Five-0 Redux: French fans send their aloha

Mar. 29, 2014 | 20 Comments

BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Out of all of the season four episodes, the one that seemed to move “Hawaii Five-0” fans the most was the homage to the attack on Pearl Harbor, “Hoʻonani Makua Kāne” (“Honor Thy Father”).

Many fans were so moved that the conversation about the episode, and the questions it raised, continued weeks after its airing. Yet there was one group of fans who seemed to have been so affected, they went so far as to send their aloha all the way from France.

"Hawaii Five-0 reenacts the 1941 December 7th attack in "Ho'onani makua kāne (Honor Thy Father)." (Courtesy CBS)

“Hawaii Five-0″ reenacts the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in “Hoʻonani Makua Kāne” (“Honor Thy Father”). (Courtesy CBS)

“Hawaii 5-0 France,” led by Christophe and Sandra Riot, wanted to do more than just discuss the episode amongst themselves. They wanted to reach out and pay their respects to the Japanese community.


“We’ve been deeply moved by the ‘Hawaii Five-0’ Pearl Harbor episode,” said Christophe Riot. “We learned about internment which is totally unknown in Europe.”

Riot contacted me in January about helping him translate a short video from the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii about Japanese internment camps on Oahu. The video interviewed Harry Urata, who was interned at Honouliuli, as well as the adult children of several internees. Riot had been given permission by the JCCH to translate the video into French.

Riot wanted the translated video in order “to spread the knowledge about internment camps in France.”

“We wanted to pay tribute to the people who where interned in Hawaii, particularly at Honouliuli,” he said. “The episode about the camps was a true epiphany for us.”

The card signed by Hawaii 5-0 France fans sent to the JCCH. (Courtesy Christophe Riot)

A card signed by French “Hawaii Five-0” fans sent to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. (Courtesy Christophe Riot)

Riot also asked me to deliver a card and flowers to the JCCH. He and his wife gathered 170 signatures and messages from French fans who wanted to share their thoughts and condolences after watching the episode and gathering more information on their own about the experience of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

I could think of no better ambassador to share their card and aloha than actor Dennis Chun, who was gracious and more than willing to work with Riot. He was instrumental in presenting the French fans message to the JCCH after Riot contacted JCCH President and Executive Director Carole Hayashino, who invited Chun to a Day of Remembrance Celebration on March 23.

The ceremony was held at the WWII Valor Theatre at the Arizona Memorial and was attended by distinguished members of the Japanese American community of Hawaii and Governor Neil Abercrombie, as well as surviving internees and their families. March marks the anniversary of the opening of the main internment camp on Oahu at Honouliuli, and the JCCH received permission from CBS to present a special screening of “Hoʻonani Makua Kāne” (“Honor Thy Father”) for their invited guests.

Actor James Saito, who played David Toriyama, and Luke Hagi, who played young David in the flashback scenes, joined Chun at the ceremony to answer questions about the episode. Saito flew in from New York for the event; Hagi is the son of Hawaii News Now weather anchor Guy Hagi and former news anchor Kim Gennaula.

JCCH President Carole Hayashino, "Hawaii Five-0" actors Dennis Chun and Luke Hagi, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, and actor James Saito at the Day of Remembrance ceremony. (Courtesy Governor Abercrombie)

From left, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii President Carole Hayashino, “Hawaii Five-0″ actors Dennis Chun and Luke Hagi, Gov. Neil Abercrombie and “Five–0” actor James Saito at the Day of Remembrance ceremony on March 23. (Courtesy State of Hawaii)

Chun said Hayashino and the audience were deeply moved by the episode and its historical accuracy. One former internee said “Hawaii Five-0” got it “completely right.”

“The most moving thing that was shared was when Luke, who is 11 years old, was asked what he took away from his experience,” said Chun. “He said that there is still prejudice in the world and we must fight it and never let it happen again.”

