Novelization – King David Kalakaua’s 1881 Visit to Japan by Mike Malaghan


A King’s Visit – Chapter 1

On the March 4, 1881 cloudless sunrise, Hawaii’s seventh King, David Kalakaua stood on the Oceanic’s upper deck looking at the snow-coned majesty of Mount Fuji as the British steamer eased into Yokohama’s crowded horseshoe-shaped harbor. So much depended on this trip: the survival of his kingdom, the very survival of his race. The missionaries’ descendants had taught him races disappear. Where were the Canaanites and Philistines today or any of the warring tribes who had vied for supremacy in the Levant? All stripped of their separate identity by hordes of invaders while only the Jews had stayed intact.

Worried that not a single ship would welcome him on what had been leaked as a “private visit,” the king, nonetheless, agreed to the ship’s captain’s request to fly his royal flag. As a midshipman yanked the pulley hoisting the king’s colors, the Oceanic crossed abreast a Russian ironclad. The warship’s single cannon retort startled the monarch. His eye riveted on the Russian ship coming alive with sailors rushing to the decks in formation facing his passing ship. The Russian cannon commenced a twenty-one gun salute in three second interludes. But what caused the lump in Kalakaua’s throat was the unfurling of the Hawaiian flag on the mainmast. Then, the Japanese, French, British, and American warships followed in sequence until two hundred and seventy three single volleys ended the cannonade concert. Kalakaua gripped the railing. Perhaps my audacious gamble will pay off.

As the cordite smoke and fumes of the now silent cannon cleared, the wind blew the trumpet and drum sounds of John Philip Sousa’s “The Salutation March,” across the bay. The king recognized his favorite composition. How did they know?

“Look,” said William Armstrong, standing on Kalakaua’s left. Hawaii’s diminutive attorney general, and for this trip, the Royal Commissioner of Immigration, leaned on the ship’s railing and pointed to a Japanese naval launch approaching the Oceanic. An imposing figure in full royal regalia stood in the open bridge flanked by two Caucasian men in dark suits and panama hats.

“That’s my counsel, Robert Irwin,” said the king recognizing the man whom he had never met by his picture. Who are the other men?

That would be Admiral Natamuta,” said the raw cigar voice of the ship’s captain behind them. “He is talking to D. W. Stevens, Secretary of the American Legation.

Kalakaua kept his smile, but now forced. Why, he thought, is an American official part of the welcoming party? Of course, he answered his own question, to remind king and emperor of America’s special relationship to my threatened country.

“Charles,” said Kalakaua, showing none of his disquiet over the American welcome while turning right to face portly Charles H. Judd, his chamberlain, “Perhaps this welcome means we will receive a full hearing of our proposals.”

“Your Majesty, I believe this is a bigger reception than General Grant received on his world tour two years ago,” said Judd.

“A good omen,” voiced Kalakaua nodding to the approaching admiral as he thought that while he and his Americans cabinet ministers shared a common cause to reverse Hawaii’s dwindling population, their purpose differed. They, to bolster their plantation empires; he, to save a kingdom.

“Let’s descend to the lower deck to greet the emperor’s envoy,” said Kalakaua.

Minutes later, as the welcoming delegates made their way over the gangplank connecting the two ships, the King strode to greet them. Judd put out a restraining arm, garnering a withering scowl from his monarch. Realizing he had overstepped his bounds—and in public too—Judd bowed, saying, “Your Excellency, it would be better that you let them come to you. You are a King.”

The dark face, so dark his detractors spread rumors that the King’s grandmother had lain with one of the runaway slaves who had made it to Hawaii before the Civil War, donned a pursed smile to mask his anger. While King Kalakaua dominated his minders in height and girth, he struggled to do as well in the great game of who dominated his kingdom. “All the more reason to make the gesture, Charles. Perhaps, a king is allowed to show his appreciation for such a warm welcome without demeaning his crown. Stay here.” And glancing over at Armstrong, added, “Both of you.” With that, he moved to the gangplank as the admiral stepped on board.

