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.
Chapter 10: Temptation
Sometime early in May, Yōichi succumbed to an epidemic of influenza on the sugar plantation. On the first day his fever ran high and Yōichi could not eat anything. But thanks to the medicine to lower temperature that the Yamazaki Obasan gave him, his temperature dropped a little and he was able to eat the okai (rice gruel) and miso soup made especially for him.
Around 9:00 on the third day since he took to his bed, there was a knock on the door.
“Excuse me,” a woman’s voice said. It was not Yamazaki Obasan. It was a younger woman’s voice. Wondering who it might be, “Who is it?” asked Yōichi while he remained in his bed and raised his head slightly.
“Excuse me. Were you up?” the woman replied and opened the screened front door, took off her slippers and walked into the living room toward the bedroom. It was Mrs. Yaichi Kobayashi, the wife of the kachi ken luna who lived in one of the cottages for married couples behind the kitchen of the Yamazaki cookhouse.
Yōichi had few visitors so thought it strange that someone unexpectedly called on him. Since Kobayashi-san and his wife lived only a house or two away, they did exchange greetings whenever they met. But they were not so known to him as to be considered close friends. Kobayashi-san was also from Okayama ken. When Yōichi first arrived in Honolulu, he went with his father to Kobayashi-san’s cottage and passed some time talking there. But he had never been to visit the Kobayashis’ cottage since then. The only places Yōichi visited were the cookhouse, Yamazaki-san’s cottage and that of Makino-san, who was a great friend of his father, and took care of Yōichi, teaching him about his work as a hapai ko.
Therefore, Yōichi could not understand why Mrs. Kobayashi came to his house. Mrs. Kobayashi had not turned 30 yet and possessed a fully developed body and a sensuous face. She wore a yukata of bright design favored by the young women of the plantation, tied with a thin, narrow, blue-green obi. Her hair was tied casually and was black and plentiful.
“Shimazu-san, I thought you may need some help after you became sick and since you were by yourself. I do not know whether it will be to your taste but I’ve brought you some tamagoyaki (rolled omelet). Please try it.”
The author, Edgar Genpachi “Jūkichi” 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.