Kupuna Life: JCCH volunteers continue their training and awareness at Honouliuli internment camp


HONOLULU (KHON2) – It has been almost 20 years since the state’s largest internment camp was located. The Honouliuli site was not known until volunteers from the Japanese Cultural Center in Hawaii started digging.

JCCH volunteers Betsy Fujii Young and Jane Kurahara remember the phone call that started it all. A local reporter contacted the JCCH, where the two ladies were volunteering.

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“And they wanted to know exactly where the Honouliuli internment camp site was and I answered that call and we had no information here,” Kurahara said.

They began to search for information, which was nothing new for these retired librarians from the Department of Education.

After five years of research, cold calls and long conversations, someone suggested …

“Hey, you should try talking to some of the farmers in this area, they know the land, and he says, try Larry Jefts,” Kurahara said.

They contacted the Kunia farmer in 2002.

“He came over and took a look at the photo and he said I know where it is,” Kurahara said.

An area in the plains of Ewa. This photo was taken on the day of the discovery, courtesy of Larry Jefts, who is second from left.

Retired businessman Tatsumi Hayashi is part of this team effort.

“Instead of doing nothing. I just want to work somehow the way I like it, ”Hayashi said.

He created a database of the names of internees and other details. Hayashi also took the internees’ diaries and translated them into English.

“I thought it was our duty as Kupuna to convey enough about the past for them to understand the future better,” Kurahara said.

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They also run tours through exhibits at JCCH and post more details about the war and the internment camp, so people can learn more about this moment and never forget it.

“When you leave this land, leave it better or leave it worse, and I always wanted to try, leave it better,” Kurahara said.

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