“Greetings, Your Most High Excellency,” said Natamuta. “On behalf of Emperor Mutsuhito, Japan is honored to welcome you as the first head of state to visit our kingdom in our two thousand year history. Our emperor’s brother humbly invites you to stay at his cottage as his guest.”

“Such an unexpected privilege overwhelms me,” replied Kalakaua.

After the king exchanged greetings with Irwin and Stevens, Natamuta pointed to junior officers, “My retainers will attend to your luggage.” When his majesty is ready, my launch will take you ashore.

When, after breakfast on the Oceanic, they boarded the launch. Upon reaching the banner flapping laden pier, Kalakaua strolled regally through a smartly uniformed honor guard to the bandstand surrounded by a Hawaiian and Japanese flag-waving throng. Once in place, the band struck up the Japanese national anthem. To Kalakaua’s surprise, the band segued to a flawless rendition of the Hawaiian national anthem celebrating the memory of the great King Kamehameha who had united the various Hawaiian petty kingdoms almost a century ago. Tears blossomed in the King’s eyes. He had written the verses his kingdom’s national anthem only five years earlier.

Irwin leaned into the king’s ear. “A missionary wife, who until a year ago lived in Hawaii, sent me the sheet music.”

When the band finished, Natamuta led the king to a horse drawn carriage that carried the two along with the king’s delegation to the Prince Higashi Fushiminomiya’s summer home where he welcomed Kalakaua. “The Emperor and Empress request an audience with Your Excellency at the palace tomorrow in Tokyo.”

“I am honored,” said Kalakaua thinking how this invitation must be parlayed to protect his crown and to address the shrinking numbers of his race. He had a surprise proposal he had not shared with his advisors.


Charles Judd on the left; William Armstrong on the right

A King’s visit – Chapter 2

Prince Higashi Fushiminomiya’s summer home Yokohama 8PM

King David Kalakaua eyed his three haole advisors. “The emperor’s warm reception humbles me.”

“Your excellency,” said Irwin, the king’s representative to the Chrysanthemum throne, “We have a treaty with Japan. As a nation coming out of feudal isolation and wishing to be accepted into the ranks of a modern state, Japan wants to show the world they understand the protocol obligation of its treaties.”

“May I add,” said Attorney General William Armstrong. “Small we might be, but our location is critical. We are the only developed port within thousands of miles. The only nation between Japan and America.”

Chamberlain Charles Judd wiped his white linen napkin across his lips. “Instead of speculating why our welcome exceeded our expectations, we should be planning how we use the emperor’s hospitality to further our purpose.”

Kalakaua and his advisors were sharing a quiet French meal replete with delicate sauces and wine pairings at the Emperor’s brother summer palace. Though Japanese in architecture and graced with a Japanese garden, the palace’s interior boasted European furnishings worthy of Versailles.

“The Chinese are destroying the island, R.W,” continued Judd addressing Irwin by his preferred moniker. “They never bring any women with them, so they take Hawaiian wives—or worse, have children without the benefit of marriage. Those people are never satisfied. Instead of renewing their contracts after the mandatory three years of labor, they migrate to town and set up their own businesses. How they save money on three dollars a month working the cane fields I can’t fathom. But they do.”

“And the way they do business in their Chinatown,” said Armstrong with a disgusted shake of his head, “is patently unfair. They live like rats so they can afford to undercut the wh…uh…local community, the very people who have lifelong stakes in the prosperity of the islands.”

Following a muffled burp, Judd said, “They own a quarter of the retail shops and half the restaurants.”

“The legislature,” said Armstrong “passed a law forbidding importing any more Chinese without women, but when our recruiters left Canton, their passengers were almost all men.”

“And you allowed them to land?” asked R. W, looking at the King.

Judd intercepted the question. “What could we do? We are desperately short of labor.”

