Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.
Nov. 22, 1922
Except for the wind whispering through the shutters, the rustling of a turning newspaper page and the clinking of a porcelain cup set on a saucer, the after-breakfast ritual silence enveloped the Takayama’s dining room. Earlier in the morning, four daily newspapers had been tossed onto the front porch. Haru and Kenji sat reading the papers, one by one. The three older boys had traipsed off to school. Four-year-old Kenta was “helping” Sachi push the stroller with Haru’s long-awaited daughters, Hiromi, born in the spring of 1921, and Sachiko, born just four months ago, in July. After a visit to the park, Sachi and Kenta would stop at the Chinese grocery store for today’s vegetables and fish.
Quiet time. Haru couldn’t tell you when this morning tradition began, but she knew that Sachi had made it possible. Settling down in Mö‘ili‘ili had not been easy for Haru. The community was so different, so new, its bustling activity so unlike Waimea. It took several months before Haru’s patience and the community’s kindness bolstered Sachi’s confidence to a point where she enjoyed the morning stroll with Kenta and shopping by herself.
But today’s headline in the Star-Bulletin soured the plumeria-scented calm of the morning: “Supreme Court Ruling — Ozawa Not a Citizen.”
Haru shook her head as she read the first sentence of Pafko’s front-page celebration.
“Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, ‘Caucasians are white and Japanese are members of an inassimilable race.’ That’s all you need to know,” gloated the reporter. Not satisfied with reviewing Ozawa’s challenge and the court’s ruling, he speculated on the “false citizenship” of U.S. Army veterans of Japanese ancestry sworn in by Judge Vaughn. No doubt, Pafko predicted, “The Supreme Court will get around to invalidating these ‘mistakes.’” He reminded his readers that the territory of Hawai‘i has never recognized the “Vaughn Citizens.” “The court has ruled — once a Jap, always a Jap.”
Pafko didn’t stop there. He stepped up the tempo of his column by trumpeting the new legislation passed earlier in the month “to put some teeth in shutting down these anti-American schools.” He wrote on. “Patriot Joshua Bilkerton pushed through the bill forbidding Japanese children to attend language schools until the fourth grade, limiting school hours and requiring their teachers to pass English language proficiency tests.” But he then went on to bemoan the lack of progress in implementing those regulations. The Department of Education had claimed it needed time to prepare a brief for Makino’s threat to challenge the law in court, which never happened. Wrote Pafko: “Why should Makino press forward when government officials acted as if he already had won his case?”
Pafko paid lukewarm homage to the companion Foreign Language Press Control Bill passed in the same session. “While as a journalist I respect the Fourth Amendment on press freedom, the legislation requiring Japanese newspapers to translate articles dealing with politics, labor issues and laws into English and to submit such articles for a censor’s approval prior to publication is temporarily necessary to maintain order in our society.”
Pafko closed with his usual reference to the “good Christian Japanese” led by the Rev. Okumura.
The reference to Okumura rankled Haru. He had split the Japanese community, even if it were an 80-20 split in favor of the Buddhists. She recalled her first meeting with Okumura. Despite his cold reception, she had encouraged the down-in-the-mouth Yoshi to register for Okumura’s carpentry class. He did. Then the furor began as Okumura had smugly predicted. After Yoshi attended his first class, the Moiliili Hongwanji lay committee scheduled a special meeting to ostracize Yoshi and his family from the Hongwanji unless he quit his class. While Kenji was able to get his lay committee to back off, Yoshi got the message, withdrew his registration and delivered an apology at the next Sunday services.
Haru got the message, too. Hopes for any type of compromise were dashed. She had a better understanding of why nations went to war, rather than trade concessions.
Haru looked up from the paper at Kenji, sitting across her, reading Makino’s Hawaii Hochi. “More coffee?”
“Hai, Okaasan.” Kenji laid down the paper. “Same story, but you would hardly know it from reading both versions of their truths,” said Kenji. The two of them had started the morning as usual: Kenji reading the Hochi and Haru the Star-Bulletin, then switching newspapers before either glanced at the Jiji Shinpo and the Advertiser.
“Makino keeps publishing without having his stories approved,” smiled Haru.
“Fred-san has lost most of his haole advertising,” said Kenji.
Haru’s mouth switched from upturned to downturned. “I doubt he will be able to pay back the $500 loan we gave him for rent and back wages, even though he’s cut his staff in half.”
“He may have to use money from his pharmacy to pay us back, but he will,” said Kenji, who had insisted on a larger loan than Haru had wanted.
“The crisis issue is the school bill,” said Haru.
“That’s why I invited Makino to dinner tonight. He claims now is the time to go to court.”
Haru raised an eyebrow.
Kenji noted her skepticism. “I think this time he means it.”
“Will our school join any action?”
“Let’s hear out Makino,” said Kenji. Changing the subject, he added, “I am going downtown this morning. Do you need anything?”
Haru smiled ruefully and shook her head. “Well, I need some yarn, but for you to translate my description of color into the right choice is beyond my language skills.”
To be continued . . .