Barabara Kawakami – PictureBrides
Int by Robynn Takayama
Life for women in Japan who chose to become picture brides
:16 The majority of the women who I interviewed had come as picture brides. Because of my clothing research, I got in contact, unknowingly I started interviewing these women who came as picture brides. A majority of them had come from farming area, agriculture, you know background. And so I think the reason many of them came of course was the bachelors were here as contract laborers. Many times when they wrote home and they feel they are ready to start settle down and they would write their relatives or friends to find them something, someone who would make a good wife, a hardworking woman who would work along side the husband. And so that’s how I think the matchmaking thing started.
1:12 Majority of the women I interviewed came from farming villages, but there was some who came from, especially this one woman, Ms. Saito. She was unusual. She had graduated high school. She was the valedictorian of her class. And she was already preparing to go to medical school. Her uncle graduated from Kyushu medical school and he was practicing in Osaka, Japan. And so he was going to follow her uncle’s footsteps. So everything was arranged when this man from HI went to Fukushima and actually, he was through a picture bride exchange. He was suppose to marry another woman, but when he saw the woman, he was turned off because he said she’s too skinny and too frail looking to work in the pineapple fields! And that’s the reason why he turned her down and Ms. Saito’s mother heard about the story and she thought rather than have her daughter go to medical school and face an uncertain future (you know for woman in those days, that was about 1914) and so she felt that this man, who was a successful entrepreneur, he invested in pineapple land. And he became very wealthy and returned to Japan. So her mother, without telling her daughter, arranged everything through the matchmaker for her to marry this man.
And so hers was an unusual situation. She was a picture bride situation and she considers herself a picture bride, too. But she came in a very unusual way. When she got married, her mother sent her to an aunt who had a baby at that time. So during that time, she planned everything (the party and everything) was all planned when she returned from her aunt’s home. So it was forced on her and so she didn’t even take her wedding picture. She was so upset. She had a beautiful monsuki (formal bridal kimono) but she told me she didn’t even take a wedding picture.
But then her story about coming to HI on the ship (because her husband was wealthy), they had a state room, coming to HI. But they didn’t know how to use knife and fork. So instead of going into the dining room to eat their meals, they ate in the state room because…that was the funny part. And she was the only bride that had the traditional monsuki, the traditional bridal kimono, when she disembarked here in the port of Honolulu. The other brides envied her because they had a homemade, hand-woven kimonos that they wore for the trip.
So other than that, there was another unusual one that I gave at a talk story. Ms. Toki’s was unusual. Her husband to be was already on Kauai. He was born in Japan and his mother died and the father came to Kauai to work on the Lihuie plantation. And of course the Komiso loved, he always admired HIan women. They were so beautiful. And so he kinda had crushes on HIan women and in those days interracial marriage was really unheard of. Kamiso’s father decided, he wrote to his uncle in J to send a bride for his son because he was afraid that he was going to marry a HIan girl.
And so before then, Komiso was good looking, but he was on the lazy side. He wasn’t a typical serious man. He was a happy go lucky person and one of the HIan girlfriend’s father told him one day that if “he climbs the highest coconut tree and see as far as you can, I’ll give you all the land that you can see. As far as you can see if you marry my daughter.” At that time, he didn’t take it seriously. After that, his father really started considering that he should arrange a marriage for the son. And that’s how Tagatoki and Komiso, the photos, when he wrote the uncle, the uncle got the women’s picture. They started exchanging photos and letters.
And so when I had interviewed them, he was 92 and Ms. Toki was 88 and I asked for her reaction when Komiso’s picture arrived at your home in Japan, how did you feel. And she said, “I was only” She was 16 years old at that time. She said she was too shy to look at the photo. The family made such a big fuss. And so she retreated to the bedroom and pretended to sleep and then that night, somebody left the future bridegroom’s picture right next to her pillow. So when nobody was around, she took a good look at it! And she thought, “My, he’s so handsome.” And not bald headed like he is now. And so she was satisfied
And on the other hand, I asked Komiso how did you feel when you received HER picture? And he said, “Well, she’s average,” but he thought, “My father wanted me to get married.” He had a step mother by then. “So my parents want me to get married.” So he just accepted it.
And then of course, when she arrived in HI, after all that exchange of photos and letter writing between the go-between, when she arrived in HI, the morning his father said, “Komiso, go pick up your bride.” And that’s in Lihui, Kauai. He took the kinau, which took five hours to come to Honolulu. And no planes in those days. So his wife was already here. And all the brides were behind the curtain. They were hidden behind the curtain. They had to take a quick physical exam and competence test to test the literacy. After the exams were done, they were waiting for the bridegrooms to claim them. And Mr. Toki’s story is funny because he was all dressed up with a suit that someone had given him and a brand new shirt and a tie he had bought from the Chinese store on King street. So he felt well-dressed, but he didn’t’ have shoes, so someone gave him an old pair of shoes which were so oversized. So walking to the pier it made such a big sound! He said he was so embarrassed. While waiting at the pier, all the other grooms were waiting for their brides. He said what’s funny is they were all worried and filled with anxiety. They didn’t know what kind of woman they were going to have. Komiso thought what shall I do if she’s real ugly. But he said too late to change his mind, so he has to just make the best of it. Finally one lady came out and whispered in Komiso’s ear, “If you want to find your wife, look for the biggest tabi underneath the curtain.” And he did and he could tell that one pair of feet were extra large, the tabi. So when he lifted the curtain, sure enough, there was his wife. She had extra big feet! And so that was the introduction to his wife.