A servant entered holding an open Spanish cedar cigar box. He approached the king. “Would your excellency like to retire to the drawing room?”

“Ah, a Ramon Allones. Havana’s finest,” said Kalakaua in an approving voice.” Selecting a cigar from the box and running it over his nose, he charged, “to the drawing room.” A bottle of Cognac and four snifters waited on a Chinese inlaid table displaying a tiger descending a cloud shrouded mountain. Burning wood crackled in the fire place.

Except for the king, the men seated themselves on red upholstered, stiff-backed Burgat armchairs. Kalakaua strolled over to the right side of the simmering fireplace. He reached down with his free hand, grabbed a log from the brass rack and placed it in the fire. He turned to face the trio. “As I addressed my favorite Kawaiiahau congregation on the eve of our departure, my earnest desire is for the perpetuity of the crown and the permanent independence of the people of Hawaii. Thus, the object of my Japan mission is to introduce a healthy population of foreign immigrants who will intermarry and repopulate my native race.” He looked directly at Irwin. “Your dispatch indicated that the Japanese are poor, and if given a chance to immigrate, many would do so.”

Irwin nodded affirmatively. “In addition your excellency, the military conscription regulations exempts the first born to maintain the family.” Pausing for effect, Irwin continued, But if first born goes overseas, the second born is exempt.”

“Gentlemen,” said Kalakaua, “The Japanese do not trust us. They remember the unhappy experience of the first laborers recruited to Hawaii.” Pointing his unlit cigar at Irwin, he added, “And your report states they abhor the coolie status of the Chinese in Hawaii and the Indians in Fiji.”

“Yes, Your Excellency. The Japanese are a proud people.”

Kalakaua smiled. He stood a little taller and, one by one, looked each man in the eye. “Based on the greeting we have received on this our first day, I believe the Japanese emperor will seek my friendship as a fellow Pacific royal. If we build amity … if he trusts me…then, R. W, that would make your easier?”

“Of course, your Excellency.”

“You wonder whether this could be done on a short visit? The key to building trust gentlemen is seeing this from the other man’s side. What is it that we could offer?”

“Jobs for their poorer class,” said Armstrong.

“Ah, William, if that carrot were but good enough, R.W. would already be sending boatloads of Japanese to Hawaii. Here is what I have in mind.”

The three haoles listened in earnest. Despite their reservations about the American and British reaction to the King’s proposal, they agreed his overture had merit.

A great boom exploded outside. The chief servant entered the room. “The emperor has honored you with a fire works display. Perhaps you want to step outside.

Another sign thought Kalakaua as he led his delegation to veranda now lit with sky works exploding over Yokohama’s harbor.

A King’s Visit Chapter 3 – The Unexpected Gift that leads to Japanese immigration to Hawaii.

Yokohama to Tokyo 11AM March 5

General Prince Arisugawa, who led the emperor’s armed forces in both the 1868 Boshin War restoring the emperor as ruler and then again in 1877 squashing the Satsuma rebellion, greeted the Hawaiian delegation the next morning. Next to him, stood a handsome, young man still in his teens, dressed in a perfectly tailored blue and white navel uniform.

“Your Excellency,” bowed the young man, “I am Prince Yamashina Sadamaro. I will act as your interpreter and guide for most of your visit.”

Once more, an honor guard stood at attention, this time from the summer palace to the Yokohama train station. Once in the carriage, Kalakaua addressed the general. “Japan has earned the respect of the world by making so much progress in so few years. I must admit to feeling a bit of envy.”

The older prince gave a small shake of his head. “Despite progress since the restoration, we are a fearful nation. We must build up our resources.”

“But certainly over the past fifteen years, Japan has become strong,” protested Kalakaua.

“I’m afraid we remain vulnerable. Look at China and India. Ancient civilizations. Yet, one has been relegated to a colony, and the other, who gave us Buddhism and a written script, has lost two wars to Britain in my lifetime.” He did not have to explain his reference to the Opium Wars of 1842 and 1858. “In China’s case, their very capital was captured and looted by the English. Their ports are controlled by the great powers.”


