Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jane Kurahara
Narrator: Jane Kurahara
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: August 31, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-514

<Begin Segment 1>

BN: So we are here on August 31, 2022, and interviewing Jane Kurahara, who just told me her middle name and I forgot it.

JK: No problem.

BN: I am Brian Niiya, conducting the interview, and our videographer is George Russell. I'm here in the gallery of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, again, more about JCCH in a moment. So thank you so much, Jane, for doing this interview. And as we do with, I think, most interviews, we'd like to start maybe with your, the date of your birth and then a little bit about your parents.

JK: Right, yes. I was born on February 16, 1931, and my parents are Nisei. My father was born in 1901, and my mom was born in 1900 on Kauai. My father was born here in Honolulu, they're both Nisei.

BN: Seems like it would have been unusual at that time that your mother was a little bit older.

JK: I guess so. Maybe that's why I never knew that until I was quite old myself. [Laughs] They didn't say too much about that.

BN: Can you tell me a little about them, your parents? Maybe starting with your father. Do you know much about his parents and where they came from in Japan and so forth?

JK: Yes. My father's parents came from Yamaguchi-ken in 1894, the two of them came together. And I believe my grandpa was... when I knew him, he was a toolmaker. I don't know what he did exactly when he first came. And they lived in the Pawa'a district. And my dad was the oldest son, and after him were three daughters and another son. My mom's parents came from Hiroshima-ken about the same time that my other grandparents came. And they settled in Kauai, and working on some kind of rice plantation or something like that, at least that's what I remember. And my real grandma passed away in childbirth, and so the grandma that I know was a step-grandma. She came as a second marriage.

BN: And where was your mother in, kind of, the birth order?

JK: My mom was, I believe maybe second from the top, second or third, somewhere in there, kind of in the middle.

BN: Okay. And then your father, you mentioned his name was Masaichi. Did he go by a nickname or English name?

JK: I wouldn't venture to know.

BN: I guess your father, the first name isn't really, doesn't come up that much.

JK: I guess, yeah, by the time we were born.

BN: And then what was his educational background?

JK: My father graduated from McKinley High School, and then being the eldest, usually the eldest person, eldest child goes to work then, so the other children can go to school. But his case was unusual. He went to my grandpa and asked if he could keep going and go to the University of Hawaii, and Grandpa said, "Yes, you can, only you're going to have to do it on your own. Because we're very poor, we can't afford to send you." And so he did go to the University of Hawaii, and he graduated in 1924. I often wondered about that, especially after I came to the Japanese Cultural Center, because I kept reading that the eldest child had to go to work. And in his case, it didn't happen that way. And I said, well, somebody in the family had to go to work, and because there were quite a few children coming after them. One of our volunteers, many, many years later, was doing research in the state library and gave me the research he found about my family. And I think... I mean, I'm not sure, but there was the second in the line, eldest daughter, and she only went to the third grade. And then the two daughters that came after her went to school long enough to become nurses, and the youngest son worked for the post office. So I said I think he was the one that... and eventually, though, she became a forelady in the cannery, and she was the big boss there. So it seemed to work out.

BN: Right. But in any case, he did get to go to college.

JK: Uh-huh.

BN: And then what did he end up doing?

JK: That was interesting. That was the only story my dad ever shared with me about his former life. He graduated, and apparently he was an accountant of some sort, and he went to work for the cannery in the office. And one day he was called in to his boss's office and introduced to a young, tall haole boy, and very young yet. And his boss told him... I think Yani was, anyway, said, "Yani, I want you to train this boy. And train him well, because he's going to be your boss." And it was then that my father realized that that was as far as he was going to go. And so I think my father is a bit feisty. At that point, he decided he had to get out and try to find something to do where he was his own boss, and so he became an insurance agent. And ultimately he worked for the Prudential Life Insurance company. And because he was a pretty smart guy, he eventually became the first district manager for Prudential of Japanese ancestry. And so that was my dad, and he was smart.

BN: And then what about your mom?

JK: My mom was living in Kauai. And of course, up 'til grade eight, she went to Hanalei school. She walked from Wainiha to Hanalei, five miles. She said they'd come over the last hill and they'd look down. And if the flag was up, they were going to be late, and if it wasn't, then they were on time. But that was all she told us about her early schooling. After the K-8 schooling, her parents sent her to Oahu to go to normal school to become a teacher. And so that is what she did, and eventually when she graduated her normal school, she became a teacher and was a teacher all her life until she retired.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

BN: And then how did they, your parents meet?

JK: I'm just wondering how they met.

BN: They never talked about it?

JK: They never talked about it. But it seems like, when my mom moved to Oahu to go to normal school, she had to live somewhere and she found dormitory space in the Okumura Dormitory. And that was Reverend Takie Okumura, who also was in charge of Makiki Christian Church. And he very strongly believed in helping young Japanese Americans assimilate and become Americans. And I suspect that's possibly where they met, because that much I do remember of both of them, that they were strong McGehee Christian followers. And I had to go to Sunday school there, and I said, "How come you guys don't have to go?" They said, "Never mind, you're going." And so I think that may have been how they met. And they were definitely following assimilation to America because we always spoke English at home. And I thought it was perfectly okay, but on New Year's Eve, everyone else shot firecrackers, so did we. But at midnight, Japanese eat ozoni and things like that. I didn't know there was such a thing as ozoni because we ate waffles. [Laughs] And I think it was my mom's way of doing it the American style, and yet practical. Because then we'd sleep in in the morning, and she wouldn't have to worry about breakfast.

BN: Adapting customs for your convenience.

JK: As well, yeah, uh-huh.

BN: As far as you know, they're Nisei, so did they speak Japanese at all, even to their parents?

JK: Yes, they did. And my father was quite good at it because I remember that when people needed someone to speak at, say, at a funeral, a eulogy or something, they'd always ask him.

BN: To speak in Japanese.

JK: To speak in Japanese, yeah.

BN: And then I'm wondering, you mentioned they were both Makiki Christian Church members. Or was it just them that were Christian, or were their families also Christian?

JK: No. I don't know about the rest of their families. And because like I was reading their engagement article, and all the people at it, I didn't recognize. They were all the Nisei, I guess their friends that they made. So I don't know about that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BN: So your father was working in insurance, your mother is teaching, then you're born. Who was kind of looking after you and your brother?

JK: Oh, my grandma.

BN: This would be your father's...

JK: My father's mother, yeah. And then my parents, well, this is one thing about my father, he was definitely the boss of our family, that was very "Japanese-y." And the other thing was, when he spoke, I listened, and so I got a lot of... the only things I remember are mostly scoldings. But one thing he did tell us over and over, my brother and me, is that he believed in feeding us well, and he believed in educating us well, those two things. Anything else, like my mom would, when I was a teenager, she sent me to Liberty House to buy some clothes, because she sensed I was teenaged. And I got a, we both got a good scolding for that. He says, "No, that's not food, that's not education." And so that's why I remember that so well. And so, indeed, he was good to his word. We didn't just drink Dairyman's milk, he took us, he drove us out to the country to Maunawili where there were these special cows and the milk was richer. And so that's probably why we had cholesterol problems later on. [Laughs] But that was the best for us. And then as far as education went, he was always on the lookout for ways to -- and we didn't know this, we just followed along wherever he wanted -- and so at eighteen months, they sent me to school at Castle kindergarten, and my poor grandma cried because she figured I was still a little baby. But I went to Castle kindergarten and then I went to St. Andrews Priory. And then one day he said, "Okay, today you're going to go to another school, and just go there and do what they say and see how it goes. And so I went, and this was Punahou school, I didn't know. I went, and there were six of us, and we spent all day there taking a test, going to classes, and I had a good time in the music class. That's all I remember of the whole thing. And then a few days later, my father came home all excited, he was so happy. And that's the first time he told me he was proud of me, I mean, most of the time I got scolded. And he said he was proud of me, and I wondered why. And many years later, I figured it out. Those six people that showed up for that day, we were taking a test for the one opening. Because at that point in time, Punahou had a quota on Japanese. It was mostly for the Caucasians. And so I was competing for that one slot, and I didn't know that. And so that's how I got into Punahou.

BN: And then can you just briefly tell us what Punahou is, for those who aren't familiar with Hawaii?

JK: Oh, right, yeah. Punahou is a private school. It was originally started to educate the, I think, the missionary children, and then eventually the privileged children, Caucasian children, here in Hawaii. So many of my classmates were white, belonged to wealthy families. And so when I went to their birthday parties after being in Punahou, we were in these huge houses, and I thought, "Boy, I'm never going to have a birthday party." But then Punahou was just ordinary in the sense that we weren't super smart, not like your daughter. Because that happened later after Dr. Fox did away with the quota for Japanese. Then Punahou became a place where you really had to be smart to get in. So we used to get together, our class, at reunions, and we'd kind of joke with each other because half our offspring were not getting into Punahou. [Laughs] And so whenever I say I went to Punahou, people think, "Oh." And I don't tell them, "No, I wasn't smart." But that was true, we didn't have to be.

