The Hawai'i Nisei Story (website)


Website developed in the mid-2000s by the University of Hawai'i built around oral histories of Nisei veterans from Hawai'i.

The Hawai'i Nisei Story: Americans of Japanese Ancestry During WWII was a joint project between the University of Hawai'i at Manōa's Center for Oral History (COH) and Hamilton Library and Kapi'olani Community College (KCC). As part of the Hawai'i Memory Project, Manōa campus chancellor Peter Englert allocated $237,600 toward the project. The COH's Warren Nishimoto and Michiko Kodama-Nishimoto conducted the videotaped oral history interviews, while KCC's Ivan Sinclair converted and edited the interview files for online presentation. The interviews took place between January 2005 and January 2007; each person did at least two interview sessions, with one person doing seven. Each interview was professionally transcribed. The interview subjects were allowed to view both the raw video and the transcript and to suggest edits. While the initial plans called for thirty interviews, twenty-one were eventually completed.

The twenty-one interviews are categorized by unit: the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion (Elbert Arakawa, Kenneth Hagino, Toshiyuki Nakasone, and Richard Okamoto); the Varsity Victory Volunteers (Yoshiaki Fujitani and Herbert Isonaga); the 100th Infantry Battalion (Stanley Akita, Takashi Kitaoka, and Ray Nosaka); the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Herbert Isonaga, Hichiro Matsumoto, Katsugo Miho, Ronald Oba, and Whitey Yamamoto); and the Military Intelligence Service (Fujitani, Dick Hamada, Takejiro Higa, Chito Isonaga, and Norman Kikuta). To provide some gender balance, there were also five interviews with Nisei women under the category "A Different View" (Chito Isonaga, Sue Isonaga, Yuki Kitaoka, Janet Matsumoto, and Amy Yamamoto). Though focused on the World War II period, the interviews cover the entire life of the person.

Each oral history is divided into ten to twenty sections by topic, with each section featured on a page that includes an edited transcript and photographs, along with, in some cases, a short video clip and links to related articles, websites, or bibliographies. A shorter view of each life is also presented, with each section reduced to about one hundred words and one photograph. A link to the full transcript is also provided. The video clips are generally one to two minutes long and play alongside a transcript.

Though all the interview subjects selected served in the armed forces (or are the wives of men who did)—making the broad title of the website somewhat misleading—the wartime incarceration is broached in some of the interviews, most notably those of Fujitani and Miho, whose Issei fathers were interned, and Whitey Yamamoto, who recalls an impactful visit to the Rohwer, Arkansas, concentration camp while in basic training.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

The Hawai'i Nisei Story: Americans of Japanese Ancestry During WWII: http://nisei.hawaii.edu/page/home.

Gusukuma, Chance. "'The Hawai'I Nisei Story': UH to Launch Hawai'I AJA World War II Web Site This Fall." Hawaii Herald, June 3, 2005, A-1.