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 began 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.
Haru introduced her friends from Judith’s class and explained that the screaming lady with pinkeye was Kame.
Kenji recognized Mayo’s husband, John Fujimoto, a union troublemaker who had interfered with Bishop Imamura’s quiet negotiations with the sugar cane barons. He hoped this new wife would settle him down. Fifteen years earlier, he had married a Portuguese woman who had given him three sons. His wife and two of their sons had died from the bubonic plague infestation that had spread through Honolulu’s Chinatown in 1899. The surviving boy was one of the first children Bishop Imamura had taken into his orphanage.
Fujimoto bowed and in a perfunctory voice said, “Good morning, Reverend.”
Kenji returned the bow and looked over at Mayo. “Congratulations.”
“Arigato,” thanked Fujimoto with a look of subdued anger in his eyes. “You know that despite our best efforts, we still lost the strike. Now that I have a wife . . .” He cast a quick look at Mayo. “I will save my money to buy a small piece of land and grow vegetables. I almost had enough money to do so before the strike.”
Ume and her husband drifted over.
After the formal greetings, Ume gushed, “Irie-san has leased land in Kona to grow coffee.”
Measles scars dotted Irie’s broad, flat face, but his eyes were intelligent and full of purpose.
Haru’s eyes roved, searching for Saki. Her eyes stopped. Along the far wall, Saki was bobbing her head and waving a picture in front of her husband’s face. Haru guessed that the picture and face did not match. The groom’s attire was shabby, certainly not the look of the man who had bragged, “I am a landscape artist for rich people.”
Haru turned back to Kenji. She pointed out Saki and speculated on the situation.
“I suspect you are right. I’ve seen this before,” said Kenji. He started to walk over to the couple. Haru followed.
With tears in her eyes, Saki thrust a picture in Kenji’s face. “Look at this picture, and look at him.” The picture showed a young, handsome man, standing on the beach with dramatic Diamond Head in the background.
Having learned not to mince words in these picture-swapping dramas, Kenji gave the distressed wife the only option available to her. “After the group wedding ceremony, you will come with me and I will make the arrangements for you to return to Japan.”
“Back to Japan?!” Saki’s voice trembled. “My father would never take me back.”
Saki’s intended husband looked up, his eyes flickering with hope. “I am sorry. I was so desperate for a wife that I sent you picture of my brother. But . . . I will take care of you.”
The room was empty now except for the people involved in this sad drama and the bulbous-nosed immigration officer, waiting at the exit.
Haru took her shipmate’s hand. “What do you want to do, Saki?”
“What choice do I have?” She dropped the picture on the floor and looked at her husband. “Let’s go.” She did not bother to brush away her tears.
An hour later, the twice-married couples paraded from their pier-side wedding ceremony to rickshaws taking some lucky brides to honeymoon hotels. The not-so-lucky ones boarded trains or ships to their plantations.
Bishop Imamura waved at Kenji walking along with the newlyweds. After catching up with the couple, the bishop placed yet another lei around Haru’s neck.
“Welcome, Haru-san.” He beamed at the couple. “Congratulations on your American marriage.”
Unconsciously, Imamura’s gaze traveled over Kenji’s shoulder. He didn’t like what he saw.
To be continued . . .