BN: But at the same time, because, as you mentioned, there's this quota of the number of Japanese and of Asians, you were sort of being held to a higher standard in some ways.

JK: That's true.

BN: Because you're competing just among the small group of Japanese for this precious spot. So in some ways, you were held to a higher level then.

JK: Yes, you're very right. Very true.

BN: My sense is that it was fairly unusual for a Japanese girl, quote/unquote, to be going to private school at that time?

JK: Yes, uh-huh. And I used to get teased by my uncle, and so I didn't like being at Punahou. Because every time I saw my uncle, he'd tease me. But later on, after he got married and had a daughter, the daughter went to Punahou, so I thought, ah, he was just being adolescent, I think.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

BN: And then given that, as you mentioned, your classmates are mostly white, were your friends your classmates, or did you have sort of a separate set of Japanese friends in the neighborhood?

JK: That's a good question. I entered Punahou in the fifth grade, that was before the war. And we were just kids together, and we went to each other's birthday parties and so forth. And then in the sixth grade, that was when the war broke out. And by seventh grade, I was beginning to, I guess you begin to socialize, and you begin to notice things. And so although I was, there was a group of kids that color didn't matter, they liked everybody, so we were always very comfortable with each other. But with some, we kind of drifted apart. And by the time I was a senior, one of my friends who was not Japanese said, "Why are you always, kind of like in a clique? Why don't you mix with the rest of the people?" And I thought, "Oh my goodness." I decided not to answer. But by then, we definitely had a clique of Orientals. And actually, that group, we stayed very close until a few years ago when our fearless leader passed away.


BN: Well, the question and prompt was whether you had separate sets of friends, and then we started to talk about how, sixth, seventh grade, you know, things started to change a little.

JK: Uh-huh, okay. My social life at Punahou, it progressed along, evolved along the years. Because when I started Punahou in the fifth grade, and that was before the war, and we were just kids. And we'd go to each other's birthday parties, we'd play together, and there was not a feeling of any kind of cliqueness or anything. Sixth, seventh grade, we began to maybe socialize and become more aware of each other, and that was when there was a group that it didn't matter. They just stayed the way they were. But there were a few that seemed to notice the difference now and kind of drift away. And I knew that, for those people, I would never go to their birthday parties again. By the time we were seniors, it must have been even more noticeable because one of the girls that belonged to that inner group that didn't care, everybody's the same, said, "I notice that you folks kind of clique, and why don't you mix with the rest of us?" And I didn't say anything at the time, but I did notice that that was happening. And indeed, the plus of it is that group that was a clique then, we stayed, we were close to each other until a few years ago when our leader kind of passed away, and now we've all drifted apart. I knew it was a couple of things happening that eventually, as we got older, I'm sure the parents of some of the wealthy... were kind of educating their children to perhaps date people like themselves. And also, because the war broke out, there was a little bit of separation there, too.

BN: It was right at that time before the war breaks out?

JK: Yeah.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

BN: So I wanted to switch over to that and ask the question we ask everyone we interview, which was, what were your memories of December 7th?

JK: Of December 7th, yes.

BN: The war actually coming to our backyard.

JK: Right, yes. I remember December 7th was a Sunday, and I was wondering why it was so noisy. Usually we all slept in then, and finally I got up because it was so noisy. And then I went out and realized that my parents were leaning over the radio listening intently. And then I started listening too and realized the reporter was saying, "This is war. This is real. We are being bombed." And then the fear started, and then some were, in mid-morning, there was a huge explosion right up the street somewhere. And it was so loud, my five year old brother burst out into tears, he was frightened by the sound. And we thought it was a bomb. But we found out much, much later that it was an anti-aircraft shell, and that in trying to hit the zero planes, they were in such a hurry that they were not able to make the anti-aircraft shells be quite accurate, and some of them were falling on civilians and there were civilian casualties. Fortunately, the one that we heard didn't kill anybody. But in the afternoon, when it was quiet, my father saw the neighbors outside talking and so he went to join them and I followed along. And Mr. Gomes, who lived next door, said, "Oh, there's shrapnel on my porch." And Mr. Ishikawa, who lived across the street, said, "Oh, the shrapnel came right through my wall." And my father was about to talk, we didn't get any shrapnel at all. But when he was starting to talk, this car drove up and parked, and this huge policeman got out. To me, ten years, old, he was huge. And he had a huge rifle, and he walked straight over to us, and he said, "What are you guys doing out here?" So we said, "Oh, we're just neighbors, we're just talking." And he says, "You get back in your houses and don't come out and talk anymore. Don't you know, there might be paratroopers landing in the valleys?" And oh, we were just terrified. And I give my mom and dad credit because they kept that terror inside of them so that my brother and I wouldn't get terrified as well. But we were terrified anyway. [Laughs] And I still remember that first night, because it was blackout. There was a curfew, so there we sat in the house in the dark with the radio on, and that's all I remember. And just waiting, waiting, thinking maybe those paratroopers are landing now, we're not sure. But a lot of terror at that point.


BN: I just want to get a sense of where you were. So do you remember the address of that home?

JK: Yeah. 2448 Rooke Avenue in Pu'unui. Kind of in the valley between Alewa Heights and Pacific Heights.

BN: So you're pretty close. I mean, you're not too far, actually, from Pearl Harbor.

JK: Right, yeah.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BN: You had mentioned that in terms of your... of course, we know from JCCH work that the FBI came in and arrested all these community leaders and so forth. But you mentioned your dad was not really caught up in that? In fact, it turned out somewhat beneficial for him in some ways.

JK: Yeah, we didn't know about that. That's what I found out by being at JCCH.

BN: So no one in your family was really affected by the arrests?

JK: Right. Because the main thing that I remember about that period was that we were all called upon to be patriotic. And I've been reading since then, and I know the morale committee had a lot to do with that. And so we, in school, all I remember -- and Betsy Young remembers this, too -- we had to buy war bonds. And then my mom gathered all the aunties together and they did volunteer work for the Red Cross, knitting and so forth. My dad became a volunteer fireman for our neighborhood. And all I remember about that was they had to learn how to be on the fire truck and not fall off. And they had to hold on and run, and then all us kids would be running in back. And then when they had to learn how to hold the hose, it would writhe all over the place, and they'd be going all over the place, and kids would all be laughing. I mean, that's all I remember about that part.

BN: Were there any families in your neighborhood that were affected? Mr. whatever, Yamamoto down the street was arrested?

JK: No, I don't remember any of that.

BN: It might have been going on and you just weren't aware, but you don't remember?

JK: It was going on very secretly. In fact, I was in sixth grade then, and two of my classmates had that experience. They never, ever talked about it. I didn't find out either of them had experiences like that until I was at JCCH many years later.

BN: And then we're jumping ahead a little bit here, but I also wanted to ask you, in a prior interview, you mentioned you had a couple of cousins that were in the army and you corresponded with them.

JK: Yes, uh-huh. Two of my cousins were in the 442, and by then, that was two years later. So being twelve years old, my mom told me, "You're old enough to write letters. They need letters." And so I used to write faithfully to both of them. One was actually in action, the other one was selected to drive around an officer. And so when they talked about casualties and so on, we kind of, I kind of felt like, for sure, the one that was a driver for an officer would come home. We weren't so sure about the other one, but it turned out the opposite. And the one, shortly before he was scheduled to come home, he was killed, and that was a shock to the family. And the other one came home safely.

BN: Kind of irony, exactly the opposite.

JK: Exactly the opposite, yeah. But according to the newspaper article, six hundred people attended his funeral.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BN: Was there, did you notice any kind of difference once you were back in school, once the war had started?

JK: Uh-huh. Yeah, I think about two months later, we were... because Punahou couldn't reopen right away because the engineers, military engineers took over the campus. And so they had to find places for us to go to school. So that's mostly my experience. I remember that the first place we were placed was in a private home. People offered their homes, and I found the home that we were at, our class was put in. You know in Manoa Marketplace, across the street is the fire station? It's the house right behind the fire station. And so we went to school there, had card tables in their living room, and then finally we were all moved to the University of Hawaii, their brand-new preschool buildings, and they had never used them yet, but they allowed us to be there. And we were there in the preschool buildings and then Wist Hall for high school. And then we finally returned to the Punahou campus after the war.

BN: Maybe we touched on this a little before when we were talking about the little change in the social circles once you hit sixth, seventh grade. Did you notice a different attitude towards the Japanese students from the majority once, kind of, war has broken out?

