By Genpachi “Jükichi” Tsushima
Translation by Kan Edmund Akatani
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

“Child of a Hawaiian Immigrant” is a historical novel that conveys the events, social conditions and life of the author’s own immigration and personal experiences while being faithful to historical facts. The editing team understood that it was the author’s desire to include actual events and people with accurate details. The main character Yöichi is based on the events of the author’s life in Okayama, Japan, his life as an immigrant sugarcane worker in Waipahu, his educational and professional life experiences, and his World War II internment. 

This story comes to us courtesy of Bob Tsushima, son of the late Genpachi Tsushima. It was the first place winner of the United Japanese Society of Hawaii’s novel contest in celebration of the 1968 centennial of Japanese immigration to Hawai‘i. The journey from translating to self-publishing was a family effort. Bob was able to bring us this English version with the help of his brothers Mark and Willie, his wife Jeanne, daughter Kathryn, and son-in-law Dan Keller. 

Chapter 1: Meeting His Father in Hawai‘i (continued…)

At this point, Yoichi read the autobiography of a man named Okamoto, entitled “The Ox” and he was excited. Okamoto went to America after he graduated from high school and studied English and commerce in the area where he landed. When he graduated from the university, he entered a firm run by his American friend in New York. Gaining the confidence of the company president, Okamoto gradually rose through the ranks, and 10 years later became one of the executives of the company. This company was a large enterprise engaged in real estate, land development, housing, construction of commercial buildings, but Okamoto started his own land development company with the knowledge he acquired while working for his friend’s firm. Starting in California with a small amount of capital, he purchased undeveloped land that had not attracted much attention despite its low prices. He thought in 10 or 15 years the land would become valuable residential, industrial or commercial property. He developed these properties as residential areas, built homes and sold these housing projects at double the price that they had cost him. Okamoto increased his capital, and gradually widened his development activities until he became one of the top entrepreneurs on the West Coast. He came to be known as the “Entrepreneur King of California.”

Yoichi wrote in his diary, “Wonderful. Okamoto was a great entrepreneur. I want to become like him. I can do it, too. He is a man, so am I. Yes, I will go to Hawai‘i, where my father is, study, and become an entrepreneur like Okamoto. Hawai‘i is where sugar and pineapples are produced. Okamoto went to California and became the entrepreneur king. I will go to Hawai‘i and become the ‘Sugar King.’”

Yoichi’s father told him even children from poor families in Hawai‘i could easily work their way through college. If he went to Hawai‘i he could go to college, a dream of his since elementary school. Additionally, he could start a big enterprise like Mr. Okamoto. It would be possible to realize all his childhood dreams. Yoichi saw himself developing a large sugar plantation in Hawai‘i and driving around in his automobile supervising the operations of the plantation.

Yoichi began to think of a brilliant future for himself and decided teaching sniveling children in the backwoods of Japan for a mere ¥18 a month was ludicrous. Yoichi finally made his decision. He would go to Hawai‘i, study English, graduate from a university, enter a big firm, learn a specialized field and become a big entrepreneur. Why hadn’t he ever thought of this before, he wondered.

Yoichi had an interest in learning English and exerted special effort so by his second year he mastered sufficient English to read fourth year textbooks without difficulty. In his class he was known as “English Shimazu” because of his proficiency. After he decided to go to Hawai‘i, he increased his efforts to study English. Three times a week after his classes, he went to study English conversation at an English cram school run by an American missionary named Wilson.

In December 1915, Yoichi wrote to his father in Hawai‘i saying he would join him there. His father always wanted Yoichi to come to Hawai‘i, so he immediately replied giving his consent. When Yoichi showed his mother his father’s letter and explained the circumstances, his mother said, “What got you thinking such a thing when you are about to graduate next June to become a teacher? Don’t think money grows on trees, even in Hawai‘i. You never know whether things will go as well as you expect. On the contrary, you may run into difficulties. It is better to live as a schoolteacher, even if it’s a frugal existence, it is an honorable profession. It is also awful for the family to split up.” 

Repeating such arguments, his mother tried to dissuade Yoichi from going to Hawai‘i. Her main motivation appeared to be her sorrow at being separated from her dear and only son who would depart for distant and unknown Hawai‘i.

His mother pleaded with him to give up the idea of going to Hawai‘i. It was not that Yoichi could not understand his mother’s feelings, but he burned with hope and was powerfully drawn to Hawai‘i, so he was not moved to sympathize much with his mother.

The last letter from his father arrived around the middle of May, shortly before Yoichi’s graduation from normal school. As soon as the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu issued his passport, Yoichi could come to Hawai‘i. Yoichi’s father also sent $250 to cover travel and incidental expenses. In contrast to Yoichi’s dancing heart, his mother’s reactions were overcast with sorrow. “If you have made up your mind to go to Hawai‘i, there is no point in my trying to hold you back,” said his mother. However, she looked as if someone in the family was on the verge of dying. Even this impassioned plea from his mother could not suppress his excited feelings.

To be continued …

Edgar Genpachi “Jūkichi” Tsushima was born on April 20, 1897 in Okayama, Japan. He graduated from Okayama Normal School, a school for teachers, at age 19. In June 1916, Tsushima came to Hawai‘i as a contract sugarcane worker. To improve his English, he attended Ka‘ahumanu Elementary School in Honolulu for a year and then graduated from President William McKinley High School in 1925. He majored in English at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and graduated in 1930. Tsushima worked as a Japanese-language teacher and news reporter for Japanese-language newspapers. Because of his occupation, he was interned during World War II mostly in Santa Fe, NM. 

Tsushima became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956, at which time she took on the name Edgar. He taught adult education classes for citizenship at W.R. Farrington High School and was also a radio announcer on KOHO. He was named Hawai‘i’s Outstanding Naturalized Citizen of the Year in 1967 and was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun Medal of the 6th Class by Emperor Hirohito. In 1975, he was named Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the governor of Hawai‘i. Tsushima died on July 9, 1985, at the age of 88. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here