Why Japanese in Hawaii Weren’t Interned during WWII But thousands of Japanese-Americans on the mainland where

    Once again, I thought I’d stick with the Hawaii-Japan topic, since i just got back from there (that’s right, eat your hearts out).

    Japanese-Americans in internship camp

    In high school, all of us young'uns had to do a Senior Report, of sorts. Now, whenever I do essays / reports / etc, and I have the opportunity to write about whatever I want (bad idea, teachers), I like to choose a topic that almost nobody else has studied, so the professor can’t check my facts. I’m not saying that I go around making stuff up, but I feel a little better when I’m not writing on something within the teacher’s field of expertise. It, how should I say, often results in a higher, how should I call it, grade.

    Of course, as you can tell by the title, I decided to study Japanese internment. More specifically, how it affected Hawaii.

    If you don’t know already, Hawaii’s population includes tons of Japanese. I’m not just talking tourists in khaki shorts with cameras around their necks. Back during the war, Hawaii’s population was 1/3 Japanese. That’s huge. 157,000 Japanese made their home on the islands. In contrast, the United States mainland only had around 126,000 Japanese. 100,000 of those 126,000 were put in internment camps. That’s a lot of people being put away for no reason.

    Now, as you probably learned in history class (if you’re an American, at least), “All Japanese were put in internment camps.” That is, at least, what we are led to believe. The history books tend to gloss over Hawaii, though. What happened to people over there?

    Well, not that much.

    Of the 157,000 Japanese living in Hawaii, only under 2000 of them were put in internment camps. These were people of supposed power, who could “possibly pose a threat to America.” The ironic thing is, though, Japanese-Americans on the mainland posed a much smaller risk compared to their Hawaii counterparts. Over half of the Japanese-Americans on the mainland were born in America and had American citizenship, yet they were the ones to get interned. They were forced to sell their land on the cheap (Japanese owned a lot of California grape growing land, all of which they lost. Sad, yeah?), and lost pretty much everything (My family’s sword was taken. Bastards!).

    map of internment camps in western US

    In Hawaii, however, almost everyone got off scott free. I’m not saying that anyone should have been interned – I think it was a terrible thing – but they should have at least been consistent about it. Really, the Japanese in Hawaii had much closer ties to Japan than those in the mainland. Still, in the end, it was all economy-based. If you suddenly lose 1/3 of your population, then the economy will implode on itself. According to my grandpa, a lot of Japanese ran banks and worked on farms at the time, so suddenly cutting them out of the economic equation would have been disastrous.

    internment camp

    That is why Japanese didn’t get interned in Hawaii, even though more Japanese lived in Hawaii than any other part of the US.

    Jokes on America, though. I hear stories about my Great Grandma during the war. She would walk around the streets of Nu’uanu, picking up cigarette packaging and pulling out the aluminum linings, then send it back to Japan so they could make weapons and bombs. On top of that, she went around to all her neighbors and friends (who apparently were pro Japanese, as well) and got them to put stitches into hachimaki, which were sent to Japan for kamikaze bombers to wear for good luck. Great job, America! Way to intern the right people.

    old lady fifth columnist

    Though, I would be sad if my Great Grandma was interned, she was just a sweet old lady picking up trash for those dirty cigarette smoking sailors. How nice!