10:08 Talk about a typical story about why a woman became a picture bride. Did women have other options?
10:44 Ms. Tozawai told me…I think hers is typical, too, because she was in Fukushima and she said actually, the reason she came to HI was she didn’t want to…there were a lot of offers of marriage. Somebody tried to get her married off to people there, but she didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife. She didn’t want to work in the paddy fields—get all dirty and muddy—and so when this story of someone in HI of someone looking for a bride, she really took upon it because she was adventurous. She didn’t even worry what kind of a person he was. Just so she could find an excuse not to marry someone in the village because she didn’t want to end up her life doing farming.
So many people, and some women also told me that they didn’t want to be bothered with domineering mother-in-laws. So that was another reason.
And majority, the reason I think these people came as picture brides, someone here who were related. Unless you had some relatives or some men from the village, who were already here looking for a bride. There has to be some kind of connection. Like Ms. Kikugawa, the lady with the picture hat, hers was unusual. There’s all different circumstances that they got involved with being a pb.
She had no intention of being a pb but her husband to be at that time was suppose to marry another woman from the neighborhood. And she had already was committed. She had already sent her picture in a formal kimono to her husband to be in HI. Day before she was supposed to leave to Yokohama, she eloped with her boyfriend! She already had a boyfriend. And of course the men here didn’t know about that.
And so six months later, that man divorced her and she came back to the village and that’s when Ms. Kikugawa heard the aunt and this man’s father discussing the woman. That she wanted to come to HI to marry the man she was suppose to be married in the first place. But this Ayako is her name. The woman who got married to Mr. Kikugawa. When she heard that, she was so upset and angry with the woman. She thought she’s no good because she eloped with her boyfriend and now when it didn’t work out, she wanted to come to HI as his wife. So she volunteered to come to HI and bring the husband, Mr. Kikugawa back to Kumamoto with her. But then the tables turned. The parents thought, her aunt and her father are cousins. So they thought if Ayako is willing to go to HI, they arranged it so that she’d end up marrying him and she didn’t know it.
So when she came here, her husband was already waiting there and he had her picture so he knew what she looked like. And so when he met her at the immigration station, he said, “You’re Ayako.” Because he identified her through the photo. After he picked her up, he hired a haku. That’s a horse and buggy. And then took her to Haleiwa where he worked for the Yoshida store. Of course he had come as a contract laborer, but he was working for Yoshida. He stayed there, boarded there. So she was surprised that they already had a wedding reception for THEM! So she didn’t know. That was quite unexpected. And the clothing that is shown in my book: she has the picture hat and the cummerbund with the Gibson girl look. And she had borrowed from Ms. Yoshida who was a picture bride herself. She had worn it for her wedding. So she had loaned it to Ayako because she wasn’t prepared to get married, although she had her ceremonial kimono. Usually the bride brings one set of the monsuki, the bridal kimono. But anyway, she had a formal picture taken with that too.
But hers was a very unusual story because she had volunteered to come, she didn’t even know she was going to be the bride herself. The father and the aunt had decided that they might as well let them get married.
15:55 Did women have the ability to decide for themselves who they married? Was it often the family’s decision.
16:23 Sometimes, like Ms. Toki’s one (about the big feet). With her, she didn’t mind getting married. She didn’t care who it was because her sister had come as a picture bride before her. And then she was married to someone on Kauai and her sister sent her glowing reports about how wonderful life is in HI. And she sent back money and gifts all the time to her family. And so she thought it doesn’t matter who she get married to because she thought life in HI was paradise. And so with her, she didn’t mine.
I think some women, really, without being forced, they didn’t really mind coming. Because Ms. Tozawa, she wanted to get away from the farming village and so she didn’t care who she got married to. But majority of them, Ms. Osato, picture bride from Okinawa, she was only 16. And she said she did have someone, a puppy love. Here she was already 80 something and she told me about the puppy love she had with somebody back there and how her boyfriend died in WWII and she still kept up. The boyfriend married after he came back from war and he died after that. But she said actually she didn’t want to come, but her family was so poor, they had to get her to marry to come to HI to better her life and they thought the husband to be would help support her family.
That’s the way it was. They sent money home. And Ms. Ogawa is another good example. I showed you her picture. She got married in 1912 and her husband was working out in Pupukia, out in the pineapple grower. Her brother-in-law was an independent pineapple grower, so her husband was working under his brother-in-law. And so it’s funny how she came as a picture bride because she was thrown into a group of picture brides and then 1912, it was a quick marriage with an exchange of sake cups (san-san-kudo: three: three: sips, altogether nine. They call it san-san-kudo, total of nine sips and then that makes it you’re legally married in J when you go through that ritual.) And then the wife’s name is put into the family register in the village office. And you’re declared legally married, accepted into the family. And from your own family, your name is crossed out because she’s dying. She’s already dead. When you are married to another family…I have an example of my mother’s family register. When she got married, her name is crossed off. That’s the way it is. You’re declared dead. And so she enters the new family. And so they have to wait 6 months before they come here.
