Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Taka took his usual seat at the hushed dinner table. Everyone, except Haru, studied his or her empty dinner plate as if some hidden script could be read of the design bordering the edges. Haru looked into Taka’s eyes, willing him to follow up on their beach conversation.
“Otösan, the preservation of our Japanese culture is more important than a baseball game. I apologize for losing my temper this morning. I will accept any punishment you give me without complaint.”
The children’s furtive eyes peeked at their father, as did Haru’s. Kenji’s stoic face hid the hurt he felt as he accepted his son’s apology. As the family began scooping rice out of the bowl in the middle of the table, Kenji feared this was not the end of his son’s rebellion. At his core, he believed that Taka’s assertiveness was the downside of America culture. Kenji’s self-assurance in the righteous cause of the language schools made it almost impossible for him to see his son’s point of view, to understand his frustration. Kenji had not played sports in school. The idea that somehow this game of baseball could be important was foreign to him.
That night, as Haru pulled back the sheet to get into bed, she asked, “Now that Taka has apologized, isn’t there some way he could be excused from some of the classes for a few months?”
Kenji tightened his grip around the book he was reading — “Babbitt,” the Sinclair Lewis book that Bishop Imamura had insisted he read to “get an insight into America.” Kenji avoided Haru’s eyes.
“Our son has done the right thing. I have accepted his unconditional apology. He promised to attend the classes without objection.”
“He did, and he meant it,” said Haru. “But who sponsors a mission team that gives the highly talented an opportunity to show how good they are and then denies them a chance to move to the next level?”
Kenji’s face hardened. “Maybe another time. But our schools are under attack. Taka is my son. We have joined with Makino to press the district court to overrule the territorial Legislature. How could I let my own son skip school? What example would that set?”
“Wakarimashita . . . I understand,” said Haru. The discussion was closed.
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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.