Lihue Plantation, Kaua'i (detention facility)

US Gov Name
Facility Type
Location ( lat, lng)
Date Opened
Date Closed
Population Description one inmate held in solitary confinement
General Description shower room in Līhu‘e Plantation gymnasium
Peak Population 1
Exit Destination Kalāheo Stockade

Site where one Japanese American inmate, Nisei insurance salesman Paul Muraoka (1910–90), was held in solitary confinement for one month.

Located on the southeastern coast of the island, Līhu'e Plantation was built in 1849 in the valley of Nāwiliwili stream and subsequently Līhu'e became the government and commercial center of the island. Due to the success of sugar production, by 1933, the properties of Līhu'e Plantation included Ahukini Railway Co., Aukini Railway Co., East Kauai Water Co., Makee Plantation, Nāwiliwili Transportation Co., Princeville Ranch, Waiahi Electric Co., and pineapple lands leased to Hawaiian Canneries. [1] With thousands of workers employed on the plantation, owners built housing and churches as well as schools for the children of laborers; as early as 1910 Līhu'e Plantation's hospital was recognized as one of the best in the Islands. Many plantations across the territory created self-contained communities for their workers and employees as part of plantation paternalism to cultivate the loyalty and discipline of the workers. Shortly after the 1920 strike, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) summed up the essential purpose of this strategy as "money and time have been spent liberally by the plantations to cater to the physical, mental and moral welfare of the laborers" as planters recognized "humanity in industry pays." [2] While the paternalism of the plantation mangers sometimes emerged from a sincere concern for their workers, planters realized it played an important role in production and profit making and hospitals and other recreational facilities were built including gymnasiums. [3]

For reasons that are unclear, Paul Muraoka was arrested and imprisoned in solitary confinement at the Līhu'e Plantation Gym's shower room for one month, while other internees on Kaua'i were held at the Wailuā County Jail, Waimea Jail, or at the Kalāheo Stockade. While Muraoka did not know the specifics of why he was arrested, he believed it was likely due to his visits to Japan from 1932 to 1934 and his work for the Japanese consulate in Honolulu for six months. In isolation for a month, Muraoka only saw people when they brought his breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To keep himself mentally alert, he kept leftovers he fed to ants and "would check to see from what hole they emerged, how many, how they divided the food to carry out, who gave the first notice. Individual responsibilities, etc." [4] Although the specifics of his accommodations are unknown, Muraoka remembered a window that he could look out of and he started to monitor the daily activities to keep occupied. Muraoka noticed that the first time when the siren rang, he "saw a large car belonging to a plantation manager speed home." The next time the siren rang, Muraoka ran to the window to see what would occur and again he saw the manager departing.

By engaging in such activities he kept from going "emotionally bankrupt" with nothing else to do but wait for authorities to determine his fate. Muraoka likely witnessed the workings of the plantation as sugar production continued despite labor shortages and land and facilities diverted for military usages. Līhu'e Plantation was part of extensive plans to protect Kaua'i in the event of an invasion including "sabotage and terrorism on the part of resident sympathizers" that will "probably accompany and may proceed the attack," a possibility made very real by the shelling of Nāwiliwili Harbor. [5] On the moonlit night of December 30, 1941, an enemy Japanese submarine estimated to be about four miles offshore fired upon Nāwiliwili Harbor with least 15 three-inch shells, most of them duds as part Japanese naval harassment of American territories and coastal regions. [6] One month after this event authorities sent Muraoka to Kalāheo Stockade but his wife had no knowledge of his whereabouts during this time as no one had seen Muraoka and she "didn't expect him to be there." [7] Later, Muraoka and his wife were reunited in the Jerome , Arkansas, concentration camp.

Currently, the Līhu'e Plantation Gymnasium is the only remaining incarceration site on Kaua'i. Located in Isenberg Park, it is used by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura , University of Hawai'i

For More Information

Saiki, Patsy Sumie. Ganbarre! An Example of Japanese Spirit . Honolulu: Kisaku, Inc., 1982. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 2004.


  1. Lihue Plantation Company History, Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association Plantation Archives, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Library, accessed on March 25, 2015 at .
  2. Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association, The Sugar Industry of Hawaii and the Labor Shortage (Honolulu: HSPA, 1921), 37.
  3. Ronald Takaki, Pau Hana: Plantation Life and Labor in Hawaii , 1835-1920 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983), 64.
  4. "Paul Muraoka-Interview Notes (1 card) (Kauai)," Patsy Sumie Saiki archival collection, AR 18, Box 2 Folder 5, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Resource Center.
  5. HSPA Plantation Archives, Lihue Plantation Company, Box R-3/1-5 (Roll Box), Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.
  6. John R.K. Clark, The Beaches of Maui County (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1985?), 7.
  7. "Paul Muraoka-Interview Notes."

Last updated July 7, 2015, 11:43 p.m..