So Ms. Ogawa was strange. Hers was a marriage of convenience. She was the oldest of 10 children and she learned to weave from a very young age. They were so poor! And when her husband to be, his father was very ill and his mother was a very frail woman. Very tiny. Couldn’t take care of her husband. So they rushed and arranged this marriage: Ms. Ogawa, Tetsuno is her name. So they rushed just to have her look after the father-in-law, before the son left for HI to work for this independent pineapple growers in Pupukia. And so she took care of her father-in-law until he died. That was really a marriage of convenience but it turned out well because I think it was the way the families without asking the children’s permission, I noticed the marriage was arranged. And yet, there were some like Ms. Tazawa and the other people who more or less knew what to expect and with adventurous spirit, I think they consented.
21:07 What did people in J think HI was like.
21:20 To them, they heard from the early contract laborers who went back to J, they talked about all those HI’s really paradise and the streets paved with gold. Although it wasn’t. They gave such an elaborate story because they didn’t want to consider themselves failures. Many of them didn’t make their money as they thought they would. And so they gave glowing reports and that’s the reason why many people thought it was exciting to go to a foreign country.
And so at that time, Hokaido was opening, too. And even my parents were deciding to go to Hokaido or come to HI. But they had more glowing exciting reports about HI. That you can be rich within a certain time period if you worked hard enough! So I think that’s what drew people.
Of course, the climate, too, was very pleasant in HI. So I think that was one, but the most important thing that drew people to HI, especially the women were people who were here kept on, Ms. Ogawa, too. As poor as she was, they could barely make a living when she settled in Pupukia. Her husband was making only for 10 hours of work, $.75 for 10 hours a DAY! And she made $.65/day working in the fields, too. And so she showed me her hands, twisted and full of ….her hands were all bruised. The scars were still there! And it showed how hard she worked. And as poor as they were, they sent half the money back home! And that’s the reason why they couldn’t go back home in the 3 years as they promised their parents. And yet when they sent the money back to home, people back in the village thought they were rich! Because back in the village, they never seen so much money. You know, even if it was $20, it was big money. And so that’s why people had the vision that you could come to HI and strike it rich. It was a false kind of hope.
23:54 Family registry. Talk about Alma Ogata. She was in love with somebody, but her auntie said if you don’t go as a picture bride, we’re going to take you out of the family registry!
24:19 That could be it because many times, it could happen if they didn’t listen.
Describe significance of the family registry and why it would be so dreadful to be erased?
24:36 It’s a disgrace, unless a person died, unless a person married, a person wouldn’t be taken out of the family register. It’s such a dishonor if the person doesn’t listen to the parents and your name is just wiped out from the family register, you loose your identity as a family! And in J, that’s a really disgraceful thing. You don’t have a family, no name, no one to belong to. So nothing could be worse.
Even in HI, we had a lot of discrimination if you married an Okinawan person, in those days, even Naiji people from mainland Japan, if you married Okinawan people. There was so much discrimination, and the person’s name wasn’t entered in the family register.
25:38 Why did pb process start
25:48 It started because this is an age-old tradition in J. Even during the Edo period and on. When people lived miles and miles away, those days, you know how they traveled by foot, and the bride is living hundreds of miles away. And there was no way to do matchmaking. It was very very difficult. And so they said they started exchanging photos in the end of the Edo period. They did have cameras and they did start exchanging. But this matchmaking thing actually started from that procedure of matchmaking from that Edo period. And then the class, they tried to equally match background. If you came from a high social status or middle class, it was a fine way of finding somebody equal to your standing. And they felt that the marriage would go well.
So in HI, when the contract laborers first came, many were married. They left families back home. So they were the ones during the restricted immigration period when they could summon for the family they left behind (the wife and children). During that time, they could bring them in. Also those men who came as bachelors and wanted to start a family here, they felt that they wouldn’t be able to make enough money to go back home. So as soon as they had enough remittance married (which it varies. I asked some people. Some said $300, some said $400. That’s for the transportation and for the bride to prepare to dowry). So until the men saved that much, they couldn’t send for their wives.
So that is how….locally, even this Okinawan family, Mr. Funikoshia, well-educated man, very scholarly. He told me their marriage was arranged through a friend while working in the cane field digging! And then they said, how about your daughter and my son get married and that’s how, they have somebody back in the village and they want to bring them over. That casually is how marriages were arranged. Through the uncle. So that’s how traditionally it started with the exchange of photos and then they came here.
And many times, because it was arranged through an intermediary, when the wife came, there’s some really sad stories that this woman talked about. She waited for two weeks at the immigration station and her groom to be didn’t come to claim her. So every day she cried because she had only a one way passage. She didn’t have any money to go back to J. And so Dr. Katsunuma who played an important role, he’s probably the father of the immigration period because every picture bride I interviewed talked about Katsunuma-san. He was a veterinarian. He started in Utah and over here, Dr. K was the assistant to the inspector. He spoke J and English both. So he became one of the inspectors and took care of all the immigrants who came from J. 29:34 So every pb mentioned Dr. K. And so he felt sorry for this bride. No body came to claim her. So he took her home, gave her room and board, and eventually found her a good man.