Tokyo Palace 2PM

The Emperor and King, each adorned in medallion laden military uniforms, stood side by side in the Palace’s throne hall. The Emperor, more Mongolian in complexion than his royal peers, owned an open face with a forehead set high. His lively, confident eyes gave evidence that since he had ascended his throne half a lifetime ago, he had outgrown his regents. He was taking charge of his empire. If the forty-year-old Polynesian king of a country of less than 100,000 people in the presence of a leader of 37,000,000 was intimidated, the towering Kalakaua did not show it.

At the agreed prompt, the men turned to each other and bowed half way to the waist. A soft murmur arose, when for the first time in 2,000 years, a Japanese emperor shook hands. Then, Mutsuhito presented Kalakaua with a Bible in Japanese as an expression of thanks from a church built with Hawaiian donations. Kalakaua accepted the gift, and at a signal, took the elevated royal seat next to Mutsuhito. The palace protocol had been forewarned that the King’s gift would be “intangible” and best given as he sat next to the Emperor.

The King, first glancing at his regal peer and then turning his head straight ahead to address the gathered dignitaries, spoke is slow, booming tones. “As you know, your Excellency, in 1871, in the third year of your reign, our two kingdoms signed a treaty of friendship including a ‘most favored nation’ clause.”

The room’s murmurs silenced. The emperor’s retainers exchanged nervous glances. While the Japanese Imperial Household had little experience with visiting foreign dignitaries, they had been assured no political discussion would take place at an opening reception, following their centuries-old precedent.

Kalakaua continued. “Since the European powers had imposed a clause giving them extraterritorial privileges where foreigners controlled the courts in designated ports and thus removing their nationals from Japanese laws and courts, we were granted the same rights. Our own country also suffers under the yoke of such unequal treaties negotiated from the power of gunboats.”

Only the gentle rustle of clothing could be heard as the princes, admirals, and generals shifted position, hoping to get a better look at this protocol-breaking visitor. The King took pleasure at the response, marveling at how well today’s reality mirrored his fantasy of the night before. He had stayed awake for hours practicing getting the words just right and envisioning the hoped-for approbation. Even the court interpreter, unable to maintain his rigid stance in the face of such drama, leaned forward in anticipation of his next words.

“Your Majesty, the warm reception from the people of Japan compels me to reject a treaty condition we ourselves find objectionable. We Pacific peoples must grow to be good friends. Good friends do not seek any advantage or special privilege that we would not extend to the other.”

The King turned his neck to face his regal peer. “Therefore, if it pleases His Majesty, I am directing my counsel to begin negotiations on a new treaty.”

The Japanese hated the extraterritorial clauses that the 1858 treaties—imposed on them by the great powers who threatened military action if a weak Japan did not assent—as an insult to their national dignity. They had seen the end game of these clauses in China. The first objective of their industrial and military modernization was to put the country in a position to negotiate with the great powers just such a treaty as Kalakaua presented. The King’s unexpected gift was beyond anything the Emperor could have expected.

Mutsuhito gave a slight head bow to the Hawaiian monarch, stood and addressed the assembly. “This is a glorious day.” The Meiji Emperor clapped his hand gently. The room followed suit. While the applause lingered, the emperor bowed, and in Imperial voice said, “Until this evening.”

Breaking another taboo, Kalakaua stood and leaned forward. In a voice just loud enough for the interpreter to hear, he said, “If it pleases the emperor, I would wish a word with your majesty this evening without my counselors.” Mutsuhito paused only long enough for Prince Sadamaro to translate. Ignoring the previous advice of his counselors to avoid any meeting without his advisors present, the emperor spoke softly. “An excellent idea.”

