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.
As Haru strolled down Fort Street with Kenta, sleeping, secured to her back, she thought of herself as Alice in Wonderland finding herself in a strange world after falling down a rabbit hole. She marveled at the many cars on the street. It was not just the cars jostling with the trams that made her feel so out of place, but also the men wearing suits, ties and hats of all descriptions who strode purposefully into banks and office buildings made from granite. Not just haoles, but Asian men. Japanese men, too. These were not the cowboys and tradesmen of the Big Island. Japanese ladies wearing more colorful kimono and yukata (summer kimono) hustled in and out of crowded shops. After several people passed her impatiently, nearly bumping her, she changed her pace from a stroll to a walk to keep up with Honolulu’s faster-moving pedestrians.
She turned right at Beretania, wondering how Kenta managed to sleep through all the honking and shouting. The chugs and rumbles of the nearby Honolulu Iron Works filled the air with pride. She knew that the massive factory manufactured sugar refinery equipment for the Caribbean and the Philippines, as well as for local plantations.
Haru replayed Bishop Imamura’s stunning words upon entering his office an hour earlier. “It had been my intention for you to help me at our Fort Street Hongwanji until we needed a head priest at one of the O‘ahu missions,” he had said to Kenji and Haru. “A sudden illness has created exactly that situation. As you know, Takayama-san, the Mö‘ili‘ili mission serves both our University of Hawai‘i students in nearby Mänoa as well as the growing Japanese population in Mö‘ili‘ili’s farming community.”
But that wasn’t the bishop’s only request. Haru recalled how his eyes had focused on her. “If you have the time, you might visit Fred Makino at his pharmacy.”
Haru looked back at him uncertainly. “The same Fred Makino who publishes the Hawaii Hochi?”
“The very one,” smiled Imamura. “The man who led the strike and now defends our schools.”
“I think a Hochi human interest story on the ‘mayor’ of the Waimea strike camp will provide a wonderful introduction to your new parishioners.”
Haru ignored the compliment, puzzled by what Imamura had said about Makino having been the leader of the strike. “But wasn’t Tsutsumi the strike leader?” she asked.
The bishop’s face hardened. “Tsutsumi is a gangster. He was the worst voice we could imagine. In a day or two, he will be arrested for conspiracy for dynamiting the Sakamaki house,” Imamura said, referring to the explosion designed to intimidate cane workers who refused to strike. “When that happened, Makino broke ranks with him.”
Haru remembered the incident and had questioned the newspaper’s claim of Tsutsumi’s involvement. “Of course, plantation owners accuse me,” Tsutsumi had said. “I am leading the strike.” She had been skeptical of Tsutsumi’s denials, but given the diabolical charges each side had slung at each other, she had not pressed the issue.
Imamura’s forceful voice continued. “Without Makino’s fundraising and newspaper support, the strike would have folded much earlier.” Switching to a softer voice, he concluded, “He’s at his pharmacy now. We can keep an eye on your boys.”
Haru looked at Kenji. “You go along,” he said. “I have more business to go over with the bishop.”
Imamura opened a side drawer in his desk and pulled out a hand-drawn map. “I have indicated Makino’s business here,” he said, pointing to a red dot on the map. “It’s not far, about a 15-minute walk.”
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