One day she even appeared on a radio program. I was doing dressmaking and she said her husband just died a few years back and they were talking about immigration and pb. She said she came as a pb and because her husband to be didn’t come to claim her, Dr. Katsunuma was so kind to take her into his home and find her a good husband. And she could never have found such a wonderful husband. She’s so grateful to Dr. K, she said even if she went around the country with musubi…you know there’s an old J saying that when you travel around the country with musubi…she said even if she went around the country with musibi, she could never find a good husband like the one Dr. K found for her.
Why didn’t her husband show up?
30:58 Some of the stories that I found out was of course this man, he wanted to know what his future bride looked like. So unseen, he had watched her. One look at her, he changed his mind and he didn’t go to claim her. He just took off without claiming her. So he did go to the pier to see what she looked like.
There’s a lot of stories. Another one, Ms. Toki told me, the lady with the big feet. That day after her husband hired a horse and buggy and took her to the Kushuya Hotel, that night on the way, she passed a hallway on the way to the restroom. And she passed this bride. She was on the same ship as she was. And she was just sobbing, crying her heart out. And there was a man there and he was old enough to be her father. And she found out that the proprietor of the hotel had told her that that man had sent a picture of him when he was in his 20s but he was almost double that age, old enough to be her father. And so he was crying her heart out because she didn’t know what to do. And so next day, she just disappeared. She just took off.
So there are cases like that. They have no choice. They do follow the man home.
There’s another woman who came from Hiroshima as a picture bride. She wanted to escape because her mother, her parents, she came from a high status. Her father, uncle was an instructor in fencing. They came from a very fine background, samurai family. And so her family wanted her to marry a naval officer, a relative. But she just didn’t like that man, even if he was a high ranking naval officer. She couldn’t stand him so she told her friend to find her somebody in HI. And so that’s the reason why, behind her parents back, she arranged herself to come to HI to somebody. BUT, when she came here and her groom to be claimed her at the immigration station, she was shocked because she said, “He was black, black.” He was so dark working in the sugar cane field. So she couldn’t stand. So she did follow him because she didn’t know where to go. She didn’t speak English, right. So she didn’t know where to go. And then, but she didn’t even live with him for 3 months. She called a relative who was living here who came from Hiroshima. So she lived with them for 3 months and then the relative said, “OK, your time is up. Either we have to send you back to J or you have to marry that man.” So unwillingly, she got married to him. She had no choice.
She there are a lot of true stories that it’s kinda heart breaking.
34:30 Process. If a man was looking for a bride, how would things begin.
34:42 OK, if he was here on the plantation, and he feels ready to, he has the money to pay for the remittance for travel funds and all that, he would talk to a friend. Or first thing, write to his family back home that he’s ready to settle down, so how ‘bout finding a woman for him. That’s the first procedure. And then the family themselves would look around the neighborhood looking for the appropriate bride for their son or friend. That’s how it all gets started. And then even here, if they had a close friend, they’d ask the close friend if they had somebody back home, a girl appropriate age for that man. And who’s willing to work on the plantation. And then they give the background and what happens is they always in those days, they had the investigation done by the go-between, the nakodo or baishakunin. There’s several names.
The go-between is the nakodo and he usually tries to investigate the other side, so if he’s looking for the bride for a friend’s son, they’d really do a thorough investigation: make sure the water’s pure in the village, no leprosy, no insanity, and the temperament, the character of the girl involved, they’d make sure that she’s properly trained. That’s the way it was.
So by the time they came here, it’s amazing, Dr. Che and I summed it up when we did all those interviews (she did all the K brides) there were more divorces among the K pb. But J ones either took it, accepted their hardships and everything because they were embarrassed to go back as a divorce. The parents would never let them come back as a divorced woman.
36:50 After the nakodo made the match, then what would happen?
36:54 They arrange the marriage, they had the ritual.
37:05 The nakodo would send the photos, like Toki kesh, And once they consent, of course the girl has to like the photo, right? So they would tell the parents and many times, even if they were shy, the parent knew or the go-between knew. So once that was done, they would send letters back and forth and consent. And then the man would send the remittance money and of course the girl has to get ready. And they couldn’t come immediately. They had to wait for their passport, their visa, 6 months period, waiting period. They couldn’t come immediately. And so during the 6 month period, some stayed with the in-laws, the future mother in law. And the mother-in-law could scrutinize the future daughter in law. And if the mother-in-law didn’t like the daughter-in-law, she could send her back home. So it was a trying period for, you know. Many times the matchmaking would be dissolved because if it didn’t work well, if the mother-in-law didn’t like the woman, she could write to the son that she didn’t like it.
But most often, I think it turned out well. Ms. Tagawa told me hers was unusual. When she was sent to her future mother-in-law’s house, she stayed for 6 months. She liked it better than staying at her own home. She said her mother-in-law was so good to her. She said she cried when she came to HI after the 6 month period. She said that was the most wonderful time in her life! Better than when after she got married. Her husband, when she came to HI, her husband was a womanizer. He gambled. So she went through so much hardship when she came to HI.
39:00 She said that was such a wonderful time. It’s a very unusual story for a picture bride liking her mother-in-law.
DID THEY HAVE THE WEDDING CEREMONY IN JAPAN?
