By Genpachi “Jūkichi” 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 Yōichi 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. To purchase a copy of the translated book, go to blurb.com/b/10379589-child-of-a-hawaiian-immigrant.

Chapter 4: Working in a Store

On a Sunday when the shop was closed, Yoichi went to visit Waipahu Plantation where his father worked. Although three months had passed since his arrival in Hawai‘i, Yoichi had never been out of Honolulu, so it was a chance for him to go to the countryside. He thought it would be a change of atmosphere for him. There were no buses running on schedule and there were no taxis in those days. The usual mode of transportation to go to the country (the Japanese used to call all areas “country” outside of Honolulu) was the train. It was the first time for Yoichi to ride on a train in Hawai‘i.

The train in Hawai‘i was a crude version compared to trains in Japan. The gauge was narrower, the engine and passenger cars were smaller and made in an inelegant fashion. It was even poorer looking than the light rail trains that ran in the countryside of Yoichi’s hometown. Other differences were the locomotives burned diesel oil, not coal, as in Japan, and instead of using a whistle when it came to a stop or a crossing, a bell rang with a deep-sounding clang.

The train was slow moving and it was like riding on a horse-drawn carriage. After leaving the depot in downtown Honolulu and passing a large pineapple factory, the train ran through the countryside. On the left side was the beautiful blue-green ocean and on the right were the seemingly endless sugarcane fields. From time to time, Yoichi saw laborers who looked Japanese, using longhandled scythes. They were cutting grass on the paths through the sugarcane that were taller than human beings. There were a few houses scattered on both sides of the tracks. A horse carrying a heavy load on its back was moving along a road.

After passing two small stations, the train stopped at what appeared to be a terminal. This was Waipahu. It was a rustic looking station with a ticket booth and nearby was a concrete building that appeared to be a warehouse. Yoichi bought a bottle of soda water at a small shop by the station run by a Japanese woman. He asked the woman for directions to Camp No. 5 at Waipahu Plantation and showed her his father’s address.

From the station, there was a bumpy road. Beyond that he saw the big, tall smokestack of the sugar mill, spewing out gray smoke. Yoichi walked about 200 yards from the station, the road rising as he approached the sugar mill. Houses covered with red dust appeared on both sides of the road. Since most of the residents at the plantation were probably Japanese, many of the shops were managed by Japanese and had signs such as “Ota Shoten” (Ota Store) or “Takahashi Store” hung outside. There were some grimy-looking restaurants, some beer halls, and a pool room. He turned at a movie house with gaudy posters pasted all over it, and as he climbed a short hill, Yoichi saw on the left side, the sugar mill, an immense, concrete structure almost oppressively large. Extremely loud noises of moving machinery were coming from it.

After passing the sugar mill, Yoichi continued to the right along the dusty road, as he was instructed by the lady at the store. On both sides of the road, broad sugarcane fields stretched endlessly. Yoichi was disturbed because his new shoes were getting dirty from the red dust. He noticed the dust of Hawai‘i came from volcanic rock and unlike beautiful brown Japanese dust; it was a distasteful red color. This red dust gave Yoichi a negative impression when he came to Hawai‘i.

To be continued …

Edgar Gepachi “Jükichi” 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 Mänoa 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, N.M.

Tsushima became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956, at which time he 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. 

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