Chun spoke to the audience about how the episode was very moving to watch as his father, original “Hawaii Five-O” actor Kam Fong, was at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

“That’s why we at ‘Hawaii Five-0’ are so proud of this episode, because this story must never be forgotten,” he said. “And we were able to tell it in such as way, that as long as this episode is out there, the story will not go away.

“It needs to be remembered, but it needs to be remembered not only because of what happened, but because of how their families faced this darkness. They faced it with faith, courage and determination with patience and patriotism. They turned this darkness into a little flicker of hope and aloha that lit the world.

"Hawaii Five-0" actors Dennis Chun and James Saito. (Courtesy Amy Bakari)

“Hawaii Five-0″ actors Dennis Chun and James Saito. (Courtesy Amy Bakari)

“That flame is still flickering today. (Those interned) knew the answer wasn’t blowing in the wind, the answer is us. That’s the important thing we must always remember. Never to let this flame burn out.”

Chun presented a monetary gift from Hawaii 5-0 France and also read a few letters from the Riots and other French fans. He explained to the audience that he “wanted to share their words, because they wrote them for you.”

“It’s just a privilege and honor to carry the message from the French fans to the JCCH,” Chun said. “I want to thank them for their aloha and for allowing me to be their messenger.”

Riot was thankful Chun helped share the day with fans in France.

“This project concluded in a way we never hoped possible,” he said. “We wanted to send our aloha and honor the memory of those Japanese American citizens who had to go through internment and this event was perfect for it. We have been humbled and honored by the choice of the JCCH to include our contribution in such a marking event like the Day of Remembrance.

“Knowing that James Saito … was standing next to Dennis while he was reading our card moved us in a way you couldn’t imagine. James played his role so truly that you could think he actually went through those hard times himself. We are very proud and humbled at the same time that our project came this far. It’s an honor for us.”

“Five-0” executive director Peter Lenkov has spoken quite often about the importance of this episode, but I don’t believe he thought it would have made such a global impact. We now know the show has done more than just entertain fans — it has connected people in a much more memorable and more meaningful way.

REDUX SIDE NOTE:

Hayashino shared her thoughts about about the Day of Remembrance via email.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to ‘Hawaii Five-0’ for telling our story and for the generous response by Hawaii 5-0 France,” she said.
 
“Let me begin by sharing there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience as the episode concluded its final scene on the USS Missouri overlooking Pearl Harbor. For those of us whose families were interned and for a community still coming to understand its own World War II history, we were moved by (the) sensitive tribute to Pearl Harbor survivors, Nisei soldiers, Japanese American internees and its message of forgiveness and reconciliation.

“For the past ten years, we’ve worked to document and share the story of Hawaii’s internment camps.  We could never imagine that our history would one day find its way into a ‘Five-0’ storyline or that our experience would touch the hearts of people in France. 

“We are deeply honored by the messages from our friends in France and the thoughtful gesture of support for JCCH’s work to preserve the Honouliuli Internment Camp and the story of Hawaii’s Japanese American internees. It is a chapter in history that has been overlooked and nearly forgotten. The donation from Hawaii Five-0 France will be used to support our continuing research on Hawaii’s internment camps and the oral histories of former internees. Their support will help to ensure that our history is shared and the lessons of Honouliuli are not forgotten.

“For this, I offer my sincere thanks and warmest aloha to our friends and partners in France,” she said.
———
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

  • jlopie1

    Wow! This is so awesome! What a tribute! Aloha and mahalo nui loa to the wonderful French Hawaii 5-0 fans who participated in this project! Anyone who takes the time to watch this very special Hawaii 5-0 episode will take away a sense of respect for the Japanese Americans who lived through internment – and remember, there were internment camps all across the western states. So proud of the producers, writers, cast and crew – as well as CBS studios – for highlighting this tragic time in our history with grace and empathy. Much Aloha to all!

