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.
Seven weeks after being hospitalized, his father was finally allowed to go home, so he returned to the camp. But his walking was still troubling, and he had to rely on a cane. He suddenly looked haggard. His cheekbones stuck out, and his face looked like he’d aged ten years.
When his father said, “The doctor says I better keep walking with this cane for a while. He says in two weeks when I can walk on my own again, I can go back to work,” there was no strength in his voice.
Yöichi went to work as usual, but his father spent every day just hanging around the camp. Two weeks later, it still didn’t seem that he could ever walk without a cane. There were no obvious signs of recovery.
One night after dinner, Yöichi and his father sat talking on a bench on the veranda in front of their room. His father told him, “I’ve been thinking about this for two or three days now. I wonder if this hip of mine will ever get better. Yesterday when I went to the hospital, the doctor said that being the age I am, it takes time to heal. I just have to be patient and rest. I feel like I might never be able to work again. After all, I’m already 57. So I thought, what if I go back home and open some small shop with the money I’ve saved? I could do something that makes money even if we’re a little unlucky. What do you think?”
“Hmm.” Yöichi didn’t know how to respond to his father’s sudden proposal, but he did think that might be for the best.
“And in your mother’s recent letters, she wrote twice telling me to come home because we have to start thinking about Yasu’s marriage.” Being closed up in the house every day, it seemed that he’d been thinking about a lot of things and had already made up his mind about them. While he was forced to stay in bed at the hospital day after day, he must have put together a number of plans.
His father continued talking, “I’ve sent about ¥3,000 home. It’s not enough, but I think I’ll open a pawn shop with it.”
Yöichi considered running a pawnshop an unsavory business and was against it. Wasn’t that just another form of usury? This was the third time his dad told him he wanted to open a pawn shop, but Yöichi couldn’t understand why he had this idea in his head.
“You’re still young, so it’s probably too early for you to go back. Work a bit more, and hang in there. After you have saved $600 or so in five years, you should come home,” Yöichi’s father remarked.
Yöichi couldn’t bear to watch his father working anymore. Since coming here, he had aged more than Yöichi expected, so he agreed with his father. “That’s probably for the best.”
“Well then, that’s what we’ll do. Your mother will probably be relieved that I can help her out when I get home as well.” It seemed his father had already made up his mind to return home.
Chichi no shi
Yöichi received a letter from his mother telling of his father’s return home. She wrote she was glad to find that his father’s injury was not as serious as she had imagined. She urged Yöichi to come home after completing his contract obligation. Her letter clearly showed that she had a load lifted off her shoulders with her husband’s return. Now that his father was home, she wrote that Yöichi need not to be worried about Yasuko’s wedding.
Then, soon after, she sent a short telegram informing him that his father had died.
It was a shock to him, but strangely it did not give him great sorrow. He was not moved to tears. In fact, he was somewhat relieved that his father no longer had to work so hard far away from his family. He had toiled hard until nearly 57 years of age. It seemed the love between him and his father had become dim because they had been separated for a long time. Yöichi was only in the third grade of elementary school when he left for Hawai‘i. He had already sensed that feeling when he had come to Hawai‘i and saw him as a stranger rather than his own father.
About two weeks later, a letter written by his mother and sister came, telling details of his father’s death. They told him that it had been found that his father had received injury to his chest beside the hip fracture that was diagnosed by the plantation doctor and that the chest injury had become worse and brought on his death. “I feel helpless now without my husband. I would like you to come home right away. At least you should come back two years from now. Please do so,” his mother entreated.
“The marriage between me and Koichi Mori-san, a distant relative of ours, was finally arranged by the effort of our father just before he died,” wrote Yasuko. “Too bad father died without seeing our marriage ceremony, which he had been looking forward to with happy anticipation.”
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.