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.
Note: Includes some mature sexual content.
Chapter 10: Temptation continued …
Since the Fourth of July was one of the biggest holidays, even in Hawai‘i, a festive mood prevailed at the sugar plantation. Adults began to get together, drinking and eating the special foods the women of the camp had prepared. In the ball field adjacent to the sugar mill, a baseball game was in progress against the team from the adjoining plantation in ‘Ewa. At the Japanese Language School, an amateur singing contest of sorts was organized, and in the evening, a new theater group from Honolulu called the Shin Shun za (New Season Group), was scheduled to put on a stage performance.
Yöichi slept late that day and finished his breakfast around eight o’clock. He was removing his slippers and putting on his shoes on the veranda, to go to the singing contest at the Japanese Language School, when a 6-year-old girl named Sei-chan from the Yamazaki household gave Yōichi a candy bowl saying, “Ojisan, Kobayashi Obasan gave me this to give to you.“
Mrs. Kobayashi used to send osushi (vinegared rice) on a plate, or amazake (sweet rice wine), or edamame (soybeans), so it was not strange to receive such a gift from her. However, because of the seductive actions of Mrs. Kobayashi at the movie theater the day before yesterday, Yöichi decided to avoid contact with her as much as possible. He therefore thought this must be a move on her part to draw him closer to her and felt this was another of her seduction. On the other hand, Yöichi could be reading too much into her motives, and it might be just a warm gesture toward a lonely bachelor. The alluring actions at the movie theater may have simply been a romantic feeling generated on a summer’s night.
“What has she given me this time?“ thought Yöichi as he opened the lid of the black lacquered box that had bamboo painted in gold sand, an exquisite box out of keeping with the bucolic setting of the plantation. The container was half filled with yakikuri (baked chestnuts) that Yöichi loved, and there was a piece of paper which looked like it was tom from a writing pad. Pulling out the paper, there was a message written in pencil in very good calligraphy.
Shimazu-san, my husband has gone to Honolulu again. I am bored so please come. I will treat you to lunch. Be sure to come. – Hisako
The message itself was simple, but by writing her name and “Shimazu-san“, the nuance given was that of a love letter.
Yöichi recalled the happy, laughing face of Mrs. Kobayashi at the moviehouse and began to think of just going to talk with her. “Abunai, abunai. It’s dangerous, dangerous. I better not approach her in the future,“ he had then thought. His resolutions yesterday of avoiding her had disappeared into thin air.
Yöichi canceled his plan to go to the singing contest with Kuroda-san. Going around the southern end of the camp, he went to the rear of Kobayashi-san’s cottage by a narrow road between hedges of blooming hibiscus. At the laundry place immediately below the shallow steps of the back entrance Mrs. Kobayashi was squatting in front of a round wash tub and with a thin strap tying up her kimono sleeves. She was busily doing her washing. As Yoichi was wearing slippers, she did not seem to have heard Yöichi’s coming at 20 feet.
The thick thighs bared by her widely bended knees and the red undergarment struck Yöichi’s eyes seductively. Yöichi’s chest beat dangerously.
“Oh, Shimazu-san. I wasn’t aware that you had arrived. Please come up from the front.“ She stopped her vigorous rubbing the white shirt, wiped both hands clean of soap suds, and stood up. Healthy legs burst out of the cotton yukata tied with a thin obi.
“It was good of you to come,“ and dropping her voice added, “I wrote that note, but I had second thoughts about it,“ she said, but she smiled with joy.
Yöichi went around to the front of the house and onto the wide veranda and sat in a rocking chair there. There was a high fence with hibiscus flowers in front of the house that conveniently cut off the view from the cottage of Yamazaki-san and the camp cookhouse next to it. After a while Mrs. Kobayashi had changed into a thin silk kimono, tied with a thin obi with a red flower design. She had put her hair up and she came out with light makeup on. She sat down in the seat next to Yöichi and was overflowing with smiles.
The thought began to creep into Yöichi’s mind that if he was seen chatting intimately with Mrs. Kobayashi in the absence of her husband, they would become the gossip of the camp. Yöichi recalled that on a Sunday morning two or three weeks ago, Kobayashi-san and his wife had a rather severe fight and Kobayashi-san’s shouting voice could be heard at the dining room of the cookhouse.
Yamazaki-san’s wife said, “There goes Kobayashi-san’s jealous rage again.“
Shinozaki-san who was close by had replied, “The wife is to blame too. She is overly familiar with young men. There are rumors in the camp that she was having intimate relations with Kakuzaki-san.“
“Shimazu-san, you seem nervous. Take it easy. My husband has a jealous nature and sometimes raises hell. But he says you are a good and honest young man and trusts you as such.“ She appeared to have read Yöichi’s mind. Yöichi kept his silence and took a cigarette from his pocket and lit it.
“Oh, I had forgotten to thank you. Those chestnuts were very tasty,“ Yöichi said stiffly to cover up his embarrassment.
“Do you like chestnuts?“ “Yes, I love chestnuts.“
“Shimazu-san, tell me about Okayama. I gather you are from Niwase. I was born in Miyauchi which is about 1 ri (2.4 miles) from your place. So we are practically neighbors.“
She was merrier by the minute. She appeared to have no dark shadows around her. She pushed her face close to Yöichi’s and enjoyed doing so. The scent emanating from her hair seemed to paralyze his mind, and the hot breath from her mouth enveloped his body.
“Shimazu-san, you seem to be faint-hearted with women,“ she said, pressing her body towards Yöichi. There was a sarcastic smile in her eyes as she said that. She probably had in mind what happened at the theater the night before last and his refusal to go to her house…
“Do I appear so?“ Yöichi said, because it would be awkward if he kept silent.
“Or does it mean that you are a man with strict morals?“ she said smiling even more flirtatiously. As she continued talking, she seemed to have a way that pleased men. She was a born coquette.
“Speaking frankly, I like you Shimazu-san.“ As she said this, passion welled up in her. Yöichi, too, was enveloped by her seductive words and he lost his long cherished sense of morality.
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.