39:20 They had the temporary, you know they called it karishugen, they married by proxy. Either they had somebody standing in for the groom to be, and the bride sipped the sake 3-3-3 times, a total of 9 sips. The Shinto ceremony. They have a girl dressed in pale white to serve the sake in the lacquer cup. And so once that is exchanged, you’re legally married. So even by proxy standing in for the husband, here the groom is in HI, and once the name goes into the village register, you are declared already a bride of the family even if the bride is in HI.
DID THEY HAVE TO GET RE-MARRIED IN HI?
30:13 Ms Ogawa said although she sipped the sake in Hiroshima, her husband came to HI, many women said even if they went through the ritual with a proxy, Ms. Toki hers instead of a proxy standing in, she had her groom to be picture on the higher shelf in the village shrine. And then with the photo, the woman from the temple served the sake cup to here, back and forth with the picture, her husband picture, they exchange it. And that was already, that symbolizes the marriage ceremony.
And with that, she had to wait 6 months to come so it was very simple the way the marriage was done in J. And then when she came here, she had already done the ceremony by proxy in J, but when they came here, her husband did take her to the shrine in Honolulu. And once again, they went through the ceremony with the drum. You know. Shinto priest, usually they hit the drum and it’s funny. One man told me, the more money you give, the more they hit the drum, the louder the drum sounds. They’re happy with a big donation, but if you give a little, they were so poor. Some people gave $2-3 for the ceremony. And then they would just briefly do the ceremony and finish in no time.
41:48 MOST PICTURE BRIDES WERE JOINING FIELD LABORERS. BUT DIDN’T’ WANT TO MARRY FARMERS IN THE RICE PADDY!
42:10 That’s the one, it was sad because she came as a picture bride in 1917 and that’s the one, she loved her mother-in-law. She stayed there 6 months after her name was entered in the register. OK. She came here and her husband was a very good looking man and he was on the salary. Very few J men were on the salary, $80/month. That was considered a very good salary. The average field worker made only $20/month. But her husband died in 1920. But because he was good looking, the women ran after him, he womanized, he drank, he gambled. When he died, she had only $.35 in her coin purse. Imagine, with all the $80/month he hardly gave her money. And so she had to give him a proper funeral according to status. He was very high social status in the village because he was a luna making $80/month compared to $20/month of the ordinary laborer. And so she didn’t know how to conduct a decent funeral with only $.35. She had 2 daughters and 2 sons and the oldest daughter was only 9yo. So she didn’t even have enough to buy fabric to make the daughters’ dresses with $.35. And so she had to beg the village women to give her some material and they donated bleached rice bag. When you bleach it, it’s nice. But rice bag is rice bag. And with that, a village seamstress took pity on her and without charge, she made 2 dresses for the daughters. And so the daughters had shoes, but at that time, they didn’t have shoes for the funeral and so they’re wearing the rice bag dress. And so Ms. Tozawa, as soon as the husband died, of course the funeral, she didn’t even have the $5 gratuity to give to the priest. And she didn’t have the tea cakes that she’s suppose to serve to the people who express their condolences. All those the neighbors pitched in and helped her with it.
She said she was so embarrassed that later on when her life was better and she could. But still she couldn’t hold her head high when walking down the street because the funeral was all done with all the neighbors pitching in for everything. And immediately after her husband’s passing, she started working in the sugar cane field. And she said from early in the morning to late in the night, 10 hours a day. After she came back, her oldest daughter 9 yo, couldn’t go to school because she had to baby-sit the younger kids and the camp police would come and pick her and force her to go back to school. And the next day she would stay home again. Because Ms. Tozawa would say she didn’t work in the fields they would starve.
And so she kept it up so the daughter only went to 5th grade off and on. And she would do sewing doing 10 hours in the cane field every day. Late at night, under the dim light of the kerosene lamp, Ewa plantation didn’t have electricity until 1938-9, this happened in 1928. And so under the dim light of the kerosene lamp, she did sewing. She made tabi for the workmen, bento bags and jackets. And first she didn’t even have a sewing machine so her fingers used to get pricked! Bleeding all the time. And it was so hard to penetrate the double layers of tabi that she sewed for people. She had to dip it into the Chinese was. She would dip the needle point into that to make it easier to penetrate the thickness of the denim material.
At that time she really felt like dying she said. She thought of suicide many times, but when she looked at the four children sleeping so peacefully on the floor, she said how could she just kill herself and who would take care of the 4 children? And she said if she could walk across to J, she would have no matter how many days it took her. But that’s what thinking of the 4 children with no relatives around, her parents were all in J. So she had no ways of survival and so that kept her going. The mother instinct, thinking about her children’s interest first, that kept her going.
47:55 In the end, when I put her in the NHK came to do the 100 year documentary and I was the guide for Mr. Yamazaki and I included the Tazawa story, they loved her story. After she did that, she was the first one to appear in the documentary and that showed through out J and appeared in Fukushima and she made the front page story. The temple that she used to attend as a young girl, the priest sent her the clipping and a congratulatory letter to Ms. Tazawa and she told me, “Oh Kawakami-san, I feel so grateful for putting me on TV. I never thought when I came as a picture bride my life was so miserable.” She went through so much suffering, but she said now she can die anytime. In J you don’t’ have a chance to appear on TV. So all her friends wrote to her to congratulate her. She said that’s the happiest person.
