Interview with Eleanor Aoki Kirito

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Center for Oral History, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Eleanor Aoki Kirito, eldest among five children, was born in 1929 in Hilo, Hawai‘i, to Tamotsu and Mitsuko Aoki. Her parents were both nisei, born in Hawai‘i; but her father was a kibei, educated in Kumamoto-ken, Japan. Tamotsu Aoki was a prominent member of the local community; he was active in the Japanese section of the Mormon Church. He was a member of the Kumamoto Prefectural Association. He was a practitioner of Japanese martial arts. He was a respected businessman—manager of American Savings and Loan. He entertained many, including visiting Japanese naval officers. With the outbreak of war, many prominent in the Japanese community of Hawai‘i Island were incarcerated. In February 1942, Tamotsu Aoki was removed from his home, detained at Kīlauea Military Camp, and later moved to Sand Island Detention Center. He was released from Sand Island in December 1942 to be relocated with his family and elderly parents to the U.S. Mainland. Had the family not agreed to the relocation, Tamotsu Aoki would not have been released from Sand Island. The Aokis were transported to Jerome War Relocation Center, Arkansas where they remained for about a year and a half. They were then placed in the Gila River War Relocation Center, Arizona for the duration of the war. Released and returned to the islands, the family was again on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. The home they returned to was without furnishings. They slowly refurnished it. Tamotsu Aoki, initially without a car of his own, resumed his work at the savings and loan. Eleanor resumed her studies, graduating from Hilo High School. Now living on O‘ahu, she is the mother of three, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of one.
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