JK: That's a good question. You know, I think we had an exceptional teacher. In fact, when I was thinking about my whole education, you always wonder who was your favorite teacher and so forth. And I keep coming back to that teacher because that was, from February on, she was our sixth grade teacher. And I saw her once later, much, much later in life, and I said, "You know," I told her, "that time that we were in your class, that was my favorite year." And she gave me this strange look, and I thought, "I wonder why." I mean, did I do something wrong? But I realized later that when they were forced to move out of Punahou, they were moved out. And I don't think any of them had time to go and gather all the books they needed, or for PE, the balls and bats they needed. They didn't have anything, they just were moved out. And this teacher was so creative, that's why I remember that year so vividly. For one thing, for health and science, I guess, she found two goats, a male and a female, and she convinced them that it was okay to raise them in that brand new, behind that brand new preschool. And then they had a baby. So I was talking to my friend, and I said, "You know, look at the baby," and where did it come from, and all that. And she said, "You dummy." And I said, "What do you mean?" and she said, "Don't you remember last year when the doctor came?" And I said, "Yeah, I remember the doctor." But I wondered why she had all these fishes swimming across the blackboard. [Laughs] And then my friend said, "Now you know." And I said, "Oh, that's why." So I learned... well, that was a significant learning. And then for language arts, she asked us, she said, "Gee, I'm going to give you, we're going to do this together, everybody. A vowel and a consonant, what word would you put down?" And we'd all put down a word, and we went from there to A to Z that way. And then finally she told us, "Now you know the Morse code. Just turn all your vowels into dots and your consonants into dashes," and I thought that was so neat. And then she said, then for PE, no equipment, just the dirt ground outside of UH. And she said, "Okay, how many of you have marbles?" and of course we all had marbles. She said, "Okay, bring your marbles, we're going to have a marble tournament." That was our PE. Because we could dig holes in the dirt. So, and then for dramatic, she wanted to do a play, but no props. So she said she found a play where we were the props. And so this big husky kid in our class who later became a football captain, she says, "You're the easy chair," and she threw this sheet over him. [Laughs] And so we had a ball in sixth grade, I mean, we were learning, but learning was so much fun. But she didn't believe it.

BN: Right, that's why she was so puzzled.

JK: Yeah. And she was probably figuring each night, "Now what'll I do tomorrow?" [Laughs]

BN: What was her name?

JK: Naomi St. Dennis. She became a state level specialist.

BN: She left Punahou and joined the state.

JK: Uh-huh, yes. And that was when I told her, because I was in the DOE, I told her how much her class had meant to me, and she couldn't believe it. I think it was her horrible year.

BN: But obviously made a big impact.

JK: It made a big insight, yeah.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BN: I'm going to jump ahead a little bit now, now that you're nearing graduation after the war, of course. And what was kind of the discussion within your family of what you were going to do now?

JK: I think ninth grade was when I kind of awoke. Because we used to take the bus to school. Gas was still a problem. And that was when I found out from the other kids that if they got an A, they got twenty-five cents. And I said, "Wow." And so ninth grade, so I brought home this report card, I got three As on it, I'm going to get seventy-five cents. But I hadn't mentioned it to my father. And so I said, "Dad, here's my report card." And he said, he looked at it a long time and I thought, "What's the matter?" And I almost wanted to say, "Look at three..." but I didn't say anything. And finally he said, "What's this B-plus doing here?" And I said, "Dad, three As, three As." [Laughs] And he said, "B-plus in English? English is very important. No B-pluses in English." And all I got from all of that was a good scolding. And from that time on, "tiger dad," I knew that I had to get good grades, and I wasn't going to get any seventy-five cents either. [Laughs] Then finally when I was a senior, well, it paid off. My dad was strict and all that, but because I did buckle down and try to please him, I got good grades. And so as a senior, I found out I got a prize for having the highest grades in the undergrad. And I thought, "Oh." [Laughs]

But the other thing that happened when I was a senior was the dean called me in one day and I thought, "What did I do?" I thought I was being a good girl. And all she said was, "You know, I think you should try for Smith College. And here are the papers. Why don't you take it home and talk to your parents?" And being a dutiful Japanese daughter, I said, "Okay." And so I took it home and I said, "Dad, the dean says we've got to look at this and fill it out." And being a dutiful father, Japanese father, he was going to listen to authority and he said, "Okay, fill it out." So we did. And this is where the serendipity comes in because I fully expected to go to the University of Hawaii. And he had already told me, "You're going to be a teacher," and I said, "No, I don't want to be a teacher," and he says, "You're going to be a teacher." So I was going to be a teacher. [Laughs] And so I'd applied to UH, and then because of the dean, we applied to Smith. But the acceptances came in on the same day, UH and Smith. And because they came in on the same day, I think my dad didn't know what to do. And so he finally called me in and he said, "You decide. And because I was in teenage rebellion at that point and wanted to get out in the world, I said, "I'm going to Smith." [Laughs] And about two years later, I found out how hard Smith was. I said, "Dad, I can save us money. If I go back to UH, it'll save you money." And he took one look at me and he said, "What you start, you finish." And I'm glad he did that, because I kind of grew up after that. I realized, okay, it's hard here, but stick it out. And actually, I have to credit a professor at Smith who I forget the name, but he started me really thinking and learning and growing. Before that, I used to memorize and regurgitate, and I wasn't into really learning. But I almost flunked his course, but I learned that, you know, he's the one that he taught us through issues. He'd say, "Was John Rockefeller a robber-baron or an industrialist?" Seven hundred fifty words. And I never encountered a teacher like that before. And finally went to him, because I was getting these horrible grades. And I said, "Help me. How do I do better?" And, "What's the right answer?" I finally asked. And he said, "There is no right answer." I said, "Really?" And that's when I realized that he was right. And then I started to think after that.

BN: So which side did you come down on? Robber-baron or...

JK: I don't remember. All I remember was every paper that I got back was full of red marks. [Laughs]

BN: That's how you learn.

JK: That's how you learn. And then not only that, he broke us up into seminar groups, and then he would talk about the issues and what we had said. And the minute you open your mouth, he'd slam you down. So it was a very, at that time, I thought he was a horrible teacher. But many years later, I realized, thanks to him, I started to really think about things.

BN: What were your years at Smith?

JK: '48 through '52.

BN: And where is Smith?

JK: In Northampton, Massachusetts, in Western Mass.

BN: And how was the socialization and adjustment to... obviously Hawaii was a very specific type of demographics, and now you're across the country in cold weather, and a very different type of society.

JK: Uh-huh. Yes, it was very different. And the first thing I realized is everyone here, I was in a scholarship house. And it was a co-op house, so we did jobs and we got something off of our room and board. But most of the girls were on scholarship, and so they were very, very smart. And that first year, I didn't dare go up to the fourth floor because that's where the seniors lived, and they were geniuses. I couldn't even understand their common language, because when we sat down to lunch, they would say, "Okay, what shall we talk about today? I know, let's talk about what century we would have liked to live in and why." And they'd go around, and I would just want to crawl away from the table. And so... I lost my train of thought. But it was interesting, there was only one of me, Japanese in that house. And because they knew that I was from Hawaii, they didn't know whether I was Hawaiian or Japanese. And so they were very kind to me, and I tried to be kind back. When they would say, "Where did you learn to speak English?" I tried to be very nice and answer them and so on. So that... but they were all very well-read. So many of them were from prep schools. And they loved to go to ballet. That part I learned, it opened up for me. What was funny was that in the phys ed, because in Hawaii we play a lot, I actually got on the all-star volleyball team, and that tickled me so much because that was the only thing I was good at, coming from Hawaii where I played a lot outside.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BN: Then after you finished Smith, you kind of stayed back.

JK: Yes.

BN: And then you talk about Columbia. And then the other thing I was interested in is now, you kind of entered this Nisei social network in New York, in contrast.

JK: Right. And I was at Columbia, because to teach in Hawaii, you needed a fifth year. And so my parents said, "Stay up there and get your master's."

BN: So the intent was you would get that and you'd come back to Hawaii?

JK: Come back, yeah. And then in the meantime, in New York, there's this whole Nisei bunch of people running around. And four of us were in the same apartment, we were roommates. And so pretty soon the word gets around, there were four people, four young females, singles, there. And there were people knocking on our door, and one of them happened to be my future husband. [Laughs]

BN: Were your roommates people you had known before or did you meet them just later?

JK: I knew only one before. She was at Smith with me. So the two of us...

BN: Oh, so you knew her from Smith, not from Hawaii?

JK: From Hawaii, too. She was at Punahou, too. But the other two were, they were going up there anyway, and then they heard about us, so they asked if they could hang. And so the four of us were roommates together.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BN: Then was the group mostly people from Hawaii, or did it include the kotonks also? And obviously your husband is, but in general, was the interaction kind of with mainland people, too?

JK: It was a whole mixture. Some of them were our former classmates. Christmastime, "Can we come and sleep over?" and stuff like that. But then the ones that kept coming, like my husband and another person's future husband and another person's, were mostly... one was a kotonk, no, two were kotonks, and one was from Hawaii, but up there, studying.

BN: Did you actually use "kotonk" at that time?

JK: No. [Laughs]

BN: So what was your impression of your future husband when you first met him?

JK: I told him to go away. [Laughs] I said I've been in a girls' school for four years, and I'm here at Columbia. My parents think I'm here to get a degree, but I'm here to play. I want to meet some boys. And so he'd go away for a while and then he'd be back again and say, "Is it time, can I come?" And so finally he wore me down. [Laughs] By the end of the year, we decided to get married.

BN: When did he first... because he's from California, when did he first meet your family in Hawaii and so forth? How did that go?

