HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s been nearly 20 years since the state’s largest internment camp was located. The site of Honouliuli wasn’t known until volunteers with the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii started digging around.
JCCH volunteers Betsy Fujii Young and Jane Kurahara remember the phone call that started it all. A local journalist reached out to the JCCH, where the two ladies were volunteering.
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“And they wanted to know exactly were Honouliuli Internment Camp site was and I happen to answer that call and we didn’t have any info here,” Kurahara said.
They started digging for information, which was nothing new to these retired Department of Education librarians.
After five years of research, cold calls and long conversations, someone suggested…
“Hey, you should try talk to some of the farmers in that area, they know the land, and he says, try Larry Jefts,” Kurahara said.
They contacted the farmer in Kunia in 2002.
“He came and took one look at the photo and he said I know where that is,” Kurahara said.
An area in the Ewa plains. This photo was taken on the day that discovery was made, thanks to Larry Jefts, who’s pictured second from the left.
Retired businessman Tatsumi Hayashi is part of that team effort.
“Instead of doing nothing. I just want to work somehow the way I like,” Hayashi said.
He created a database of the names of internees and other details. Hayashi also took personal journals of internees and translated them into English.
“I thought that was our duty as Kupuna, to pass on enough about the past so that they understand the future better,” Kurahara said.
They also lead tours through exhibits at JCCH and are putting more details about the war and internment camp online, so people can learn about this point in time and never forget.
“When you leave this earth, do you leave it better or do you leave it worse, and I always wanted to try, to leave it better,” Kurahara said.