  • Linda M. Stein

    Wow….just….wow. I always knew about the Japanese interment camps from taking American history in school but I hadn’t realized there were camps anywhere else besides California until much later in my life when I heard about the camps in other areas of the country and, of course, in Hawaii. Using 1940′s thinking, having them in Hawaii…the base of the attack, made sense at the time. If something like that can ever truly make sense.

    Hawaii Five-0, Peter Lenkov, CBS, and everyone involved in the writing and, of course, the acting in this episode should be humbled and extremely proud of what they accomplished. To entertain is a wonderful thing but to educate and touch people in this way is truly remarkable. To reach the hearts of people all the way around the world and in their own back yard, to have the episode played over and over on the USS Missouri for the next year, to have the approval and admiration of those who actually lived through and survived the events of those days….. Hawaii Five-0 truly made a piece of history, not just a TV episode.

  • Dina

    an amazing thing and thank you again Wendie for bringing it to the forefront!!! All EP and writers, directors, cast and crew should feel proud of what they accomplished with this episode.

  • https://twitter.com/50Nads Fanmisa (Nadia)

    Mahalo
    Wendie for this amazing review !
    I
    wanna thank YOU, Dennis and Carol to have help Christophe and Sandra
    on that and mahalo to them for doing this project!
    I’m
    proud to be French and to have been part of it
    when
    they told me what they were planing, I immediately said YES IM IN !
    :)
    the
    episode truly blowed me away and it really learned me a lot about
    this event !
    The
    episode was absolutely well written and well filmed
    I
    cannot express by words how much this episode means to me and to the
    French fans !
    I
    still remember some comments when people watched it and everyone said
    they cried, they got goosebumps, and loved the episode !

    Thank
    you to Peter, the writers and Larry who directed the episode to have
    shown the world this part of Pearl Harbor, to have put forward what
    the Japoneses went throught during WWII !
    Mahalo
    to them and Mahalo to all of you involved in this project !
    I’m
    proud and honored
    THANK
    YOU
    and
    thanks Wendie for this amazing review :) you rock ! but you knoww
    that already right ;-) XO
    Nads

  • Sam

    This episode of Hawaii Five-0 is not only one of the best, but also one the most important episodes. It is a wonderful thing what they did for this very important subject.
    I think it is great that people not only watched and enjoyed the episode, but also discussed and tried to learn more about it.
    However I cannot understand that they never have heard about it before. That for sure is not true for all of Europe. That is not so and I think not ok to say it like that in general. I don’t know the school system in France, but here in Germany all kids spent years on the subject of WW2. In detail about everything that happened. I was educated on that matter from grade five to thirteen. Practically through all my years in school. And that hasn’t changed in the last twenty years or so. I know that is most likely because of our own dark past, but we learned about all kind of things happening during that time. From all over the world.
    So, to say that the knowledge about the camps is totally unknown in Europe is almost outrageous.
    After this episode I talked to many of my friends, and all of them knew about the camps. But I must say that I was shocked to learn that many Americans hadn’t a clue about their own history.
    This is a really important matter and we should never stop teaching our children what happened back then. Maybe that way we will be able to prevent it from ever happening again.
    Thank you for another great article about not just a great episode but what it managed to do. To make people think, and educate themselves about that time.

    • https://twitter.com/50Nads Fanmisa (Nadia)

      We speand months on WWI and WWII specialy me, leaving in Alsace, at the border of Germany, we do a lot about it
      Pearl Harbor, of course I knew what it is, and all this, but we see it from the US point of view, from French point of view, but we never, NEVER talked about what happened to Japoneses at the time !
      we know the attack, we know lots of things, but not this part ;-)
      and I agree with you, it is outrageous !!!

      • Sam

        How can anyone look at anything happened during WWII and not see it from the victims’ POV? Why is that not taught in school? Unbelievable.
        The aftermath of the attack and the US entering the war in an official way, they had been involved long before, and what happened back in the US, was one of the most discussed and taught things back in school.
        Maybe it was because it was in a way similar to what happened in Germany. That might be a reason why this matter is *taught to death* here.