JK: He was clever. [Laughs] Actually, he didn't meet them before getting married, but a dear friend of my father's was coming, going up, traveling up there. And so my father told him to look him over, and so he did. And my husband-to-be asked me all about this person. And I said, "You know, he really likes dogs, and he's raised dogs and all that." So when they met, my husband's talking to him about dogs. And to the point where he convinced that person that when we came here to get married, that person wanted to take him to all the dog things, little realizing, yeah. But my dad was kind of, hmm, like that. I think what he wanted for me and what I wanted, what I needed, were two different things, and so I think it worked out all right.

BN: So you got married. You came back here to get married, but then you moved?

JK: Moved back, yeah.

BN: You lived back east, or on the continent at least, for a few more years.

JK: Yeah.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BN: So after your year at Columbia, what happened after that?

JK: Yeah. So after a year at Columbia, we got married, and then he went to school and I went to work. And he went to the School of Social Work, and I picked up some jobs as... what is it? First I was in a daycare center, and then I taught kindergarten in a Brooklyn Friends school. And then when we were expecting, I took a clerk typist job in a social work agency. And in the meantime, he was going to social work school, and he found that he really, really liked working with gang kids. And so he did work with gang kids in social work school, and then he went to work for his older brother who was in charge of Manhattanville Neighborhood Center. And they were working with gang kids there. In fact, they even hit the Tribune as one of the few social work agencies that were succeeding with working with these kids. And so that's where I first was born, and then we decided to... he needed to get out on his own. And so he got a job in Chicago, and we moved to Chicago, and then after that, we moved to Milwaukee, and that's where our second was born. By the time we were there, I was kind of resigned to living as a kotonk. [Laughs] Until my dad wrote and said, "Come home," and I thought, "Why?" But we'd been fourteen years then on the mainland. And he said, "Your mom just retired and she's not well. She really needs family here. So my husband got a job with the YMCA in Hawaii, and we came home. My mom was super happy, but she was a babysitter, you know, for the kids. She was well after that. And we've been here ever since.

BN: And your husband was okay with moving to Hawaii?

JK: Yeah. In fact, when we would meet other people and we would say one of us is from the mainland, one is here, they'd always say I was from the mainland and he was from here. Because he was always suntanned because he loved fishing.

BN: So he fit right in.

JK: He loved the life here, yeah.

BN: I know he has a really interesting story, but just for time's sake, I'm not going to go into it. It was covered in your prior interview. But just for the record, what was his name?

JK: Conrad Kiyoto Kurahara.

BN: Yeah, he definitely has an interesting story. And then just in terms of chronology now, what year did you end up moving back?

JK: Was it 1960? It was around there, yeah.

BN: So your sons have some memory of living in...

JK: My older son does because he was in kindergarten when we left Wisconsin. Younger one, not so much. He wasn't quite two.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BN: So you come back here, your husband's working with the YMCA. And then at what point do you start your work here? When you're coming back, right? You had a fairly young child, or two, or one.

JK: And so my mom was all set to babysit. I started at Maemae because... I think it was the year after. I think we came back... it wasn't quite a year later, yeah. And so I joined the DOE. So I was at Maemae just for that year, because they had lost a teacher over the summer, and so I was a late replacement. And then after that, I was moved to Mokapu Elementary. And then from Mokapu, I moved to Enchanted Lake Elementary. And then from there I went up to the state level.

BN: And then at some point you kind of switched to being a librarian?

JK: Yes. I switched to being a librarian when I was at Mokapu. And I was a teacher there, but I got to be friends with the school librarian there, and she loved her job. And pretty soon I thought, oh boy, that really sounds like something I would love to do. And then she told me, "I'm moving on. They're opening a brand new high school, I'm going there." And so I asked the principal, "What are you going to do now? You need a librarian." I said, "I'd be interested." He says, "Good. Go to summer school and take six credits, and I'll hire you for the librarian." And I guess I'd been all right because he said if that hadn't opened, he was going to offer me some kind of language arts specialist or something just to hang on to me. And I thought, oh, okay. And I found I loved librarianship, that's where I belonged.

BN: What in particular did you enjoy about it?

JK: You know, I think it was a bunch of things. One is that one to one with the kids. They come and they go, and then you want to help them read, and that part I really liked. What else did I like about it? I liked reading all the new books before the kids got them. And then eventually I found out that I really liked planning and organizing. And you have to do some of that, even at the school level. But by the time I got to the state level, you're doing a lot of that, and I really liked that part. So I'm thankful to my father, because he said, "No nurse, you got to be a teacher." But if I hadn't been a teacher, I couldn't have gotten into the librarianship.

BN: I'm just trying to get a sense of, like, about how many years were you a teacher versus a librarian? Was it more or less equal or did you switch fairly early on?

JK: Fairly early on.

BN: So you were a librarian for longer than you were a teacher.

JK: Yeah, uh-huh. I think I was a teacher for maybe, oh, less than five years.

BN: Okay, but mostly...

JK: Mostly library.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BN: And then you retire, actually, fairly young.

JK: I did. I retired at fifty-five because by then, my older son was home, he was opening his, he was a dentist. And he was... we thought he was all set because he became an associate to a very experienced older dentist, and he thought he was going to learn a lot and then eventually be able to go out on his own. Unfortunately, shortly after he started there, the older dentist contracted cancer, very fast-moving, and in a few months he was gone. So there was my young son, brand new, and not... he had this overwhelming practice. And, of course, he couldn't speak Japanese either, so that half of the clients left. But he had the challenge of his staff who adored their former dentist, and they were leaving also. And so he said, "Mom, could you help me a little bit with the reception?" And his girlfriend's father had just retired and he got, between the two of us, we would do the reception work. And finally, he tried to hire a receptionist, and then he had no idea how to run a business. So it wasn't working out, so finally I told them, "Why don't you consider hiring your mother for a receptionist for a while until things settle down?" And he didn't want to do that. I don't blame him, I didn't want to do it either. But it came to the point where he said, "Mama, I think, okay, yeah." So I was there for four years, and that's why I had to retire. But then after he left and went back to school to become an endodontist, I became a school librarian at Royal (Elementary) School, yeah. They took me right back. [Laughs]

BN: But only for a couple more years.

JK: A couple more years. And then they were both coming back, and there was a baby. So I became babysitter.

BN: So you retired for good?

JK: For good.

BN: Or at least from the first half of your life.

JK: Yes. And the DOE did warn me. They said, "You know, you've retired. If you retire again, you're done." [Laughs] I said, "Okay."

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

BN: Before we jump to JCCH, I wanted to ask you about, just your knowledge of this time. Because your timing is early, it's like the early 1990s, I guess.

JK: Yeah.

BN: And the redress movement had taken place and there were redress efforts in Hawaii. Because your husband was in camp, how aware were you of those developments? He must have gotten the redress check himself. Were you cognizant of that, or how cognizant were you at that time?

JK: You know, I became aware that he was, because of the check coming, and he did mention, when he got the letter and the check, I recall him mentioning that he appreciated the letter more than the check because it was like a big weight coming off his chest. "Because the President is apologizing to me." But that was the only awareness I had.

BN: So you weren't aware of the Hawaii effort...

JK: Nothing at all, yeah.

BN: But when you came to JCCH, it was all kind of new to you at that point?

JK: Very new, yes. Actually, you know that resource center advisory council that you thankfully sat on, and Tom Coffman and so on? That's what encouraged me when we found out that Honouliuli was not known. And that's what really encouraged me to keep going. Because if people out there didn't know, "didn't know" is close to "didn't care." And when Tom said he was afraid that part of history was going to disappear because no one was picking it up. I realized that it's part of JCCH's mission, and there's going to be this hole in history if we let it go, and that's what kept me going. Because at the beginning when we first started to do the work toward rediscovery, I was being pushed. I didn't know enough to plan ahead. Every so often, I'd get a push, the serendipity.

BN: That happens.

JK: Stuff happens, yeah.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

BN: So how did that happen that you came to be involved at JCCH? And we should clarify, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i.

JK: Yeah.

BN: And they were just starting at the time. So how did you end up coming to them?

