- Taken from the Paradise Isle: The Hoshida Family Story, 1912–1945 ed. by Heidi Kim
For many years, Hawai‘i incarceration accounts were overshadowed by mainland narratives as authorities arrested relatively few Japanese Americans from the Islands. The growing recognition of the importance of the Hawai‘i experience during World War II has been reflected in the publication of various Hawai‘i incarceration stories within recent years. George Hoshida’s accounts and artwork, compiled in Taken from the Paradise Isle: The Hoshida Family Story, 1912–1945, offers important personal insights into the experiences of a [End Page 165] Hawai‘i Island resident who authorities sent to the War Relocation Authority (WRA) incarceration centers in Hawai‘i and the mainland. Hoshida’s account reveals the impact of incarceration upon an individual, family, and community during war and his accompanying drawings and letters offer poignant personal insights that testify to the lasting impact of wartime incarceration on Japanese Americans.
Taken from the Paradise Isle is based upon Hoshida’s memoirs, which includes his wartime diary, selected family letters from 1942 to 1943, Hoshida’s wartime artwork, and official documents from the National Archives. His artwork, which is currently preserved and exhibited online at the Hirasaki National Resource Center of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles, California, is collected and published in substantial amounts for the first time. Hoshida’s account is one of the few incarceration narratives told through both art and text. As an amateur artist, he lacked the professional recognition of artists like Mine Okubo, Chiura Obata, and Estelle Peck Ishigo who published or exhibited artwork produced from their incarceration experiences after the war. Although much of his work was never formally exhibited, Hoshida’s personal drawings and accounts provide important insights into understanding the personal impact of camp experiences, particularly from the perspective of a Hawai‘i Island resident who documented life in Kīlauea Military Camp, which was the largest incarceration site on the neighbor islands.
As an applicance salesman for the Hilo Electric and Gas Company who only possessed an eighth-grade education, Hoshida was not part of the intelligentsia within Hawai‘i’s Japanese community that authorities targeted in their investigations and arrests. His education and social position can be contrasted with newspaper editor Yasutaro Soga, who wrote Life Behind Barbed Wire, and Japanese language school teacher Otokichi Muin Ozaki whose letters, poetry, and radio scripts comprise Family Torn Apart. Yet, authorities considered him suspect due to his alleged ties to Japan and his connections to the Hongwanji Mission and Young Buddhist Association (Y.B.A). During Hoshida’s hearing, a confidential informant believed that Hoshida was a “sit on the fence type; if America wins, all right; if Japan wins, he will be the first to join” (p. 248). Hoshida believed that an acquaintance had reported him to authorities giving rise to the realization that “people who appeared to be one’s friends may not actually be so when things change to endanger their own welfare” (p. 41).
While Hoshida explores his early life and possible reasons for his arrest and incarceration in early chapters, much of his narrative is dedicated to his thoughts on adjusting to camp life while struggling to fulfill his role as a husband and father, separated from his wife and children. Hoshida writes most of his account referring to himself in the third person as Yoshio, his original [End Page 166] Japanese name, explaining in his original introduction that he felt that he “could be more objective in describing [his] actions, especially in some intimate scenes” (p. xxxiii). His third person account of camp life is juxtaposed with personal letters written to and from his wife Tamae and provides insight into the intimate communication between a husband and wife. Their letters reveal the impact of incarceration on a family dealing with the challenges of separation, the difficulties of camp life, and the question of their postwar fate. The letters capture the...