49:27 I called her 3-4 times. She kept on saying no. Finally I got to her and said I jut want to meet her and talk with her. But once she met me, she gave me all the story, even her husband, and her husband had so many girlfriends, and it just poured out. She just trusted me. She was like a mother to me. I think with interviews, funny how I build good rapport with all the people. I don’t think they would have confided and expressed their inner feelings if they …they trusted me.
50:24 DESCRIBE HOW LIFE WAS DIFFERENT FOR WOMEN THAN MEN.
51:07 For women, the adaptation to foreign soil, that alone was difficult. Coming as a new bride, even the clothing, climate, environment, everything was so different for them. Many of them didn’t know how to cook. When they started working, one woman, Ms. Kikugawa told me, how when she started working in a pineapple field, they didn’t have money and so as a young bride, they used to pick the Spanish plant. She used to pick the young shoots and use that as a main dish, boil it for dinner, just the leaves. And her husband would say it’s delicious. Here they’re newly weds.
And then working situation, Ms. Toki told me as soon as she came here, she entered her new home, her mother-in-law already had the work clothes ready for her! She had just arrived from J on a long 10 day voyage. She was so exhausted and yet she had to start working right away and get jacket with skirt and cummerbund. All the things in J she only wore kimono. She came with a kimono. None of the J pb had dresses. They all came with kimonos and they never saw sewing machines back in the village because kimono was always hand sewn.
53:10 And so for them it was really a drastic change in the way of life. And so this one pb was interesting on Kauai. She came in 1911. And she was a very tall woman, about 5’6” and her entry way was exciting too. In Kauai, you take the canal boats and they have to anchor it off shore because the piers are so small. They transfer the brides all dressed in kimono and you know how difficult to ride in a canoe in a kimono? When they landed at the landing…it’s on a steep hill and the landing, they took it away. It’s just a pier. And the kimono is so restricted, it’s so tight. And they had to jump on the pier. When the canoe, when the wave goes up, that’s when they have to jump up to the pier. Ms. Kimura was a taller bride. The shorter brides, 4’8”-10”, they could quickly jump up to the pier, but she couldn’t! She was the tallest one and she was embarrassed. No matter how she tried, when the boat went up, she tried to jump on the pier and she couldn’t. So a big HIan man from the pier scooped her up and put her on the pier and she was so embarrassed. She said in J, no man had ever held her. In J men and women were segregated. The way the families treated the son and daughter. So for her, it was a culture shock just to have the HIan man lift her. She was embarrassed because no man had even touched her before.
55:30 She was taken to a new home. Al the dirt floor, only 1 room, a shack. This is in Kilauea plantation. It was just a 1 room shack. Her first table was a apple box put together as a table. And dirt floor. And they had only 1 room to eat in and to sleep, everything. And the strange thing is, her husband had a singer sewing machine, 1911. And he was the bachelors, because there was no woman around to do anything, they had pitched in to buy the sewing machine in 1911. And so her husband was sewing a J flag with the rising sun. Those days, when Emperor’s birthday, people decorated the J flag. So he was sewing the J flag. And she wondered what the strange looking thing was. In J she never saw one. And so after she fooled around with it and learned how to operate it, she finished sewing the J flag and then later from the neighborhood women, she started to borrow patterns and started sewing her work clothes. The first set, a neighbor woman had sewn her the 3 piece outfit (skirt, jacket, cummerbund) for her to work in the fields immediately. After that, she took apart some clothing to copy the pattern and she started making clothes for other people, too. And it was a very painstaking process. They didn’t know how to sew and first time using the sewing machine.
Like when they started working the fields, men and women, they hoppako together. And it was very hard carrying the…you know hoppaiko, you cut the cane first, pulapula stage. There’s cutting the cane into 2 foot length and then after that. You had to pile it. They piled the long harvested sugar cane into bundles and they had to carry it into the cane car. For Ms. Toki, it was very hard. They worked together and there was a farm woman. She was much smaller. Ms. Toki was tall for a J woman. She was about 5’5” And this other farm woman was only about 4’8” but because she came from a farming village, she was used to all that hard work in the rice fields. So she could work in the sugar cane fields. She was so fast and the faster you work, the pay was better if you worked as a couple. And so Mr. Toki would get so angry with his wife because he said, “Your body big, but you no good for work. You good for nothing!” Oh she felt like crying and he would go on a sit down strike right there in the field because he would compare her to that small woman who was such a fast worker, so her husband benefited.
So Ms. Toki said that was a very trying time for her, but then she was a very smart woman. She graduated valedictorian from her school, up to 6th grade. 59:27 And so eventually she did good work in the sugar cane fields as she adapted to life on the plantation.
HOW DID SHE GET BETTER/ADAPT
I think it was just instinct and I think observation. The smart ones observed other women and they worked with women from different ethnic groups and I think you have to some people were very sharp. They could pick up things very quickly. In the end, when I interviewed her, she told me during WWII, she’s the only Issei woman as a pb, she was working for the military on the plantation, Waialua. And then at that time, she, amazing. The Waialua plantation incorporated with the military, WWII effort, growing vegetables because ships were expensive. They couldn’t import things from the mainland, fresh vegetables and all. So the Waialua plantation had land to spare so they started growing vegetables.