JK: Yeah. Again, just serendipitous kind of happening, because when I finally was released from my receptionist job at the dentist's office, I was really wanting to... I mean, I left librarianship before I was ready to, because family comes first, of course. But I really wanted to keep my fingers or hands into librarianship. And so one of the things that... and there were a bunch of us that retired around the same time. So one of the things we decided to do is help brand new librarians because we knew that when you're a brand new librarian taking over a library where an old timer has been for twenty years, there's a bunch of junk there that needs to be gone through. And so we became the SWAT team, and so we'd go out and help clean up a brand new library, a librarian's library. And to treat ourselves, we'd go to lunch together after that. And so we were doing that for a while, and there was a retired librarian there, Clara Okamura, and she kept asking us, "Could you guys come and help me at Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i?" and we just ignored her. Because that wasn't a school, and we didn't know what that was. But then, after she'd been asking for about a year, I felt kind of sorry for her. [Laughs] And we said, "What is that?" And so she explained, and she explained she got tied up in it because Jane Komeji, who was a Maemae School teacher, had retired and she was very active there. Clara Okamura was the librarian at Maemae School. So when she retired, she innocently asked Jane, "Do you need help?" And Jane grabbed her. And then Clara realized what she was into, and she says, "I need help." And so finally I decided, okay, I'm going to help her for a year or so, and then I'll move on. And so I showed up at JCCH and the gallery director then, Ruth Tamura, said, "Are you sure you want to do this? There isn't even a resource center, per se. There's no budget, there's no staff, and I said, "Yeah, but you know, my friend is there, and she needs help." "Yeah, I'll help her for a while." And so she took me into the room which is now the diagnostic lab. And there was Clara and Mildred Tahara sitting amongst the whole pile of boxes of books, and you'd see silverfish running everywhere. And they were trying to process and organize the books into an English and Japanese collection. And so Ruth says, "This is all we've got," and I said, well, I can help her doing what she's doing. And so that's how I got started. And then after we had worked for a while, Clara didn't feel well. And then she got quite sick and then we realized she wasn't coming back. And so when she passed on, I felt like I couldn't leave, and so I'm still there. [Laughs] I'm still here.

BN: The one year turned into... going on thirty years.

JK: Yeah. But I've learned so many lessons and grown, and the one I learned from Clara was patience. Because I said, "We don't have any money, we don't have this, we don't have that, we don't have things." And she said, "Now, Jane, get busy." [Laughs] It's okay. And so I learned patience from her that if you go with the flow, things have a way of working out if you're doing the right thing. If you're not doing the right thing, you'll know. [Laughs]

BN: Did you then turn into Clara in terms of recruiting others?

JK: Oh. You know, there were actually people retiring around them that were asking us if they could help. And at first, we said, "Honestly, we can't ask you to come, because we don't know what we're doing. And so you'd come and you wouldn't know what you're doing either." But then eventually it propelled us to figure out things and organize them, and then we could bring in all our retired friends to start with.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

BN: So how did the whole, what became this Honouliuli project that kind of becomes kind of the centerpiece of what the Center does years later, what was the origin of that?

JK: Ah, the origin was, in 1997, we got a phone call.

BN: At that point you're still in the DLS space?

JK: Where were we?

BN: Well, it's not a big deal.

JK: Yeah, we must have been, because we didn't move over there until Dick Kosaki was...

BN: Okay, yeah, that's later.

JK: And so we got that phone call, and it was one of the TV stations asking where exactly Honouliuli internment camp site was. And apparently they were going to show Schindler's List, the movie about the German Holocaust. And it was the string of, they were part of a network of stations across the country, and they were all going to show Schindler's List together, so it was a big deal. And apparently the primaries, they decided that to publicize it, they wanted to go onsite at an actual internment camp site in Hawaii and do something about Hawaii internment. And I happened to take the call, and I said, "You know, I don't think we got information here, but we'll try our best and we'll call you back." And then we went out to, we thought, people who probably would know, living out that way. And that's when we were surprised to find that, of the people we passed, only one or two said, "I think I know exactly where it is." But then their locations didn't match. And then more people said, "We don't where it is," and even some said, "We didn't even know there were internment camps here or internees." And then we began to realize that this was a bigger hole than we could have imagined. And so that's where the library, librarian in me kicked in, because to become a successful librarian, you need to be able to perceive, felt need, of your customers. And if you're working with that and providing for that, then they will come. And so I knew that this was a need. And then the other thing was it looked like it was going to be a hard job to find it, so could we devote that much time to it? And then we looked at the mission statement, and the mission statement definitely stated that our job as JCCH is to preserve, to preserve the legacy or the history of the Japanese Americans in Hawaii, and this is clearly going to be a hole in that history. So we should do it, even if it takes time or effort. And that's why we got started. That would be the initial bookend. But then we were almost as ignorant as the people we were asking. Because in the beginning, we needed pushing all the way. Tom Coffman pushed us, Dennis Ogawa got pushed by Gerald Hamada, who was the lawyer who got the JACS grant program, and he insisted that Honouliuli had to be in there. It was his idea, not ours.

BN: Where would that come from, that he would even know about Honouliuli?

JK: I know. Yeah, without asking?

BN: But that comes from him pushing Dennis to push you to find out more about Honouliuli so they can stick it in the legislation.

JK: Right.

BN: Wow.

JK: And then he'd ask these questions, and Dennis wouldn't know. I mean, like, how much per acre or whatever. And so Dennis would call me and say, "Find out." And so I'd call people and get all kinds of answers, and I'd say, "Here are all the answers," and he picked the most expensive one. And Dennis would tease me all the way, and he'd say, "If we make a mistake, I'm going to blame you." And I thought, oh, gee. But yeah, Gerald Hamada is another link. You know, these people that provided links along the way, if any one of them had not come through, we'd probably have nothing now. Because in the RC, when I hung up, I said to Shige Yoshitake, who was our local historian volunteer, "Shige, I think it's important. We've got to find this place. I think it's more important than we thought." And he says, "Easy." He says, "just call the tax office and find the tax key." And I said, "Oh, is that all?" And he said, "Yeah, yeah, it's nothing, nothing." And so I tried, I couldn't do it that way. So I thought, okay, all right, then I'll call DLNR. And I called DLNR and they were kind. They said, "Oh, just send us what you have and we'll go from there." So I found whatever I could about Honouliuli, which is very little at that point, and I mailed it to them, didn't hear anything. Finally, a year later, I called them. I said, "What are you going to tell me?" and she says, "About what?" And then when I explained to her, she says, "I don't remember getting that package," and she says, "I'll look for it." And she called back, she said, "It's lost." And so I said, okay, I'll get it all together again. And this time I thought, "I'm not mailing it, I'm hand carrying it." And so I called to make an appointment with her, and they said, "Oh, she's gone." She went to another job. And I said, "Okay, can I talk to somebody else then?" And so they let me talk to somebody else who was very kind and listened, and nothing happened. And so, but by then, Tom Coffman had pushed us enough that I figure we can't give up now. Okay, we're going to go cold calls. And that's when we went cold calls, called this person, that person.

And that's where it began to hit me how much, what kind of a community we live in. Because nobody slammed the phone in my ear, and nobody said no. They would always say, "We don't know anything about that, but have you tried so-and-so?" And they were trying to, you can see they're trying to be helpful. And finally, because of that, we didn't give up. And finally, on about the, I don't know what phone call, I got somebody who said, "No, our organization can't help you, but let's talk, because I'm a local history buff." And that person that said, "Why don't you try the farmers in the area? They walk around, they might have seen concrete slabs," and so on. And then he had the name of a farmer, Larry Jefts. And I thought, okay. So when I hung up, I opened the phone book, and there was Larry Jefts. And so we called him, and he said, "Well, maybe I can help you. Come see me after work, and bring an old picture." And boy, finding his farm with no sign, and he says, "If you pass the high voltage things, you've gone too far." I passed it about five times going back and forth. But he said, "Look for a yellow gate," and this tiny little yellow gate, I finally saw it. And then Tats Hayashi, I asked him to come because it's after work in the farm, it's going to be toward dark in the country. And so then I see Tats going back and forth, he's missing the... high voltage, yeah. But we both finally got together, we went in and we waited for him at his farm until he came out of the field. He took one look at the picture, the photo, and he said, "I think I know where this is." He says, "I'll take you there if you get permission from the owner." I said, "We don't know the owner." And he says, "Oh, I do." [Laughs] And he did. And it was Campbell Estate, and then again it's serendipity, we called, cold called this Campbell Estate, they probably thought we were nuts, and we never heard another thing.

And then Tats says, "You know, I know Jeanie Shultz, and I think she's got a connection to Campbell Estate. And he used to be head of Japan Airlines, so he says, "Let me call her." And so he called her and she said, "Oh, I'll help you," and she's the one that got us. And then pretty soon we got a call from them saying, "We'll take you in, only five of you." And so that's how... in the meantime, we had, the whole resource center wanted to go, nineteen of us all ready to go. And he said, "Hey, I'm sorry, but they'll only take five of us." And oh, I think to this day, one or two are a little bit miffed about that. They can't understand why they couldn't go. And I said, "Yeah, I know you want to go, but you know what? The president, Susan Kodani said, 'I'm going,' and I'm not going to argue with her." And that's how we got going. And then when we got out there, Larry Jefts in his truck, and Bert Hatton, the vice president of Campbell Estate, in his jeep. That's why there were only five of us could go. They took us right down to the aqueduct, and Larry says, "Here it is." We're all set to take pictures and whatnot, and then Bert says, "Wait a minute." He says, "I have a Google map here." And he says, "According to the map, the mountains are in the wrong place." And so we drove around for three hours, Bert had a flat tire, and he had to fix that. And then finally, and going toward dark, and Bert says, "This is a dumb question, but do you think I had the map upside down?" And he turned it the other way, and he says, "Oh, now the mountains are in the right place." [Laughs] And then they kept driving after that. And I thought basically it's going to get dark, and I'm ready to go home already. But they were driving around, because they wanted to take us to the place exactly where this photographer stood to take that old picture. So when we stood there, the mountains were not only in the right place, they were in the right configuration. And we were so appreciative, and we took pictures of that. And on the way out, I was in Bert's jeep. I said, "You know, Bert, you're a vice president. You spent the whole afternoon with us. I really, really, really appreciate your doing that. And he didn't say a word until the end, and then he finally, very quietly said, "I have Italian relatives, some of them were interned." And that's what helped me to learn that this community, the grassroots of this community, there's something special about this community.

