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.
Part VII – The Trials
December 6, 1931
Hawai‘i’s cool season blew in from the North Pacific, moving the Japan-Hawai‘i shipping lanes from the shorter northern route to the calmer southern waters. Blustery trade winds twisted palm tree leaves at Ala Moana Beach and snapped off coconuts padded inside with chewy pulp harboring a quart of sweet water. North Shore surfers rejoiced as the height of the waves rose. Beach sunshine and afternoon mountain showers combined to arch rainbows from the slopes of Punchbowl into Honolulu. Christmas tree lights decorated downtown.
On this Sunday afternoon, nervous citizens brought their children to the nativity scene across from Honolulu’s courthouse. As in years past on this racially diverse island, no one seemed to notice the contrast of the swarthy complexion of the Magi kings and shepherds with the milky-white skin of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus.
The adults weren’t here for the nativity scene. Their eyes were locked on the imposing Doric-columned structure promising justice and threatening its miscarriage. When would the jury bring a verdict? It had been five days since closing arguments in Hawai‘i’s famous Thalia Massie trial in which five locals — two Japanese and three Hawaiian boys — were accused of raping a white naval officer’s wife. Rumors abounded that the Sunday session meant a verdict was close. The waiting white minority freely mingled with the Hawaiians and Asians. The preschool children of all races giggled and played happily together, oblivious to the drama surrounding them. Their wary older siblings and parents each hoped for a verdict that was just — meaning one that validated their own conclusions weeks ago.
Reporters were weary of staking out the courthouse. They had run out of angles predicting the outcome and demonizing or defending the accused. Minor traffic incidents between those of different races were handled either with exaggerated politeness or quick tempers. Work slowed as employees and employers hashed — and rehashed — the points of the case, for and against. Rumors floated that the jury could not reach a verdict, that fights among jurors had broken out, and that the jury had repeatedly asked the judge for legal clarifications and copies of testimony.
“Look!” a voice bellowed. The nativity scene gawkers followed the direction of the man’s hand, pointing to a haole in a Panama hat, suit and tie running up the steps of the courthouse. Police, who had been milling around the courthouse nonchalantly, grew more alert. Two squad cars arrived, each carrying five additional police officers.
A car radio bellowed from a midnight-blue Cadillac parked at the curb, its passenger door left ajar. A crowd coalesced as the word “verdict” punched the air, followed by phrases such as, “The judge has ordered the defendants to court,” and “Police are ringing the courthouse.”
To read the rest of this article, please subscribe to The Herald!
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Georgia and Japan.