home for the rest of the day. In the afternoon, three FBI agents came to arrest me. They were haole (Caucasian) and nice men. They asked my name and without giving me any reason or explanation, they took me to the U.S. Immigration Station in Honolulu. There were many arrestees there. They didn’t have enough beds at the station, so some were taken to Sand Island, where they slept on beds in tents. I stayed at the Immigration Station, where they didn’t have a bed for me, but they brought me a mattress and sheets.

The next morning, we women were rounded up and taken to breakfast. There were guards all along the steps and we could only look straight ahead as we walked. We were carefully guarded as we walked and while we ate. We ate where the officers ate. The arrested men, meanwhile, ate breakfast in the yard.

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Gail Honda is a writer in Honolulu. She can be reached at (808) 942-4783 or


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