And Ms. Toki was so bright. She couldn’t speak English, but she picked up here and there. They selected her to be the supervisor for the school children, they work from $.35/day working in vegetable garden and she taught them how to like string beans. She would teach them, “This is too young.” And the middle ones are tender and nice and the ones that are overgrown are so hard, they’re already seeds. She couldn’t speak well, but somehow she got through to the children. She was the only one. The military people gave her a ride on the military truck and took her home. So the other ladies used to hate her because they used to envy her.
61:$7 SOME PEOPLE WERE SMART, WHAT WERE THEY LEARNING
62:00 You have the strength. Some people, the body was more conditioned for hard work. Ms. Sato, amazing. She was a big woman, too, from Okinawa. Back home, they had sugar cane fields in Okinawa. And so she was already conditioned to hard work. So the Okinawan women who came as pb, it wasn’t much stress for them working in sugar cane fields and pineapple fields because their bodies were made for work. And she said she produced more, you have to fill up your bags, it was heavy. You have to make the seedlings and put them in the burlap bag. And some people couldn’t carry because they’re 100 lbs by the time you fill it. Ms. Sato was the only one. Just like men! She carried 100 lbs on both shoulders! And that was very rare. She was famous for that.
HOW DID WOMEN HELP PB ADAPT? FRIENDSHIPS
63:29 There was a lot of , we call it social networking. Because women always go through the same life cycle: they have menstruation, giving birth, you have all the symptoms, the bodily change. So women have a natural tendency to help each other. Some women were so slow so they had to, even Ms. Toki, she herself was slow but later on when she became more efficient and she made more pay, she helped the ones who were slower to learn how to do it faster.
It’s amazing how in the fields working with the Portuguese, the HI, and Spanish women were thrown together to work as a group. And doing so, they learned food differences, they exchanged recipes. Of course J people always brought rice and P always brought pan dula. You know the delicious P bread that they baked in a brick oven? And J women loved that too. They learned to exchange food and about sewing especially. They didn’t know how to do sewing so it was the HIan, P, Spanish, and there were Norwegian and German women too. And so they learned how to fashion the long skirts. They didn’t know how to make gathers for the skirts. So Ms. Kumasaka told me when she first got her sewing machine when she came as a pb. She was one of the late ones. She came in 1922. She bought her first singer sewing machine for $100. At that time it was big money. She didn’t know how to put in gathers. She would just push it so her gathers were so uneven, more like pleated. Some were large gathers, some were small. And she said when she first borrowed a pattern from a neighbor woman, sometimes too tight and she’d have to rip it off. She said she had to rip it out ½ dozen times to make an outfit.
And the thing was when she worked in the fields, because of the language barrier, her luna was a HIan man. He had a whip. You know the new sugar cane, there were young shoots coming up. She wasn’t suppose to cut the shoots, but because she didn’t understand the luna, with her cut cane, she chopped off all the new shoots from the sugar cane! And so the HIan luna got so angry at her and yelled at her and threw the cut cane at her! And she said she shuttered and just sat there and cried and cried and she wondered why she ever came to HI. She longed for back home. She said she never felt so miserable and she thought the luna was going to kill her with the cut cane knife.
67:00 See not knowing because they didn’t’ understand the English, Ms. Kaigo, too, another pb who came in 1916. She had a miserable time too because she only did sewing back home. And later on in Kauai, she became a hair dresser. She used to dress the Nisei brides. When she came from J, she learned how to do formal bridal attire. She learned that in J when she returned in 1930 because she couldn’t have children. She was from Yamaguchi prefecture but she heard about the Hiroshima medical school where she heard about where people who were childless. She wanted a child so badly she returned. And for 2 years of waiting and having so many surgeries, she took up the formal bridal attire, how to dress a formal bride
WHAT ABOUT HER HAVING A HARD TIME?
68:18 Yeah, because her home, she only knew kimono sewing. She never worked in the fields, so when she came to HI, she couldn’t do field work. Her body was frail. She wasn’t accustomed to doing farm work. So instead she did sewing because she couldn’t do it. Instead, she became a bridal attire dresser, costume dresser.
LUNA THROWING THINGS AT HER. HOW DID SHE ADAPT.
69:00 I think someone, she had talked to a J person who could speak English and probably relayed that story to that luna and I think the luna really felt badly because he didn’t mean to throw the cut cane knife at her. He was temperamental. So after that, I think it was ok.
But they worked so hard. She and her husband sometimes worked together, doing the same job for 10 hours a day. And if her husband got paid $1/day, she got paid $.75/day for 10 hours of work. And for the woman, it was hard. She lived in Palm 4. She had to walk 1 ½ mile to come to the main station to catch the train to work. And we lived in Palm 1 and the train station was right below our home. So from Palm 4 where she lived, it’s so isolated! Imagine getting up at 3:30 in the morning, preparing her husband’s breakfast, and then cooking rice out doors and pack the double decker lunch can for her husband AND herself and then walk about 2 miles and then work 10 hours a day, and then go home again, walk home from the train station to her Palm 4 residence. And right away, she had to make the furor for her husband, because her husband’s tired. The woman always think about her husband first. Typical J tradition, especially when they’re brought up in Confucian days, when during the Meiji Period, even WE were taught all the Confucian ethics in J school in HI. And so right away, here she’s tired, but she thought of her husband first. So her husband was able to soak in the hot tub and be relieved of all the aches and pains. And she had to start cooking and do laundry so that the clothes would be clean for the next day. And then late at night, after everything was done, she had to wash the rice for the next day.
