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.
“I think I see it,” said Kenji, pointing to a dot on the northwest horizon.
Haru shaded her eyes with her hand, straining to see what Kenji saw. Nothing. It wasn’t the first time she thought she might need eyeglasses. “Maybe . . . I am not sure.”
Others finger-pointing soon confirmed the appearance of the SS Lisbon Maru.
“They made it!” sighed Haru.
“Only barely,” added Kenji.
In minutes, the outline of the ship clearly marked the horizon. The beaming sun highlighted the slow-moving vessel like a theater spotlight. The coffee and food kiosk owners, who had the foresight to bring along battery-powered radios, enjoyed the lion’s share of the day’s snack business.
Suddenly, as if a host of bees had descended on the broadcasting kiosks, the hovering listeners appeared agitated. Then, just as quickly, they seemed to freeze, their faces mirroring disbelief, horror, and then pain.
“Something’s happening,” said Kenji, who began striding to the nearest kiosk.
“I hope a plane or train hasn’t crashed,” said Haru, fast-stepping in Kenji’s wake.
“No, it’s worse,” said a man at the edge of the crowded kiosk. “Coolidge signed the bill.”
A plaintive voice bellowed, “The people on the boat!”
“No, don’t worry, they are already on American soil,” argued a man like a teacher who enjoys correcting his charges.
“What soil?” bellowed out the man. “They are on a boat!” He didn’t add “stupid” to the end of his answer, but his voice implied it.
Tugboats guided the SS Lisbon Maru closer to the pier.
“This really is the last group of immigrants,” said Haru sadly, backing away from the agitated group. While the passengers were not yet on American “soil,” she thought to herself, they had passed into American territorial waters before President Coolidge had signed the bill into law.
Kenji noticed uniformed immigration officers rushing from their own coffee-drinking kiosk. A feeling of unease swept over him and only increased when he saw the official car of the Japanese Consulate drive up. Within seconds, the consul general stepped out from the back seat with a grim face. He hurried toward the immigration office and then quickly disappeared inside.
“This is not good,” whispered Haru, more to herself than to Kenji. Her anxious face joined an army of other anxious faces.
“Good morning, Takayama-san,” said the familiar voice of Bishop Imamura. Both Kenji and Haru turned around.
“Maybe not so good,” said Kenji.
“The consul called me 10 minutes before the radio announcement. Secretary Hughes informed our ambassador that a White House signing ceremony would take place within an hour of the Senate passing the bill.”
“But, surely the people on this boat . . .” said Haru. “I mean . . . they are already here in American territory.” She looked at the ship edging toward the pier in slow motion. “Someone needs to call Judge Vaughn,” she said, thinking of the federal judge with immigration powers and with his known sympathy for the Japanese.
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