July 7, 2012: The state is taking the first steps to establish part of a Honouliuli gulch as a reminder that hundreds of Japanese-Americans were interned there during World War II. Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 2678 on Friday, creating an advisory group to come up with recommendations for an educational resource center at the site of the former Honouliuli Internment Camp in Kunia.
Carole Hayashino, president and executive director of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, said, "It's recognition that what happened at Honouliuli is important not only to Japanese-Americans, but to the state of Hawaii and the United States. It's going to help ensure that what happened at Honouliuli will not be forgotten and that history will be preserved and taught for future generations."
Some $100,000 was appropriated for activities of the group, which will work closely with the Japanese Cultural Center, Japanese American Citizens League-Honolulu Chapter, University of Hawaii-West Oahu, historians and the community.
The advisory group will include representatives from the Historic Preservation Division, UH-West Oahu, Japanese American Citizens League, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation and Monsanto Hawaii. The Senate president and House speaker also will appoint a member to be part of the group.
Recommendations will be presented to lawmakers in the next legislative session.
Officials and volunteers from the Japanese Cultural Center were among those who attended the bill signing at Abercrombie's offices at the state Capitol.
During the bill signing, Abercrombie commended the Japanese Cultural Center for its ongoing efforts to preserve the site. Volunteers have been conducting preservation work for more than 10 years.
Following the attack of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government declared martial law in the Territory of Hawaii. In 1943 about 150 Japanese-Americans were relocated to Honouliuli from Sand Island, in a camp surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards in watchtowers. At its peak about 300 Japanese-Americans were interned at the camp. Also confined were people of German and Italian descent.
The camp was demolished after the war. However, some remnants still remain, including two buildings, one believed to have been used by guards.
Monsanto Hawaii, a seed company, owns the land of the former internment camp site. Community Affairs Manager Alan Takemoto said the company is interested in transferring ownership to the National Park Service.
Paul DePrey, superintendent of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, said the Park Service is completing a resource study on how to best preserve Hono-uliuli and other Japanese-American internment sites throughout Hawaii. The study was initiated in the fall of 2010. Recommendations on the best management approach for Honouliuli have yet to be made.
DePrey said they hope to complete the report in the next six months.
Those who have visited Honouliuli gain a sense of the conditions internees endured while confined in the gulch.
"The gulch walls are your prison walls. And you are no longer part of the community of Oahu when you're in that gulch," DePrey said. "There were so many people who were in that gulch, and you couldn't see them and they couldn't see anyone else, and yet they were still on the island that they considered their home."
The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is conducting public tours of the former Honouliuli camp site in Kunia where hundreds of Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. Those interested in taking a tour can call the cultural center at 945-7633.