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The Untold Story: Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of Kinetic Productions and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Documentary film produced by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i (JCCH) in 2012 that provides an overview on the internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i during World War II—both those held in camps in the continental U.S. and those held in Hawai'i camps—as well as contemporary efforts to preserve the Hawai'i sites today.

The Untold Story tells the story largely chronologically and through the stories of several internees and internee families including Sam Nishimura, a tailor from Haleiwa; Otokichi Ozaki, an Issei Japanese language school teacher; Bob Nishioka, a Kibei Japanese language school teacher; Harry Urata, a Kibei student; Paul Osumi, a Christian minister; Yasutaro Soga , an Issei journalist; and Jack Tasaka, a journalist. Historians Gary Okihiro and Gail Y. Okawa talk about the surveillance of the Japanese community in Hawai'i prior to the war, which led to the preparation of custodial detention lists that allowed authorities to begin arresting Japanese American community leaders right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those arrests and the subsequent detention at Sand Island and other camps are recalled by surviving internee Urata, family members of Nishimura, Osumi, and Nishioka, and through the writings of Soga and Ozaki. Given the dearth of visual depictions of the arrests and internment, filmmaker Ryan Kawamoto used dramatic reenactments of Soga's Ozaki's, Nishimura's and Urata's experiences to illustrate the experience including their purposefully degrading treatment at Sand Island, their kangaroo court-like hearings at the Honolulu Immigration Station , and the tedium of internment.

The film then turns to the transfer of Issei internees to camps on the continental U.S., particularly Santa Fe , and the transfer of the rest to Honouliuli in 1943. The experience at Honouliuli is recalled by Urata and another surviving internee, Jack Tasaka, along with Nishimura family members and German American Doris Berg Nye, whose parents were also held there. Urata and Shizuye Nishioka (Bob's wife) recall Tule Lake , where the two men were transferred to from Honouliuli. Nishimura was released before the end of the war, the other after, and the film briefly updates the fate of each internee.

After a brief summary of the postwar silence about the internment in Hawai'i and the Redress Movement of the 1980s—including the discovery in Hawai'i of those who were excluded from their homes, but not interned—the last quarter of the film turns to contemporary efforts to recover the Honouliuli site. Footage of pilgrimages to Honouliuli organized by JCCH in 2008 and 2010 and of archeological surveys of the site led by Jeff Burton and Mary Farrell highlight this segment. Family members, scholars, and community members emphasize the importance of preserving the site and making the story of the internment known.

The Untold Story was part of a series of activities by JCCH to educate the public about the internment, including the publication of internment memoirs by Issei internees Soga, Ozaki, and Kumaji Furuya, exhibitions, and pilgrimages. It was funded in large part by a grant from the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, with smaller grants from the Island Insurance Foundation, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, and Japanese American Citizens League , Honolulu Chapter. The Untold Story was preceded by another short film, Honouliuli: Hawai'i's Hidden Internment Camp (2010) which used some of the same footage. A thirty-minute education version of The Untold Story was also made and is available online through JCCH's internment website.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Justice Betrayed (1992); The First Battle: The Battle for Equality in War-Time Hawaii (2006); Ganbare Don't Give Up! (1994)

Media Details
Release Date 2012
Runtime 58 minutes
Director Ryan Kawamoto
Writer Ryan Kawamoto
Narrator Dennis Sekine
Starring Gary Y. Okihiro (interviewee), Gail Y. Okawa (interviewee), Grace Fukunaga (Nishimura) (interviewee), Edna Saifuku (Nishimura) (interviewee), Gail Honda (interviewee), Shizuye Nishioka (interviewee), Harry Urata (interviewee), Daniel K. Inouye (interviewee), Norman Osumi (interviewee), Brian Niiya (interviewee), Mary Farrell (interviewee), Doris Berg Nye (interviewee), Kaoru Nakamura (interviewee), Jack Tasaka (interviewee), Doris Nishimura Nakahara (interviewee), Franklin Odo (interviewee), Sandy Saifuku-Chang (interviewee), William Kaneko (interviewee), Jane Kurahara (interviewee), Jeff Burton (interviewee), Alan Takemoto (interviewee), Julie Ihara (interviewee), Betsy Young (interviewee), Mike Nishioka (interviewee), Neal Katyal (interviewee), Allan Okubo (Yasutaro Soga), Shiro Kawai (Otokichi Ozaki), Rodney Oshiro (Sam Nishimura)
Music Aron Nelson
Cinematography David Sato (historical reenactments)
Editing Ryan Kawamoto
Studio Kinetic Productions
For More Information

For More Information

Official website: .

Kurahara, Jane, Brian Niiya, and Betsy Young. "Finding Honouliuli: The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i and Preserving the Hawai'i Internment Story." Social Process in Hawai'i (2014): 16–42.