Interview with Mabel Kawamura

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Center for Oral History, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Mabel Kawamura, eldest of six children, was born to Kazuto and Kimiyo Ikeda in 1926 in Hölualoa, Kona, Hawai‘i. Both parents were born in Hawai‘i, but Kazuto was raised in Japan and Kimiyo, in Hawai‘i. Kazuto Ikeda, a Japanese-language school teacher, also worked for the Japanese-language newspaper, Hawaii Hochi. He handled much of the letter-writing needs of Japanese residents. Kimiyo Ikeda taught language classes and sewing classes. She and the children helped tend coffee lands. The Ikedas lived in Keauhou, then later Kealakekua, Kona, Hawai‘i. December 7, 1941 was an exceptionally traumatic day for the Ikedas, who were in Hilo for the cremation of a family member struck down by a hit-and-run driver the day before. As word of Pearl Harbor and of the arrests of prominent Japanese reached them, even the children of the Ikeda family were affected. In April 1942, Kazuto Ikeda was removed from his home, incarcerated first at Kïlauea Military Camp, then at Sand Island Detention Center on O‘ahu. From there, he notified his family that he could be with family if they were all removed to a U.S. Mainland facility. In December 1942, Kazuto Ikeda and family were transported to Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas. They remained there until the center’s closing in 1944. They were then moved to Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming. After about two months at Heart Mountain, Mabel was allowed to leave for Minneapolis, Minnesota where she studied to be a beautician. The Ikeda family, released from Heart Mountain at war’s end, returned to their old residence and coffee lands in Kona. Mabel also returned to the islands. She married Wallace Kawamura in 1949. For many years, she owned and operated her own beauty salon on O‘ahu. Mabel Kawamura has one daughter and two grandchildren.
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