And this is more universal, that when people know that it's the right thing to do, no matter how little their contribution or how large their contribution, they're going to do something to help, because it is the right thing to do. And so that's one of the big takeaways that I've gotten from this whole experience. And that's why I keep doing this thing, because I want to somehow pass it on to the young, because they certainly need it with Covid and the war, and 9/11 and all that. If you don't have anything to fall back on that is more than drugs and stuff like that. What do you do? So our young need to know this, and that's why I think talking to you about maybe an anime story so that they'll look at it. But at least we're now in the curriculum, and we just have them make the curriculum more updated and more interesting, and more so that the kids are empathetic to what happened, and what's happening again, and how they can be more resilient.

BN: Just to back up one... I don't know if you mentioned this, but the picture that you were working from, what was the origin of that?

JK: Oh, yes. That was from the book that Patsy Saiki wrote, Ganbare, and according to the credits, it was a Honolulu advertiser, photographer, who took that picture in 1945.

BN: And you were able to find the spot that exactly matched that photo?

JK: Yeah, they had a standing...

BN: You were pretty confident that you were that...

JK: Yes.

BN: So between that moment and the moment you got the phone call from the TV station, how much time had passed?

JK: Five years.

BN: It took that long just to get to that point.

JK: Uh-huh. And then push, push, push, along the way, yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

BN: And then in the interim, there were some other things happening, too. When did the Ozaki materials come in? Was that around that same time?

JK: You know, the Ozaki material was there from long ago.

BN: Okay.

JK: And it was in a box, and among the many boxes that we were working with, and because it was all in Japanese, we'd kick it around.

BN: So it was already there, you just didn't really know what it was.

JK: It was there, we didn't know what it was. Good thing we didn't throw it away.

BN: But can you just explain a little of what it was?

JK: Yeah. It was in a box, and I think Hideto Kono had tried his best to figure out what it was. And Hideto had tried to organize it into, there were little manila folders with papers hanging out, but we still didn't know what it was. And then somewhere along the way, we began to pick up more bilingual people. And so I think Tats maybe, Hayashi, or Mr. Hirai, they kind of identified what it was, and then we didn't know what to do with it. And then, but then, again, serendipitously, or maybe because now we're aware of the deed, there was an archival workshop planned by a state person. And so we said, "We got to go." And so several of us went to that workshop and they had brought in someone from the mainland to give us the theory or how to do oral histories and archival collections. And then we actually worked on the YWCA files, and I think that was, they were the ones that paid for them. And then at the end, the state person said, "Well, we've had the whole weekend to do this. If you have any more questions, just let me know." And we went back to... and we looked at the box again and we said, "We need help." And so we called her right away. And so she came and she kind of went over what we had learned in the workshop, and we still looked at her very blankly. And so she finally said, "Okay, bring me one of your collections." And so we brought that one, because that one was very puzzling to us. And she looked at it, and then she told us step by step what we had to do. And then she could see the light coming on, and then she said, "Now all you need are some supplies, and you need the boxes, you need the file cabinet files." And then that deflated us, and she says, "What's wrong?" And we said, "We don't have any money, we've got no budget." And she said, "Oh, that's okay, write a grant." And we said, "We never wrote a grant." She says, "Oh, you know what? I'll help you." And she became our principal scholar for the Hawai'i Council for the Humanities. She said, "Call Bob Buss." And so we called him, and he was... I mean, these are the people that I would like to credit in some way. And Bob says, "No problem. I'll send you the papers, you fill them out the best you can, get them to me three weeks ahead of time, and I'll tell you what's wrong with it. And then you fix it, and then you'll still get it in by the deadline." And that's what we did. And he caught everyplace we fudged, he was good. [Laughs] And so we got the grant, and that's how that first archival Otokichi Ozaki collection was archived. And once we had that going, then we were able to do the others.

BN: When did you start with the oral histories?

JK: The oral histories were going on before I got here. Because Jane Komeji had that going, and by the time I became aware of it, I think Ted Tsukiyama was kind of, he was the committee head. And he had one transcriber that used to come to the resource center and use our computer. So he was doing all that, yeah.

BN: And were you, from this point, were you kind of trying to find people with internee kind of storylines or was that later?

JK: Yeah. I think that once we discovered it, we did try to. Because again, the librarianship kicked in. Because once you know this part of history, then your job as a librarian is to collect, organize, preserve and make this part of history available.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

BN: So what I was going to do now is kind of look at the different aspects of this Honoululi project. Since we started talking about the land element first, kind of start there. So five years later after the call, you found the site. What was sort of the next key development in terms of the land side?

JK: Okay. I know... you know, we thought we knew where, we thought we'd rediscovered it, but it still needed the archaeological stamp of approval. And I know that one of the things we did was meet with the regional director, Frank Hayes, and he... I think he finally -- no, he visited later. I'm not sure the exact sequence, but I do know that... I think it was 2004, Gerald Takano, he was in charge, he and Diane Matsuda were in charge of the All-Camps conference agenda. And this was where that, the regional conference in Arkansas, and I got an invitation to speak about what was going on here. And so I asked Dennis Ogawa, "Could you go?" And he said sure. And so I told Gerald, "Yeah, Dennis Ogawa is going to speak for us." And he said, he wrote right back and he says, "No, you misunderstood my request." And I said, "Oh, what was your request?" And he said, "This is the theme of this conference, this All-Camps conference, is going to be grassroots community." And he says, "I want you to come, not Dennis." And I thought, "How can I disinvite Dennis? That's so rude." And so then I realized what he was wanting. Because he wanted the, Jimmy of the Tule Lake, that went door to door. And I said, "Oh, that's why you wanted." But so the way we figured it out was, I told Dennis, "Do you mind being a speaker within a speaker?" And he said, "No." And so I said, "Well, okay, they want this grassroots thing, so I'll do that part. But you're the beginning." I mean, he was one of the, again, one of the reasons why we pushed on this thing, because of his West Coast tours and stuff. "Could you come and be a speaker within my thing and talk about what you discovered when teaching your kids." So he said, "Yeah," and he did. I thought that was amazing. He came to be a speaker within a speaker, but that was better than disinviting him. And he's always good, he does that. So it was either there... yeah, I think it was there that Jeff Burton and Mary Farrell were sitting in on, and they heard that, heard about Hawaii and the rediscovery, and they had just finished their Confinement and Ethnicity book, and they knew that the part about Hawaii was very...

BN: Minimal.

JK: Minimal. And so he told me much later that they looked for a grant then, and so in 2006 they did come out to verify that indeed that site had, was most likely the internment camp site. And then while Jeff was here, he got Frank Hayes to come out and look, and they both agreed. And because it wasn't disturbed in any way, whereas Sand Island was really, it wasn't disturbed, they felt it was well worth archaeologically going nine yards. And that was that part.

BN: And then they did their archeological, first kind of survey of the site.

JK: Right. And they helped us get on the National Historic Register. And from then on, it took a little bit, quite a bit of momentum. And they agreed with UH West Oahu to do their field schools, and they very much involved JCCH. Because we found we had lots of volunteers that loved to clear, they didn't want to come out on tour, but they liked the idea of clearing, and they did come out. And Dennis brought in -- because he had the American Studies -- he brought in Bill Chapman, who was the historic preservation person, and Bill brought in Jim Bayman who was the anthropology... and then Jim said, "Could I help in any way?" And I said, "You know anybody at UH West Oahu?" He said, yeah, he knew Susan Falgout, who was anthropology. I said, "Could you invite her?" And Jim was a kind of humorous guy. He didn't tell her where she was going, and he chuckled when he told me, "You know what? She showed up in a dress and high heels." [Laughs] And I said, "You're naughty." But Jim was good in another way because the first time we took some of them down there, Monsanto was very, very leery. I mean, they wanted to be cooperative, and they were, from day one, they were. But they were very concerned about security because of Roundup and all that business. And so when they wanted to show the archaeologist what was down there, they brought in their head of security from headquarters in Kansas or someplace to watch over us to make sure we didn't do anything naughty. And that was amazing, because he literally followed me around, and I said, "What if I have to go to the bathroom?" [Laughs] But they were so leery of us. And so when we got out to the site by the aqueduct, Jim says to him, that guy, he says, "Oh, I want you to meet these two ladies, Betsy Young and Jane Kurahara. They're in charge." And at that point, Betsy burst into... she notices a tree and she says, "It's a sandalwood tree." And she's going on and on about sandalwood. And so that's his introduction to Betsy. And then we said we're going to go down in the aqueduct, and I looked down there and I said, "I don't know if I can make this," and they literally carried me down in there. And so after... that's when Jim told him, "These two ladies are in charge." [Laughs] So after that, he was relaxed. And then on the way out, he says, "You folks know the way out, you go." And so that's such a little thing, but it was a big thing. And that's the story I know kids would remember and say, "You know, even if I do some little thing, it might be a big, it might help."