        • https://twitter.com/50Nads Fanmisa (Nadia)

          let’s say that we spend much more time on the WWI and WWII and Cold War in general !
          Pearl Harbor I knew the date, I knew the attack and had seen a few pics but never heard more about this !
          I did a scientific path, so History wasn’t the main subject either so :)
          but it’s true here in Alsace we don’t focuse a lot on it :/ it’s unbelievable, but it’s not new, the French educational system sucks ! :/

          • Sam

            Trust me, our system is perfect either. ;-)

        • Terry FiveOs

          I never learned about U.S. internment camps until I moved to California and took community college course on the history of the state. Just another example of white people being in charge of what goes into textbooks. It’s not something we want known.

  • VanessaAHooper

    For those of us whose families were interned and for a community still coming to understand its own World War II history, we were moved by (the) sensitive tribute to Pearl Harbor survivors, Nisei soldiers, Japanese American internees and its message of forgiveness and reconciliation. http://qr.net/rtcX

  • Brenda

    Thanks again Wendie for another article on this important episode and how it lives on. Great job.

  • Angela Gerstner

    It is truly amazing and wonderful that a TV show and an episode dealing with such a delicate and very serious historical subject has such a huge impact on its fans around the globe – even outside the U.S. and Japan. The episode was definitely a masterpiece of television entertainment in every aspect – the excellent writing, the realistic and very sensitive portrayal of historical events, the brilliant acting and more. I’m sure there wasn’t a single viewer who was not moved to tears at least once or twice during this episode.
    When I watched it two weeks ago when it premiered in Germany, I still cried repeatedly even though I’d seen it in English a couple of times before. The scene in which the Toriyama family is taken away from their home, along with other Japanese-American families, to be put into prison and later into the camp, still gives me goosebumps cause it reminds me so much of scenes I’ve seen in documentaries about my own country and how it treated Jewish citizens back then.

    Like the French fans, I had never heard of the internment camps in the U.S. until about 10 years ago, when a friend of mine who lived in the States for several years and studied American history & arts gave me a book called “No-no boy” by John Okada. The book dealt with the camps in the U.S. which I had not known about before because in Germany 99% of our history lessons at school focused on what happened in Europe in WWII. I highly recommend Okada’s novel to anyone who has become interested in the topic through H50.

    What the French fans did to show their support and sympathy for the Japanese-American community in Hawaii is really great and admirable. My respect to them and Mahalo to you and Dennis for helping them.

  • alavenia

    Awesome article Wendie, thanks!♥

  • Terry FiveOs

    This is such a great article about some truly amazing folks! Instead of trying to get actors fired like some so-called “fans,” these people are doing good in the name of Hawaii Five-0. Kudos to the Riots and to everyone in France who donated. This story brings tears to my eyes.

    • https://twitter.com/50Nads Fanmisa (Nadia)

      indeed I like better be involved in this than in the madness atm :) lol

    • Diane

      It would be nice Terry for the fans to stop tearing down the actors, and just enjoy the show. But this will wont happen either.

  • edmattes763

    This was a very important episode of Hawaii Five-0 and its great to see it get worldwide recognition.

  • Diane

    This was a great episode. Not much more to say, definitely the best of the season. They did it with such sensitivity to all involved. It must have been a rough time in our country’s history, and we must never forget, the rights and wrongs. I grew up in California, many moons ago, and it was in our history books. It was also an eye opener, as to the injustices that occur. No country is a saint. I wish people would look at people, and see people, not race, gender, orientation, or any other difference. Sadly I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime. Thank you to the Riots for recognizing and wanting to reach out.

  • june77

    Best episode of any TV program ever! I hope this wins an Emmy. Thank you, Wendie, for bringing us the news from the French fans.