And so for the women, she told me especially when they had children, how sad it was she had a daughter and son, and when they were old enough she left them at a baby home, a nursery plantation. And in the dark, she had to leave the girl in the nursery and she would cry and tell her mother not to leave her alone. And the crying would linger in her ear until she would turn the corner and she started crying and she had to walk all the way back to the train station to catch the train. So it’s very heartbreaking when I hear the tapes even now. Because for them, the language barrier was the hardest thing.
Eventually, they began to speak pidgin English and it was for the J immigrant, it was a mixture of Portuguese, Filipino, HAian, like pau or kau kau. So there was a mixture of Chinese. Really, they call it a Creole language instead of pidgin because they pick up. Creole, it’s a language they picked up on their own.
Interviewing Okinawan people 73:00 was the hardest because they retained the old Chinese dialect, Chinese language which is part of the Okinawan dialect.
OTHER CHALLENGES BESIDES LANGUAGE?
73:26 Very few. Like my mother, too, she didn’t have sisters or brothers here when my father died and same as…So many of them, they were all alone. They had no one to lean on so they had to depend on the neighbors and the most important thing, especially the funeral section where I wrote the reverend were so impressed with the funeral section because it’s all what I observed as a young girl. When a young person died in the village, in the camp, it was sad because all of them didn’t have the money to afford a proper funeral.
Even my father, he had a good job, but yet he had a red wood coffin and I remember I asked my brother what he wore to the temple and he doesn’t remember wearing slippers. He went barefoot! Things were that bad, so you can imagine.
When a person died in the village in J, people dressed the deceased in a white shroud. Sadashi is cheese cloth. Very narrow material. Very soft so that when a person dies, you want them to be comfortable to go to the other world. Something soft and pure white. And so all the neighbor woman, no matte how busy, they all rested from the work, they made time to sew the shroud. And that’s the only time when people sewed one thing together. 75:10 My mother always taught me that no matter how busy I am sewing gowns or whatever, not to let one person to sew one sleeve and I sew one sleeve because the only time you do that is when a person dies. So many people get together.
DIFFICULT BECAUSE NO FAMILY MEMBERS HERE
75:39 Because immediate family…like when my sister died, we all helped, right? My brother flew in from LA to help and I’m the older sister so I had to help with a lot of things that they didn’t even know about the past. But in the old immigration days, there was no washing machines, no electric iron, right? This is a real primitive time. There’s no money, so people made things. Today you have catering. Those days, they made their own nishime. People pitched in things that they grew in the garden. The vegetables they gathered. The azuki rice. People pitched in and your neighbors were like your family. They became your family. You had to depend because there’s no blood kin living nearby to help.
So financially, if you didn’t have any money, they were the ones that pitched in. And it’s AMAZING how if you don’t have things, people jut automatically have the instinct to help even without asking for anything in return. That’s the beauty of the immigration period. It’s a beautiful feeling of giving without asking anything in return.
77:20 Like Ms. Murota…I went to interview her about the raincoat in Waianae. People in Waianae because they were isolated, they were going through more hardship. And to the raincoat to make it water repellent, they had to buy a bottle, $.75/each to buy the astringent juice of the persimmon to make the cloth water repellent. But people in Waianae used the bark and sap from the kukuinut tree. And then when they fashioned their raincoat…you know when Ms. Murota was the only mid-wife in the Waianae area. There were no hospitals then so to give birth, they had to depend only on Ms. Murota. Sometimes women to make the extra dollar, they were paid $25/month for 10hours of work/day and they knew they were expecting the baby anytime. You’d see women, very pregnant in their work clothing. And just to get that extra dollar bonus, they’d go work in the fields. So sometimes emergency, Ms. Murota was called. And there were no cars. So if the camp police was available, he would rush the midwife to the fields. But a lot of times she took a mule or a horse. 78:44 To go miles into the cane field to deliver the baby. And according to Mr. Murota, he was about 9 years old when he was working around older women and they were so kind that they knew the woman was expecting. They would dig a hole in the middle of the cane fields. They would build a hole and they would place the rain coat into the hole and the water boy who carried the water on two poles, he would volunteer to lend his pail and boil water to bathe the new born baby. And everyone would scurry around to gather twigs to build a fire and right there in the fields, the midwife would come and deliver the baby. Wash in the raincoat handmade at home. The oily part would be on the bottom side and then they would fill up with boiling water to bathe the new born. So according to Mr. Murota it was so touching that here those women, so poor, and J women were so small (4’8” 4’10”) going to work with a baby strapped on their back, carrying hoe and bento bag. And when this lady unexpectedly gave birth in the fields, they would lend her diapers because they brought the babies to the field. They’d loan their diapers to the newborn mother. It’s such a heartwarming touching story. So much giving.
So they couldn’t pay for the midwife because everybody was so poor. And when Mr. Murota got married in 1926 who couldn’t pay his mother the $5 for the gratuity for having the baby. When he got married, they gave him bags of rice. And that’s how much people remembered so many years later how thankful they were to the only midwife in …