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.
CONTENT WARNING: The story below contains sexual content.
Chapter 10: Temptation continued…
Mrs. Kobayashi spoke beautiful Japanese for a camp woman.
“Thank you very much for your kindness,” Yōichi said in gratitude. For Yōichi, who had no family in Hawai‘i, even a small kindness such as this, struck home very strongly.
The woman continued talking from the doorway to his bedroom. Since the living room was shabby and not clean, Yōichi was not happy that she had helped herself in.
The woman stretched her arm and body and pushed the tray with a lid on it towards Yōichi’s bedside.
“I’ll be going then. Take care of yourself,” she said as she departed. Yōichi saw that her figure threatened to burst out of her bathrobe.
The next day his fever was completely gone and his body had returned to normal. That day was a Saturday, so if he also rested the following day, he thought he could go to work starting Monday.
On Sunday, after a breakfast of coffee, bread and fried eggs at the cookhouse dining room, Yōichi stepped out and saw the blue sky above the Wai‘anae Range shining under the morning sun. Yōichi stretched both his arms high in the sky and felt the joy of living. “I’ll get my energy back and work hard again,” Yōichi shouted to himself.
He saw some laundry drying on bamboo poles behind Kobayashi-san’s house in the distance. He recalled that he had not thanked Mrs. Kobayashi yet. Returning quickly to his room, and taking the container and tray in which she had brought him the tamagoyaki, he headed towards Kobayashi-san’s cottage.
“Oh, Shimazu-san, are you all right so soon? This flu is a bad one, so please take care,” the woman said and pushed a rocking chair toward him. Yōichi thanked her for the previous day’s kindness and returned her the tray.
Mrs. Kobayashi sat down with her legs crosswise on the cushion laid out on the veranda mat.
“Shimazu-san, you must be lonely living alone. Please come visit us sometime. You seem to go quite frequently to the Makinos. We are also from the same prefecture as you.” She spoke in a very intimate manner she had not used before. The woman said that Kobayashi-san had gone on the first train to Honolulu on business. Yōichi felt some attraction towards Mrs. Kobayashi, who was known for her good looks. For a woman on the plantation she was always flashily dressed. This morning, too, she had applied makeup, since her face shone with it. Kobayashi-san earned good money as a luna. He lived in a cottage and he did not send his wife to work. Therefore, her skin was not roughened like those of the women laborers. Since she had been in Hawai‘i only a little over a year, her cheeks were still white, cherry pink and beautiful.
“Really, Shimazu-san, you must come to visit us sometime. As you see we have no children, and Kobayashi and I are often bored. We will host you next Saturday, so please come. We will serve you in a grand manner. Since you are always eating the same food at the cookhouse, a change would be good. I think my husband would like to hear about his hometown too.” Kobayashi-san was from Natsukawa, adjacent to Niwase, Yōichi’s birthplace. She was going out of her way to attract Yōichi’s interest. Yōichi realized that the woman had a gentle disposition, was quite frank and cheerful. Seeing her up close, he felt he had found a fountain in the dark forest of his loneliness.
But hearing that Kobayashi-san had gone to Honolulu, Yōichi was reminded that he wanted to see Motoyama-san, whom he had not seen in a while. Motoyama-san wrote in his letter last week that he became a teacher at a Japanese Language School and had given his new address, so Yōichi decided to go see him.
“Please excuse me. I am thinking of going to Honolulu today,” said Yōichi against his will. He declined her offer of a drink of water and left Kobayashi-san’s cottage.
To go to Honolulu, Yōichi put on the white shirt and tie that he never wore on the plantation, and the best suit he owned. He was brushing his shoes when he recalled meeting the only friend on the plantation around his own age, Kuroda-san, who had worked in the same group two or three days ago. Kuroda-san had asked if he went to Honolulu, he wanted Yōichi to do some shopping for him. So he stopped at Kuroda-san’s camp which was on his way to the station. Kuroda-san was still a bachelor like Yōichi. He would say that he was already 27, but in these times, young men of marriageable age had no way to get married except by picture marriage and having the picture brides come from Japan. There were very few second-generation Japanese girls born in Hawai‘i who were of marriageable age.
Therefore, there were a great number of young and middle-aged bachelors in Hawai‘i, especially on the sugarcane plantations. How were these young bachelors coping with their sexual needs? If they went to Honolulu, there was a district known as Iwilei where prostitutes could be had, but it cost money the young men on the plantations could not afford. On the plantations there were no prostitutes. Even Yōichi, who was comparatively indifferent when it came to sexual desires, felt sexually aroused when he saw someone as voluptuous as Mrs. Kobayashi.
According to rumors circulating on the plantation, relations between men and women were quite lax and adulterous affairs with women were widespread. This must be a natural phenomenon created by these circumstances. Since there were few social and moral constraints in Hawai‘i compared to Japan, affairs between men and women seemed to be quite rampant.
Yōichi frequently heard people gossiping that so-and-so was having an affair with so-and-so’s wife. T’s wife was in her third marriage and the children were all from different husbands, so the rumors went.
Turning these things over in his mind, Yōichi came to Kuroda-san’s camp and stood before Kuroda-san’s room on the far right. He was preparing to open the door and enter when he heard a woman’s voice. He hesitated and withdrew his hand from the door knob.
Although faint, he could hear a woman’s voice, and Kuroda-san replying.
“Do you really love me?” she asked. “Of course, you must know that.”
“If you really love me, I will separate from my husband. Will you then run away with me to a different island?”
Kuroda-san apparently said something, but the words faded away.
Inadvertently, Yōichi saw the bed through the crack in the door opening. Kuroda-san had the girl’s face pressed between his hands and he planted a kiss on her upturned face.
“I love you! I love you!” Kuroda-san in a voice filled with passion. He roughly exposed the girl’s breast and sucked at her plump breast.
Yōichi, unable to look on such a passionate love affair, rapidly descended the veranda steps in front of Kuroda-san’s room and hurried to the station.
Yōichi, wishing to send as much money home as he could, did not spend his money wastefully. There were some bachelor laborers who went downtown once or twice a week to visit beer halls or bars. Yōichi did not like to drink much, so he made up his mind not to have a drop. On Saturdays he went to the movies. The admission cost was a comparatively inexpensive 15 cents. This was Yōichi’s only extravagance and pleasure.
On the Saturday following his visit to Motoyama-san, he went to the Japanese theater, Asahi Gekijo, to see the film based on Tokutomi Roka’s book called “Hototogisu” (The Cuckoo). Unlike the Honolulu theaters, it was a roughly built wooden structure. The entrance was gaudily lit by a string of electric bulbs, but the inside was just a plain wall of totan (corrugated iron). Instead of individual seats, there were rows of backless benches.
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.