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 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. 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. To purchase a copy of the translated book, go to blurb.com/b/10379589-child-of-a-hawaiian-immigrant.
His father was hit by the truck’s fender and tossed into a 1-foot-by-3-foot ditch that ran along the side of the road. He tried to get up on his own, but could not do so. Yōichi jumped off the car and went down into the ditch. Placing his left arm around his father’s neck and his right arm around his waist, Yōichi cradled him. His father had a small build and was thin. It was easy to carry him out of the ditch because he was light.
“Are you all right? Where were you hit?” Yōichi asked.
“I think I was hit around the waist. The left leg around here also hurts,” he answered, as he pointed to his left ankle from above his pants.
“What happened, what happened?” People who knew him gathered, forming a dense crowd. Kuroda-san also came running.
“Oh no! Shimazu-kun, is that your father? We have to take him to the hospital right away,” Kuroda-san said as he looked around.
A middle-aged Portuguese man who had been driving the truck came and said in an apologetic tone of voice, “I was unable to turn the truck when he suddenly jumped off the car. I am sorry.”
“Hey, take him to the hospital in your truck now,” Kuroda-san said to the driver.
Yōichi and Kuroda-san grabbed Yōichi’s father’s head and legs and put him on the back of the truck. The truck was empty, so he could lie down. Yōichi thanked Kuroda-san and climbed onto the side of the cab.
“I’m so sorry. I hope he’s not hurt too bad,” said the Portuguese man, an apologetic look spread across his face. This accident was definitely Yōichi’s father’s fault. That road was one that trucks and horse-drawn carts use, so it’s up to the people who wander onto that road to watch out. Most people get off the train by the open space on the other side of the street, but Yōichi’s father was riding on the side of the train that faced the road. Maybe that was why he jumped off into that street.
The Portuguese man drove slowly down the road next to the sugar mill, and went to the hospital run by the sugar company. He told someone in the office that he had brought an injured person, and Filipino laborers wearing white pants and shirts came out carrying a stretcher. Two of them picked up Yōichi’s father, laid him on the stretcher, and carried him into the hospital. He didn’t look like he was suffering.
When Yōichi asked, “Does it hurt?” he said, “Yeah, my ankle hurts a bit, but it’s not bad.”
His father was carried by stretcher into an examining room, and Yōichi had to wait outside. After twenty minutes of browsing the English newspapers and magazines placed on the table, a Japanese doctor appeared and said, “We need to take an x-ray to see how badly the bone is damaged. He’ll probably have to stay here a while. There’s nothing for you to do here, so you can go home.”
Yōichi visited the room where his father was taken. There were six beds arranged in two rows. He sat on a chair next to his father’s bed, and talked to him for a bit.
Yōichi said, “It’s time for dinner. I’m going to eat and then I’ll come back,” and he quickly returned to camp.
That night, Yōichi stayed next to his father’s hospital bed until 9 p.m. when visiting hours were over. His father’s legs and hips didn’t appear to hurt much. He went again the next day, after returning home from work and eating dinner. The hospital was quiet at night, and since there wasn’t much light, it gave off a gloomy energy. His father’s doctor came by and asked how he was doing.
The doctor said in a matter-of-the-fact way, “According to the x-rays, your ankle is only bruised, but there’s a slight fracture in your hip, so we’ll have to put a plaster cast on it. You’ll have to stay here for another three weeks.”
After that, Yōichi came to visit his father in the hospital every night after dinner, and passed the time next to his bed until 9 p.m. when all visitors were asked to leave. Essentially, spending the evening at the hospital became part of his daily routine.
After two weeks of living in the hospital, his father began to complain that his body felt tired from lying in bed all day, and that the plaster cast on his hip was uncomfortable. Twelve days later they took his cast off, and he was allowed to get out of his bed. He could walk slowly with the help of a cane.
“The doctor says I have to stay another three weeks. What a stupid situation I got myself into. But thankfully the plantation says I don’t have to pay for the hospital or the doctor fees. If I worked somewhere else, we’d get some terrible bills. That’s the only good thing about all this,” said his father.
The author, Edgar Genpachi “Jükichi” Tsushima was born in Okayama, Japan, and graduated from Okayama Normal School, a school for teachers, at age 19 and came to Hawai’i as a contract sugarcane worker. After graduating from the University of Hawai’i at age 36, he worked as a Japanese-language teacher and news reporter for Japanese-language newspaper, Hawaii Hochi. Because of his occupation, he was interned during World War II mostly in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Tsushima died on July 9, 1985, at the age of 88.