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.
Later that day, Andy Pafko wrote a column that only he and his editor at the Advertiser ever saw. Titled “Overreached,” he accused Dillingham’s appearance before Congress the previous year for yesterday’s pier-landing fiasco, saying it had stirred up California’s delegation by asking for a special allotment of 30,000 Chinese laborers while warning of the dangerous Japanese immigration.
“Andy,” said his editor, “I didn’t bring you back to get us both run out of town.”
More sober now than when he wrote the column, Pafko balled it up and tossed it into the trashcan.
“Good choice,” said the editor. “We’ve had enough social wars over schools and immigration. It’s gone on longer than the Great War. You saw the crowds yesterday. Subdued. While the racists in California held bonfire celebrations, our haole did not. There is a sense that enough is enough. It’s a draw.”
“Yes. No more Japanese immigrants, but they get to keep their schools.”
“That’s not settled,” said Pafko, perking up into a fighting mode.
“We never thought Makino would actually make a federal case of these school restriction laws,” said the editor. “But he did. The lower courts have called all of our school acts violations of the Fourth Amendment, freedom of speech. It will eventually end up in the Supreme Court, which has been clear about freedom of speech challenges for 150 years.
“By the way,” added the editor, “Okumura phoned. You might want to return the call.”
* * *
The next day, Pafko quoted Okumura’s response to the immigration act.
“It is important to resolve to cultivate one’s own destiny by oneself. . . . There are two paths we can take: One, we can pack up and make a neat parting from Hawai‘i to return home, or start anew in places like South America or Manchuria. Or two, we can patiently endure until the U.S. awakens to justice while we show them the results of assimilation and Americans recognize that we are essential elements to a prosperous society.
“I am taking the second path. On this occasion, we should reflect deeply on our own conduct and become fully awakened to our circumstances in order to ‘do in Rome as the Romans do.’ We should be as the smile of the dandelion that blooms even when stepped upon.”
* * *
That evening, Haru walked over to the Moiliili Christian Center to hear Okumura speak. What congregants remembered was Haru sitting in the front row and leading the applause.
* * *
“Exhaustion brings its own peace,” Haru murmured to Kenji that night as they soaked in their ofuro.
“Isn’t that how the Great War ended?” replied Kenji.
“Ever since we moved to Honolulu, it’s been one fight after another: the strike aftermath, attacks on our schools and dealing with immigration. As bad as the immigration law is, at least the battle is over.”
“And I can quietly be more flexible with our schools,” said Kenji. “Next year, Taka can play baseball. I will add curriculum changes comparing Christ and Buddha.” He reached for his sake cup and then realized it was empty.
“In some strange way, this bill has brought our various communities together. I don’t think that those who oppose us saw where this might lead. It is as if all of a sudden, the haole realize they have to find a way to live with 40 percent of Hawai‘i’s population.”
“I’m not sure Congress understands what it has unleashed,” said Haru, barely above a whisper. “I only hope Japan can put this behind itself. The radio reports mentioned riots.”
As Haru read the newspaper reports from Japan in the following days, she realized that her worst fears were but a tepid foretelling of the anger the immigration act had released. Shocked, Japan had turned angry and bitter. The Japan Times and Mail called the immigration act a “declaration of war.”
A middle-aged Japanese man left a protest note in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tökyö — much like Martin Luther had nailed his edict to the All Saints Church in Wittenberg — demanding that America repent, but with a dramatic difference: The man sat down and slit his throat. Days later, 800 leading politicians and senior military officials in full uniform attended the man’s funeral.
Right-wing groups marched, shouting, “National humiliation!”
Cities vied with each other in demonstrating their outrage. Promises to boycott American goods and calls to stop importing American cotton gained traction.
A week later, Haru read an article on Page 6 of the newspaper that troubled her more than anything else she had read. A junior Japanese navy officer, who was part of a Japanese delegation visiting the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, when the legislation was passed, was asked by his hosts what would be the reaction of the Japanese military. Navy Captain Isoroku Yamamoto replied, “We have two militaries. I can speak only for the navy. We will wait for you to change. We do not wish war.”
Haru doubted that few Americans would understand the nuance of Japanese phraseology and thus Yamamoto’s warning. By restricting his comments to the navy, Haru knew that what the captain did not say was far more important and portentous: “The other military, the army, is eager for its next war. You have removed powerful restraints.”
Haru put the newspaper down, recalling her teenage years in Hiroshima when the newspapers railed against Russia. She thought of her brother’s death in Manchuria; her barefoot sprint to tell her father, “Togo sank the Russian fleet in Tsushima” and her pledge at the Yasukuni Shrine to produce “many sons for the emperor.”
She feared for her four sons . . .
To be continued . . .
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Georgia and Japan.