King Kalakaua caught the eye of a triumphantly smiling Armstrong. Yes, thought Kalakaua, you can see that this gift assures us of a sympathetic hearing for our request for immigrants. Kalakaua’s imperial countenance gave no hint of his hours-away diplomatic foray to change the dynamics of both empires. He was all too aware that his haole advisors, whose sole duty was presumed to serve their king and his kingdom, had their own agenda—that of Hawaii’s annexation to America. Well, two can play the dual agenda game.

Disaster – Hawaii’s First Japanese Immigrants – The Gannen Momo by Mike Malaghan

Disaster – Hawaii’s First Japanese Immigrants

Today, Japanese Americans at 1,300,000 are the America’s sixth largest Asian ethnic community. Yet, in 1868, the gannen mono, Japan’s first immigrants, recruited to work Hawaii’s sugar cane fields, ended in such a disaster that a third returned to Japan with stories so horrid, the emperor forbade future immigration to Hawaii.

What led up to that early fiasco and why did it fail?

For sure, Hawaii needed the labor. Between 1835, when commercial sugar cultivation began and 1868, Hawaii’s population halved.

Sugar was an exclusively slave produced product in 1835 when New England import William Hooper cleared land for Hawaii’s first sugar plantation. He introduced paid freeman labor to this industry. His consortium leased 980 Kauai Island acres from King Kamehameha III for $300 a year. Workers were recruited from an ample population of 130,000. (Although far less than the estimated 400,000 when Captain Cook “discovered” the then named Sandwich Islands) The Hawaiian labor force were paid in coupons redeemed at the company store.

attachmentimagesUntil 1848, the King owned all the land. That year, Kamehameha III promulgated the Great Mahele allowing private land ownership without restricting non-Hawaiians. The sons of missionaries took quick advantage. Their newly acquired land and organization ability laid the foundation for the “Big Five” oligarchy that begin to compete with and then supplant royal power.

The same year, the Gold Rush boosted exports of Hawaii’s white gold to California. Tragically, as demand for Hawaii’s sugar and thus demand for labor increased, epidemics continued to kill native Hawaiians, none worse than the 1853 small pox outbreak that cut Hawaii’s population to 73,000.

Following the passage of the kingdom’s labor contract law in 1850, desperately poor Guangdong and Fujian laborers quickly formed the majority of Hawaii’s sugar cane workers. The Taiping rebellion, that would kill 20,000,000 Chinese in a civil war from 1850 to 1864, stimulated migration.

When the American civil war broke out, the Northern States needed a replacement source for it lost access to Louisiana sugar. Hawaiian sugar production soared while its population dwindled to barely 60,000 even with the influx of Chinese workers. When their labor contracts were fulfilled, half the Chinese abandoned plantation life to start local businesses or leave Hawaii to build the continental railroad.

attachmentIn 1868, Hawaii’s Board of Immigration, wrote American Eugene Van Reed, the Hawaiian Kingdom’s consul and businessman in Japan, asking for laborers. That year, the Meiji restoration and its brief civil war disrupted agriculture and eliminated the samurai class. The dispossessed flocked to the cities for jobs that didn’t always exists.

As the Japanese economy imploded, Van Reed offered three year employment contracts without obtaining official permission. Offering free transportation to sunny Hawaii, Van Reed illegally recruited defrocked samurai, gamblers, restaurant workers, sake factory laborers, artisans, and even a hairdresser from the streets of Yokohama.

On June 20, 1868 this motely group of one hundred and forty-one men and six women, with no knowledge of farming or the back breaking labor required for the job, arrived in Honolulu on the British ship, Scioto.

US2_sm_jpg_250x600_upscale_q85Pay was $4 a month plus room and board. The working conditions were slave-like. A quarter of the work force broke their contract to return to Japan. On return, they issued a statement charging the planters “with cruelty and breach of contract.” The new Meiji emperor, citing a “distasteful impression” of his countrymen’s treatment, barred future immigration fearing “Japanese laborers were being degraded like the Chinese.”

