Historical Fiction – “Picture Bride”, A Family Saga

Historical Fiction – “Picture Bride”, A Family Saga

Historical Fiction by Michael G. Malaghan

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.

Chapter 101

While waiting for her sons to cross the street, Haru noticed another Model T Ford — not as fancy as Makino’s, but brand-new. Could this possibly be theirs? She and Kenji had planned on shipping their car along with their household goods, until they learned that the price of a new Model T was only $260 — half the price of their car in Waimea, which they bought five years ago. No wonder the streets were packed with cars. Had Kenji moved so fast?

Okäsan! (Mother!) Okäsan!” Takeshi shouted. “Otösan (Father) bought a new car!” he called out, answering her question.

“Be careful, boys!” Haru yelled back as they prepared to sprint across the road. Behind her, she heard Kenji’s familiar voice. “What do you think?”

What Haru was thinking had nothing to do with cars. The sudden destination switch and Makino’s warning on the developing school war crowded her thoughts. “Very nice,” she managed.

They all climbed into the new car. Kenji drove the same route their honeymoon trolley had taken 11 years ago. But how the landscape had changed! Beach Boulevard, hugging Moana Beach from downtown to Waikïkï, was no longer a rutted dirt road. It was now a paved concrete roadway. At Atkinson, just before Waikïkï’s famed beaches, Kenji hooked a left and drove a quarter-mile up to Kapi‘olani, where horse- and mule-drawn drays and carriages still outnumbered cars. The survey pegs sticking out of the water reminded Haru that sugar baron Walter Dillingham would soon begin dredging the marshy Ala Wai River and its swampy tributaries to convert the meandering waterway into a manmade, 2-mile-long canal.

On the left of Kapi‘olani, she gazed at Mö‘ili‘ili’s waterlogged rice fields, square fishponds, grazing black-and-white Holsteins and copses of banana trees. New wood-framed homes built of Douglas fir imported from Washington state balanced on concrete blocks. Between them, a colorful variety of older edifices vied for Haru’s attention: car repair shops hedging their bets by maintaining blacksmith forges firing horseshoes; joineries fronted with bed frames and cabinets; green grocers with street displays of strawberries, bananas and pineapples resting on ice; bicycle shops; smoky tofu processing works and more. She noticed a children’s clothes shop and made a mental note to herself to buy the boys back-to-school clothes. No time for sewing this year. An enclosed piggery reminded her of something she had read: Raising pigs within Honolulu’s city limits would be banned by the end of the year.

Kenji took a left on University Avenue. “Taka, Yoshio, keep an eye out for Kuliei Street,” he called out. Moments later, the raucous roar of “Kuliei Street, Otösan!” directed Kenji to turn onto the crushed-coral road. Haru’s heart thumped as she spied the decorative top of a pyramid roof on what had to be the Hongwanji temple. Her imagined quiet entry into her new home was gloriously shattered as a crowd of people suddenly appeared.

“Okäsan, look at all those people,” Yoshio shouted into her ear. A crowd of men in black suits, women in silk kimonos and jumping children decked in white school uniforms spilled into the street to greet their new pastor. Haru instinctively waved back. Thoughts of Makino and Okumura and the coming struggle over the language schools faded.

“It appears we are welcomed,” said Kenji, now understanding why Imamura had been insistent about the time they expected to arrive at their new home.

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As a new retiree who was free to dream, Michael G. Malaghan attended a Maui Writers Conference presentation on historical novels. It left him with a deep desire to meld his interests in history and writing. After attending the premiere of historian Tom Coffman’s 2007 documentary, “The First Battle,” which detailed how Hawai‘i’s Japanese community avoided mass internment by preparing for that expected consequence three years before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Mike decided to tell the entire Japanese immigrant experience in historical novel form. His trilogy will take readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during the World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond. Mike was born in the Midwest and raised in Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida and volunteered for the Peace Corps after college. In his business life he was president of a Walt Disney licensee, marketing English language learning materials in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. Mike and his wife Tomoko, a native of Tochigi Prefecture, are worldwide travelers and adventurers. They split their time between homes in Waikiki and Winter Park, Fla., and also spend nearly a month every year visiting with Tomoko’s parents in Japan, where Mike also conducts workshops for his former company.

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