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.
“Mayor” Haru, attired in a freshly laundered, blue-checkered yukata, greeted her fellow early risers as sheepish men, women and children made their way to latrines dug along the tree line in back of the Takayama compound. She kept her practiced eye alert for any discarded trash along what had been a grassy corridor but was now a worn dirt path.
She waved at the polite lines of people formed at the ofuro. Her own bath was finished an hour before sunrise. She and Kenji kept to the 10-minute usage limit, although her “citizens” insisted she should not have to sign up or stand in line. “Your time is too important,” they said. Rather than argue with their kindness, she adopted the early-rise routine.
The “We will show those greedy plantation owners how tough we are” euphoric bravado of January’s walkout had given way to the long, restless days of late February as strikers now spoke of gaman — the Japanese philosophy of bearing the unbearable without complaint. Haru’s “city” of 400 persevered in a routine of forbearance.
Women worked the water pump, allowing each family one gallon per person for drinking and washing dishes. Pans were placed outside tents to collect rainwater.
At Wellington Carter’s behind-the-scenes insistence, Waimea’s public schools went into double shifts — the morning for students who normally attended and the afternoon for plantation children who no longer had access to the public grammar schools on the plantation. Kenji taught his Japanese school curriculum before lunch. Haru used the mission school to conduct adult English classes after lunch was served to the children. Adults skipped lunch.
The Parker Ranch cowboys planted vegetable gardens. Wellington Carter allowed one cow per week to “go missing.”
Men did what idle men have done for millennia. They gambled. Haru realized she could not put human nature on hold, but she did insist on no gambling in her “city.”
Worker 2436 was the first scab to sneak off for a $2-a-day wage to break the strike. Kurume, suspecting 2436 was Bilkerton’s source for the secret strike vote, had fed the spy embellished stories of fund-raising. Bilkerton had a tougher time raising a scab workforce than the Honolulu plantations, as the smaller local communities lacked the city’s urban anonymity. The bamboo telegraph informed Tamatsuke that Bilkerton’s planting was down more than 70 percent and the arduous task of weeding was haphazard at best.
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