BN: But yeah, that ends up totally disarming them.

JK: Yeah, totally disarming them.

BN: They're obviously not a threat.

JK: They're not a threat. These two ladies, my goodness.

BN: Just to back up one step, the significance of Monsanto's involvement, the first time you were up there, Campbell Estate is the owner, and then...

JK: Yeah, there's that puka.

BN: Yeah, that you covered, talked a little bit about the sale.

JK: Right. Campbell Estate at that point was moving forward. They wanted to sell the, I think it was forty-something thousand acres that James Campbell owned. And they were going to disperse the profits to the heirs, and so they were in the process of parceling it out and selling it off. And again, I'm sorry about serendipity, but what happened was when they were in this process, we were invited to Pacific Club for a Hawaii Confinement Sites Committee meeting. And while we were there, along comes Judith Flanders, who's a Campbell Estate heir, and Keola Lloyd who was working for Campbell Estate. "Oh, hi guys, what are you doing here?" We said, "Oh, come sit down." And so we kind of told them about what was going on and how the internment camp was down there. Turned out Judith was a very interested person in preservation. And so she kept asking all these questions. And then she finally turned to Keola Lloyd, who was her Campbell Estate liaison, and said, "Keola, you make sure that whoever buys that place knows that there is a group that is trying to preserve that internment camp site." He says, "Okay." And the very next day, I got a call from Keiloa saying, 'It's done, it's in there.'" And then shortly thereafter, Monsanto bought it. And one of the first things they did was they flew in their communications director from Maui to visit us at JCCH, and he came solely to reassure JCCH that they recognized that there was that site there and they were committed to conserving and preserving it. And they've been good to this day. If that isn't serendipity, I don't know what is. [Laughs] That's our joke.

BN: Okay, well, you may convince me yet.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

BN: And then how does the National Park Service come into picture?

JK: I guess through Frank Hayes.

BN: Frank is like the regional, in charge of the Hawaii...

JK: Yeah, in charge of Hawaii and Guam.

BN: For the National Park Service?

JK: Yeah, for the National. And then, of course, because Jeff and Mary, they were a big key in all of this.

BN: They worked for the NPS?

JK: Yes. And they knew the steps that we had, too. So they said, "Well, you've got to get on that National Register of Historic Places, and you got to do this, you got to do that. And then in the meantime, Gerald Hamada's coming through with the JACS grant. And that's when you came on board, and we could take advantage of using the JACS grant.

BN: All of a sudden you have some money.

JK: Yeah. Because up 'til then, we had no money. Even the Resource Center didn't have money.

BN: What were some of the key steps in terms of getting it to the point where it could be transferred to the NPS? Because now you've got a sympathetic landowner, Monsanto, you've got the archaeologists doing some work, JCCH is doing those educational community involvement stuff. But there were some hurdles getting it to the National Park Service.

JK: And Monsanto definitely had the biggest hurdle initially, which was that site, they were concerned about liability. And so they asked JCCH to take care of that. Of course, it was much too small an organization. And so then we went to Trust for Public Lands, and they were willing to temporarily hold it, but we had to have a Plan B in case it fell through. And you were working with Dan Sakura, and they were willing to kind of hold them. And while we were doing all this jockeying, all of a sudden, Fred Perlak of Monsanto says, "Let's go for the gold. Even if we don't get it, we might get bronze." And Monsanto donates the whole thing. And then the issue is, of course, subdividing the money for that, and Monsanto came up with that as well. And so I think that was one of the big hurdles.

Do you want to hear... I'm not sure about this story because it's hearsay, but it's hearsay from Monsanto people. But Fred had a mother, and apparently he told her about what was going on. And Mother Perlak told him, "Get it done," and that's what Alan Takemoto told me. And so that was when he figured out a way for Monsanto to donate the whole thing. Up 'til then it wasn't there at all, yeah. And so that's why I keep saying that there were these things that happened along the way that just convinced me that it was the right thing to do.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

BN: One of the things that struck me, coming from the mainland, was how strong community support was among the Japanese community, of course, or just in general. I wondered what... and this is after, as you have explained, kind of, there was this indifference or lack of knowledge. There was no interest in this story for, like, fifty, sixty years, and then all of a sudden there was this community embrace. What do you think changed, and why at that particular time did this all happen? Without using the "s" word.

JK: [Laughs] Yeah, I think something about... well, not just Hawaii, with all people, I think. Once you become aware of the deep roots below, and real truths, then you want to help. I think that's kind of maybe what happened. So all we did was bring it to awareness. And the JACS grants enabled us to make those films, do the curriculum. And then when Carole came on board, she took the film, and she went all over, literally, the West Coast and the other islands. So then the awareness really grew. Because once people were educated as to what happened there, even though it only happened to thirteen hundred people, then it's right from wrong and hurt from... justice from injustice, and people begin to see it in a bigger light. And that's when it grew. The JACS grants even affected the kids when we allowed them to do their own projects based upon what they learned about the internment.

Did I already share with you what some of those, at least one of those kids, when he graduated from Kaimuki High and went to college on the mainland, what he did. Oh, okay, this is Premsak, he was in the group that went down to Honouliuli. He became inspired, he was part of the Kaimuki High School group that wrote persuasive letters to President Obama and so on. They also went out and got the signatures for a petition, and they really helped him that way, and they really got involved. And so when Sally Jewell came, we invited them to be sure to come. And then Premsak went away to Creighton, and he was taking some kind of a history course and the professor was talking about internment. And he talked about the mainland, but he didn't talk about Hawaii. And good old Premsak, he says, [raises hand]. And he not only suggested that they talk about the Hawaii internment, but then he filled them in on the internment because the professor didn't know. And so we heard the following year -- because the librarian kept in touch with him -- we heard the following year, he was invited to sit on the Day of Remembrance committee, which was.. usually only the faculty sat on that committee. But they invited Premsak to join them.

BN: This is in, at Creighton?

JK: Creighton.

BN: They had a Day of Remembrance in Nebraska?

JK: They had a Day of Remembrance in Nebraska. [Laughs] And so...

BN: So the story gets out.

JK: The story gets out. Another one we heard about, what happened in Colorado. Because we had a bunch of students come from Colorado, and the professor, and he explained why they were there, they were studying Hawaii internment. And I said, "By the way, do you know Cokie?" And they said, "Yeah." [Laughs] And apparently she was spreading the word up there, too.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

BN: There's much too much to cover here, between all the educational public awareness things, the exhibits, the curriculum projects, the book publications, the films. But of all of these things, was there any one or two things that stood out for you or that were kind of your favorite, or your pet projects, of all of those things? What, to you, were the one or two most meaningful things?

JK: You know, I think the one that immediately comes to mind is our 2004 exhibit. And this was... because an internee, former internee, Jack Tasaka, said, "If you will do it, I will help you." And so we did it, and that, Betsy Young thought about giving a little rosebud pin to every internee that showed up. And Dick Kosaki was the interim president then. He says, "You can do the exhibit, but you got to come up with the money, the designer and everything." And we did, and because people were very willing to. And Tats went and did it bilingual, everything. And so we have that, we were expecting about 175 RSVPs, and four hundred more showed up. And some, like the Nishimura family, sixteen of them showed up. And then the next day, the son of one of the internees who was working in this building, came and told us, "You know, for the first time, last night, my father talked about his experience." And that's where I was in my learning curve. I had no idea how much hurt there was buried inside of people, and they didn't dare talk about it. And to hear that, everything was becoming much more human. And I realized that, unknowingly, we had helped to heal that person, and that this happens to anyone who was with something very traumatic, and can't get it out. That we have to understand and listen, and help them heal. And so for me, it was a huge learning. That was huge learning. Another person that, from that same period, was Ron Tsuchiya. He called as soon as he heard we were going to do that exhibit, and he said, "Do you know any of the internees who might have known my father?" And he says, "I was only five years old. My mother died, my father was interned, I don't know anything." And I said, "Oh, we'll try our best." But then again, when I hung up and I called Harry Urata, because he speaks English and I can't speak Japanese, I said, "Harry, please help me. I have to find someone that knows Ron Tsuchiya's father," and he says, "I know." And so later I found out they went to, Harry and Ron went to lunch together, and they spoke. And then Ron told me later, "Now I have something to pass on to my daughter." And I said that's when it became a human story for me. And I said, "We've got to do this." I mean, people have to know this. Doesn't matter if it's thirteen hundred or 120,000, they have to know what it does to people that are treated this way. So that was one.

BN: That was the dark cloud in paradise.

JK: Dark clouds.

BN: Now in the gallery.

JK: In the gallery.

BN: Then later with the traveling exhibit?

