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 103

Nov. 22, 1922

Except for the wind whispering through the shutters, the rustling of a turning newspaper page and the clinking of a porcelain cup set on a saucer, the after-breakfast ritual silence enveloped the Takayama’s dining room. Earlier in the morning, four daily newspapers had been tossed onto the front porch. Haru and Kenji sat reading the papers, one by one. The three older boys had traipsed off to school. Four-year-old Kenta was “helping” Sachi push the stroller with Haru’s long-awaited daughters, Hiromi, born in the spring of 1921, and Sachiko, born just four months ago, in July. After a visit to the park, Sachi and Kenta would stop at the Chinese grocery store for today’s vegetables and fish.

Quiet time. Haru couldn’t tell you when this morning tradition began, but she knew that Sachi had made it possible. Settling down in Mö‘ili‘ili had not been easy for Haru. The community was so different, so new, its bustling activity so unlike Waimea. It took several months before Haru’s patience and the community’s kindness bolstered Sachi’s confidence to a point where she enjoyed the morning stroll with Kenta and shopping by herself.

But today’s headline in the Star-Bulletin soured the plumeria-scented calm of the morning: “Supreme Court Ruling — Ozawa Not a Citizen.”

Haru shook her head as she read the first sentence of Pafko’s front-page celebration.

“Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, ‘Caucasians are white and Japanese are members of an inassimilable race.’ That’s all you need to know,” gloated the reporter. Not satisfied with reviewing Ozawa’s challenge and the court’s ruling, he speculated on the “false citizenship” of U.S. Army veterans of Japanese ancestry sworn in by Judge Vaughn. No doubt, Pafko predicted, “The Supreme Court will get around to invalidating these ‘mistakes.’” He reminded his readers that the territory of Hawai‘i has never recognized the “Vaughn Citizens.” “The court has ruled — once a Jap, always a Jap.”

Pafko didn’t stop there. He stepped up the tempo of his column by trumpeting the new legislation passed earlier in the month “to put some teeth in shutting down these anti-American schools.” He wrote on. “Patriot Joshua Bilkerton pushed through the bill forbidding Japanese children to attend language schools until the fourth grade, limiting school hours and requiring their teachers to pass English language proficiency tests.” But he then went on to bemoan the lack of progress in implementing those regulations. The Department of Education had claimed it needed time to prepare a brief for Makino’s threat to challenge the law in court, which never happened. Wrote Pafko: “Why should Makino press forward when government officials acted as if he already had won his case?”

Pafko paid lukewarm homage to the companion Foreign Language Press Control Bill passed in the same session. “While as a journalist I respect the Fourth Amendment on press freedom, the legislation requiring Japanese newspapers to translate articles dealing with politics, labor issues and laws into English and to submit such articles for a censor’s approval prior to publication is temporarily necessary to maintain order in our society.”

Pafko closed with his usual reference to the “good Christian Japanese” led by the Rev. Okumura.

The reference to Okumura rankled Haru. He had split the Japanese community, even if it were an 80-20 split in favor of the Buddhists. She recalled her first meeting with Okumura. Despite his cold reception, she had encouraged the down-in-the-mouth Yoshi to register for Okumura’s carpentry class. He did. Then the furor began as Okumura had smugly predicted. After Yoshi attended his first class, the Moiliili Hongwanji lay committee scheduled a special meeting to ostracize Yoshi and his family from the Hongwanji unless he quit his class. While Kenji was able to get his lay committee to back off, Yoshi got the message, withdrew his registration and delivered an apology at the next Sunday services.

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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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