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, Georgia and Japan.
The Re-Paganization of Hawaii
by Andy Pafko
Don’t be fooled by the Buddhist temples looking like your friendly garden-variety Methodist church. The more these heathen outposts look like our places of worship, the more the threat to our Christian heritage. Don’t be fooled by Roman Catholic-style robes . . .
Haru threw down the paper. The Advertiser had sunk to a new low. All rubbish, she thought, using an old word with a new meaning that she had recently picked up.
How could the newspaper allow Pafko to roll out such old, worn-out drivel? But she knew why. By pandering to its racist haole readership, the Advertiser sold not only newspapers but advertising, as well. While Haru considered only a minority of haoles to be racist, she feared that if the white community were fed a daily barrage of biased muck, some of it would stick.
If war broke out, she knew the Committee for Interracial Unity’s fight for even-handed treatment of the Japanese rested on the good will of white men and women who were watching from the sidelines of this polarized fight. They want to believe in us. But one undermining incident and all the wary trust would evaporate like the first raindrop on a hot tin roof of public opinion.
Lowell Thomas, reporting from Washington, D.C., assured his listeners: “Japan and America are still talking.” He postulated, “Each week Japan does not attack America increases the odds cooler heads are prevailing in Tōkyō. New prime minister, General Tojo, must realize that with his army stalemated in China, striking America would be the last thing a prudent military leader would do.”
Haru picked up Hiromi’s last letter rejecting her latest plea to come home to Hawai‘i. Her daughter tried to soothe the worst of her mother’s anxieties with her arguments: Japan was adapting to the embargo. The street marching had stopped. The raucous neon cacophony in the Ginza, Tōkyō’s “Times Square,” had dimmed. Army officials had spun assurances that their scientists were developing a new technology for converting coal into gas.
“Somehow,” Hiromi wrote, “Japan’s clever engineers will wiggle through this crisis without war.”
She ended by pledging to “jump on the next ship to Hawai‘i if war is imminent.”
* * *
Haru could not remember a happier start to a day than this balmy Saturday morning. That afternoon, the University of Hawai‘i football team would be playing its last game of the season. Four of her children and a host of friends would enjoy a pregame buffet at the Takayama home.
She looked around her living room — only their basic furniture was still in place. Haru glowed. Yesterday, she had finished packing the better cutlery and china, along with most of their clothes and personal treasures. The forty-some-odd packing boxes should be miles out of the harbor by now, on their way to the Big Island. This time, there was no talk of taking back the mission Kenji had started. They were retiring. An annex had been added to the hotel for their living quarters.
Tonight, she would sleep in her Queen Emma Street home for the last time. Tomorrow, she and Kenji would take the noon ferry to Kawaihae. No more cattle boats, smiled Haru — this time, they would travel aboard a real passenger ship with a dining room and a snug cabin with bunk beds for the 26-hour journey — provided the seas remained calm.
She was going home to Waimea. Her children had seen the first light of day when the sun peeked over Mauna Kea. She had come to Waimea as an expectant teenage bride and left as a mother, an advisor to many of her husband’s parishioners, a businesswoman who had built and managed a hotel and a valued and beloved member of the community she loved.
Haru looked out the window at her husband dozing in his backyard rocker. The last two years in Honolulu had not been kind to Kenji. He had left Waimea a robust, vigorous man, but would not return that way.
And, Haru was needed in Waimea. Sam’s health had deteriorated, too. His lungs were giving out — the effects of World War I gas. He couldn’t help around the hotel as he had in the past and Kame confessed that she was having a difficult time keeping up with the workload.
Waimea was calling them home. But, like her sisters’ procrastination that had stranded them in Japan, Haru hoped she had not waited too long.
To be continued . . .