JK: Yes, right. So you were here then.

BN: Yeah, for the traveling part, but not for the gallery part.

JK: And people, like I said, really wanted to help because when I called Tom Klobe and I said, "Tom, I don't know who else to call. But do you know anyone who would do this exhibit cheap?" [Laughs] And he said, "Let me think about it." He called right back later and said, "I'm giving you my finest student." And he worked for cheap, and he was double cheap because his wife was a graphic designer. [Laughs]

BN: Who was that?

JK: John Ikegami. I bet he went back to Seattle, yeah. And he did twice as much work as he should have. Because the first thing he said when he sat down with us is, "Show me the script." We didn't know that you were supposed to have a script. [Laughs] And so the best we would come up with was an outline, and we filled it in. And it was a five... who, what, when, where, why, how. And so all he said was, at that point, "Show me the books about Hawaii internment." And he borrowed those, he read them, he made his own script. And then Tats followed him all around. And as soon as he made a label, Tats would make a Japanese label under it. That was the only bilingual exhibit we had here. And that must have helped those internees who couldn't have read the English.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

BN: And then you started to mention another project...

JK: Oh. This was a very recent one where Claire Sato, one of our volunteers, said, "You know, it's good to have information about this period," but she was very... she said, "We have to reach their hearts." And the only way she could think of was to have historical storytelling. And so she wanted to go through all that we had collected so far and pick out pertinent excerpts in the voices of the internees. And so Vi Harada, her friend, and fortunately Professor of Library Studies, and she'd written eleven books, said, "I'll help you." And so the two of them worked for several years, they combed our collection and pulled together A Resilient Spirit, that's the publication. And I think that, especially now, when NPS has a long period when they need to plan. And by the time they're ready for the public, all of us will be somewhere, either up or down. [Laughs] And so to pass on to present and future generations, it's got to be, in the words of the internees, in the voices of the internees. So I felt that that was one of the bigger things that came out of, after President Obama signed.

BN: Things kind of early... I remember that we did a presentation, you know, PowerPoint. We asked people, "What was your dream for the Honouliuli site?"

JK: I remember that.

BN: I'm going to ask you the same thing now. Knowing what you know now and so forth, has anything changed? Or what would you like to see at the site at some point in the future?

JK: That artist had a pretty good... I still like what he came up with. I just hope they, especially when you see things like Covid, there are going to be things going on in the future that will challenge our generations. We need something to hang on to that will keep us strong within. And you know, right now it seems to me like American values are more about competition, winning, losing, power. Although with all that's been going on, you see more and more stories about people doing humane things. I think that part, that humane part, because actually, we're just one human race. And I think buried under that somewhere there's a human value that's basic to us all. We're here, but we're supposed to be here to take care of each other and take care of the land that we live in because it's helping us. And I don't think I would have come this far without this experience. Anyway, that's where I am right now. And I don't want to see our kids feeling lost into the future by following a value that maybe won't take you there. And there's so... you often hear people say, "Well, you have to learn history so that you don't make the same mistakes." And I said, "Well, that's pretty good, but we do keep making the same mistakes." So then I heard from, another quote from Aiko Yamashiro from Hawaii Council for Humanities, and she said, "We have to learn history so that we remember, or we learn what our ancestors did well, so that when we need to, we can do it well, too." And I said, "Ah, that's it."

BN: The glass half full perspective rather than the glass half empty.

JK: Yeah. And then, of course, I wrote her and said, "That was wonderful, that really helped me." She wrote back and she said, "I've taken it a step further," and she had taken it to our universal value, and she called it love. And I said, "Yeah." Because we were so busy picking at each other and all the little differences. And I think we're all supposed to be different, but it's not that one is bad and one is good, it is what it is. As long as we take care of each other, I don't know. And that's why I keep hanging around here. [Laughs]

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

BN: What are you proudest of that you've done over the course... I mean, specifically in the JCCH period, not necessarily earlier in your first life?

JK: You know, that's a really interesting question. Because I think I asked myself that when I retired from the DOE, and I thought I'd done quite a few things. And I was shocked at the answer that came back at me. I think I asked the question, "What is my deepest joy from all that I've been doing?" And it centered on this one kid that I had actually helped. This kid was having difficulty in school, he was having learning problems because there were other things on his mind, but he wanted to be a library aide. And I said, "Okay," but I knew that he couldn't live up to the rules like, "Be on time, you come and help." And so I just kind of forgave a lot of that. And then, you know, I used to get a monitor every day, a kid would come and help me through the day. And so one day I got this kid, and he wasn't a talker either. So I said, "You know, there's not a class coming now. It's a good time for us to put up the Christmas decorations." And he said, "Okay." And so I gave him a pile and I took a pile. And because he was doing something that made him happy, he started to chatter. And I began to find out about, you know, he had a good mom, and she had a boyfriend. And he was okay, but when he drank, he wasn't okay. And he said, "Last night, he threw my mom against the wall." And I thought, oh god, no wonder. And I wasn't talking, and he was just talking to the wall. And so he said, he runs around, he doesn't fight, he runs around and he lets it out that way. And I thought, oh god, and here we are, us supposed smart faculty, telling kids, "Don't run around because you might get hurt." And this kid needed to. And then he came with his class one day and he acted up. I got on his case, and he took off, he had to run. So when he came back, he wouldn't talk to me, and so I talked to his back and I said, "You know, Eric, I didn't like what you did, but I'll always like you. I want you to know that." He went out, and I thought, okay. But the end of the year came, and I was having a party for my library aides. And the fool that I am, I said, "What do you guys want to eat?" And they told me, "Pizza, ice cream, soda." I said, "Where are the carrots?" and they said, "Nah." [Laughs] And I said, "Well, I asked you and you told me so I have to do it." So I did. I got them all that sugar, and they ran crazy in the library. And I thought, oh. And then I noticed there's somebody still sitting at the table, and I turned around and I looked, and it was Eric. And he looked at me and he smiled and he said, "Bad behavior, yeah." [Laughs] I said, "Yeah," but oh well, it's a party. And then I knew that I had... usually I don't say the right thing, but at that moment, I had said the right thing, and that was my deepest joy. And throughout the whole twenty-three years, and even to this day, I said, yeah, that gave me so much joy. And the same reason it gave me that same kind of joy when my grandson, who was having his ups and downs with his mom, said to me, "Well, my pretend mother thinks I'm a good boy," and he smiled. And I said, "Okay, I'm good for something." [Laughs] And that's true, deep joy, deep down. My husband could do it much better than I could, but he taught me a lot.

BN: How would you like to be remembered in years to come? When people ask, "Tell me about Jane."

JK: Maybe the same way that I'm remembering my mom now. My mom was kind of a quiet person. I mean, she definitely said, "Dad is boss," you know, as far as she was concerned. She passed away very suddenly. So my dad wanted a private funeral. And in the days when there were no such things as private funerals, and so people were calling us angry as can be, "What do you mean it's private? You mean I can't come? I want to come." You know, and finally, I told dad, I said, "Dad, it isn't working." But he wouldn't back off. So finally when I answered the phone, I just said, "Oh, just come, we'd love to have you." And so when we went to the funeral -- this is at Makiki Christian Church -- the church was full. And then that made me realize what my mom's strength was. It was her kindness, and these people had to come. And my husband had to come up and say thank you for the family. When he sat down, he said, "There's not a dry eye in the place." And I remember my mom, and she didn't care who you were. If you needed kindness, she did... my cousin, he had a good heart, but he worked for a bank. And his friend needed money, and so he said, "Oh, we'll borrow some from the bank." But that's called embezzling, but he didn't know that. he wanted to help his friend, and so he ended up in jail. And my mom, I remember she took me. She says, "Come, we're going." And I said, "Where are we going?" "We're going to prison." And we went to prison and we bought a goodie bag for him. She wanted me to see that she was doing that. And I'm not as kind as she was, but I try. And I think if I... I think that would be nice, if some of it showed. [Laughs]

BN: Definitely, as well as a lot of other things. Yeah, thank you so much. We could go on, but I know a lot of it was covered, so I could ask some other things. We've already gone well over two hours, so I don't want to keep you too much longer, but is there anything else you'd like to add before we conclude?

JK: Well, I'd like to add that we thoroughly enjoyed the years you spent with us in putting up with our jokes, our bad jokes. I think you were, again, that you were here at a time when it was the right time, because the right things happened.

BN: Thank you for not using the s-word there.

JK: [Laughs] Yes, I tried hard not to.

BN: It was a great time to be here and I learned so much from you and Betsy and all the other volunteers. And I say this often, but I totally believe it. That all of you were, would be CEOs and lawyers and doctors and so forth had you been born twenty or thirty years later. Not... I don't mean to insult what you did do, it was so much. And in this setting, you were allowed to really show the fullness of your abilities, which were so considerable. And I think that's why these projects got as far as they did.

JK: I really appreciated that, you know, about being allowed to use whatever we had to offer in a way that made a difference. I really appreciated that.

BN: Thank you very much.

JK: Thank you.

BN: Thanks for sitting down with us.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.