Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.
Oki Tama eased onto a cushioned armchair on the porch. Haru and Kenji sat on hardback chairs next to him. Tsutsumi, who had honed his speaking technique shouting over the pounding of Hawai‘i’s surf, placed one hand on the back of Oki Tama’s chair. He waited for the crowd to settle and then lifted his two-foot-long brass megaphone.
“You are going to bed hungry . . . because you want your children to have a better life. You are sleeping on the ground . . . so that after years of toil under the grueling sun, you might buy a farm or a fishing boat or a small shop. You have suffered disease and even the death of loved ones . . . because you are determined to live in Hawai‘i, permanently. In dignity — not as slaves tied to the company store and assigned to homes without running water.”
Haru nodded her head. Tsutsumi, the outsider, had it right. She knew of only two striking families who had returned to Japan. The strike has confirmed that America is our country.
“We are a harmonious people. However, even a dog will bite its master if ill treated. The owners claim they will never recognize our union. But with your will power, recognize it they will!”
Tsutsumi paused, his eyes challenging the crowd. A smattering of voices responded, “Hai!” “Yes!”
“Even the blind can see that fields are vacant.” More “Hai!”
“Even the deaf can hear the silence of sleeping hoes and machetes.” “Hai!” half the crowd repeated.
“In a test of wills, men and women fighting for justice will outlast the money worshippers.” “Hai!” roared the crowd.
Tsutsumi stamped his feet. “The owners drink champagne in their mansions, waiting for you to give up.”
The crowd shouted, “Chigau!” (Never!)
“The lunas call us by a number even as we call their dogs by name. They think they have crushed your dignity. They are waiting for you to crawl back to the same conditions you left.”
“Chigau! Chigau! Chigau!”
Tsutsumi raised his hands, commanding silence. “They. . . do . . . not . . . know . . . your . . . character!” Tsutsumi threw his left fist in the air. “Victory belongs to the stronger will. Victory is ours!”
Shouts of “Banzai!” pierced the air.
Feeling the crowd’s enthusiasm, Haru wondered if her doubts about Tsutsumi had been misplaced. She had to admit Tsutsumi was bolstering the workers’ resolve in ways she and Kenji had not been able to do.
“You are not alone. Our businessmen, our tradesmen, even our maids are donating for your daily bread.” He stood with his feet a little wider apart.
“Our mother country is sending a message supporting you. The cruiser Yakumo is steaming into Honolulu today.”
Haru’s eyebrows rose in alarm. Turning a routine goodwill port call into Japan’s support of the strikers was just what the Advertiser has editorialized about, she worried. Now, Tsutsumi has given them proof. She saw Oki Tama turn his face sharply. He winced in pain as he focused his eyes on Tsutsumi. For a second, Haru thought he was about to jump up in protest, but his pained face resumed its stoic expression.
“We will not go back to work until our demand for a $1.25 daily wage is met.” Tsutsumi’s eyes blazed. “If we do not win, I will make the ultimate sacrifice.” He steered his hand over his stomach in the unmistakable letter L. His seppuku gesture silenced the crowd.
Tsutsumi marched off the stage.
The stunned crowd dispersed into smaller groups. Some of the younger men worked their way to the front, shouting, “Tsutsumi, chigau!” Paniolo and businessmen waved cash. Kenji got up and offered his hat.
“That fool,” hissed Oki Tama.
Haru turned to him.
“He didn’t see Pafko lurking in the back of the crowd.”
Haru’s eyes widened. “I didn’t see him, either
. . .”
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