Center preserves legacy of WWII internment camp
For Sen. Sanji Abe’s grandson, the presence of his grandfather’s Japanese go game set among the Honouliuli internment camp artifacts serves as an indication that Abe hadexpected a long confinement.
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For Sen. Sanji Abe’s grandson, the presence of his grandfather’s Japanese go game set among the Honouliuli internment camp artifacts serves as an indication that Abe had expected a long confinement.
ABOUT THE CENTER
Honouliuli National Monument Education Center at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii
>> Address: 2454 S. Beretania St.
>>> Hours (after Saturday): Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On Tuesday morning Paul Shinkawa walked through the new Honouliuli National Monument Education Center at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii in Moiliili, where artifacts from former internees are displayed — including the game set.
Abe, the first Japanese- American elected to the Senate of the Territorial Legislature, was interned for about 22 months at Honouliuli, during which time his family moved to Honolulu from Hilo to be closer to him.
At some point Abe asked his wife to bring his go game set (similar to chess), anticipating he would be confined for a long period.
“The fact that he asked for the go set meant he really knew he was going to be there for a long time,” said Shinkawa, 62, during an advance viewing of the new education center. “The end was not imminent. They were going to be there for a while.”
The education center will open to the public Saturday with a blessing at 9:30 a.m. Located in the cultural center’s community gallery on the ground floor, entry is free. Lawmakers, family members of former internees, as well as Jacqueline Ashwell, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument superintendent, are expected to attend.
Planning for the education center began soon after President Barack Obama proclaimed Honouliuli a national monument in February 2015. JCCH decided to create the education center as the National Park Service develops an extensive management plan for the site.
Carole Hayashino, president and executive director, said the goal is to continue public education and awareness of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii.
“The education center represents a place where students and teachers and the general public can learn about the incarceration, to hear the voices of the internees and to see some of the very creative artwork that grew out of their confinement experience,” Hayashino said.
It took about a year to complete the new center.
In addition to artwork and possessions encased in Plexiglas, the education center also shows short video clips, including one featuring the story of Abe’s incarceration.
Serving as a senator for the Territorial Legislature at the time, Abe, a prominent businessman, was arrested in 1942.
The internment camp was in a deep gulch in Kunia that internees called “jigoku dani,” or “hell valley,” due to the sweltering heat and hordes of mosquitoes.
Although some internees were bitter about being wrongly confined, Shinkawa said his grandfather, a World War I veteran, had a different perspective: “Shikata ga nai (cannot be helped),” said Shinkawa.
He said his grandfather understood the circumstances of the position of the United States and the tension with Japan before the war.
Some internees created artwork or wrote stories while confined. Abe, who enjoyed interacting with people, played go with fellow internees to help pass the time. They built a small wooden table for the go set.
Hayashino said since the discovery of the Honouliuli site in 2002, family members of former internees have stepped forward to donate precious heirlooms and artifacts, which the education center will feature in a series of new displays presented every six months.
While committed to preserving the historic site, Hayashino said JCCH is equally committed to preserving the stories, artwork and possessions of former internees.
Historic photos of Honouliuli, photos of internees and a large map of the internment camp that shows the compound are displayed on the walls.
Hayashino gestured to a wall-sized display of the dedication of Honouliuli as a national monument that includes a quote from the late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, who stressed the importance of talking about the history of Honouliuli: “There are some who say, ‘Well, why talk about it?’ I think we should, if only to remind ourselves that this can happen in our democracy if we’re not vigilant, because it did.”
Reinforcing his words, Hayashino said that’s the core message, the primary purpose of preserving Honouliuli and creating the education center.