Reed’s 1868 worker “selection process,” his bypassing of Japanese immigration authorities, and the planation owners’ cruel treatment of their desperately needed laborers makes one shake his head in wonder. What were these people thinking? And, who would have thought, that despite this start-up fiasco, a hundred years later, a son of Japan would serve in the United States senate eventually becoming third in line to the presidency. From such auspicious beginnings, an industry would eventually find its labor force and a kingdom its new population to replenish its nation’s dwindling numbers. Next week, a king’s visit to Tokyo.

The garden pictured is located inside Honolulu’s International Airport. It is surrounded by the VIP airport lounges. The plaque placed in 1968 noted the 100th anniversary of Hawaii’s first Japanese immigrants.


Amakusa – The Island of the Karayuki by Mike Malaghan

Amakusa – The Island of the Karayuki


More than a decade passed after my visit to Sandakan’s karayuki cemetery when I decided to write a novel honoring the American-Japanese soldiers of the 442/100. While conducting the research on their fighting exploits, I started to think, “Their story didn’t start with Pearl Harbor. Didn’t these young men have mothers?”

But what mother? Whoever it was must reveal life in the impoverished Meiji era that drove migration. That’s when the memory of my Sandakan visit triggered the birth of Haru. No place better represents the consequences of Meiji’s rural poverty than Amakusa off the coast of northern Kyushu.


Today, Amakusa is a charming hot springs resort island. My wife, Tomoko found us a ryokan where I could exhibit my multi-tasking resourcefulness by re-reading Sandakan 8 in our outdoor hot springs bath graced with lush greenery. We relaxed in our yukata robes while eating the chef’s choice kaiseki dinner in our room followed by a shiatsu massage — just the preparation needed to energize my muse’s powers to create Haru’s home where we meet her at age thirteen in 1905. A date chosen for this history laden novel because this was when Japan suddenly attacked Russia foretelling another attack thirty-five years later when Picture Bride ends.PA090038

The next morning, while hiking up Amakusa’s tallest breathtaking mountain trail, I thought of how the gods must have been in a sour mood the day they created Amakusa. Where would a farmer plant rice on this rugged topography? Atop the peak, I watched water crash against the rocky coast while chapter one precipice scenes danced in my imagination. Turning around, I could see the majesty of Mt Unzen only smoldering that day, but I envisioned the havoc its acid ash caused to Amakusa’s soil when it irrupted intermittently.

But with all that water, surely islanders could support themselves fishing. Not so I learned. Those treacherous currents push the fish beyond the reach of fisherman of that era.

Next stop – the museum housing Japan’s first printing press. Fortune seem to smile on the Amakusa islands when in 1566 they adopted Christianity in the wake of their local lord’s baptism. The Portuguese not only brought the printing press and trade but the sweet potato, a plant that tolerated Amakusa’s challenging terrain. At the end of 16th century, Japan’s warring period was coming to an end. Lord Nobunaga welcomed Amakusa’s Christian soldiers into his army that unified Japan. Nobunaga became Japan’s first Shogun. Amakusa had backed a winner.

Amakusa’s single generation of prosperity came to a crashing halt in 1600 when their Christian samurai backed the wrong horse in the Battle of Sekigahara that established the Tokugawa shogunate. Amakusa’s daimyo was executed. His replacement imposed onerous taxes. When his chief tax collector begged the lord to ease the tax burden he was ordered to commit seppuku. His successor was more diligent. So diligent, that by the mid 1630’s, a famine fomented rebellion. Stepped up enforcement on the ban of Christianity fueled the flames.

ミゲルAs I stared at the statue of Shiro Amakusa, Amakusa’s sixteen year old Joan of Arc styled rebel, worshiped as “heaven’s messenger” by desperate Amakusans, an “ah-ha” moment revealed how his rebellion impacted Haru. This messianic leader gathered a peasant army of 25,000 and vanquished his lord’s professional army. But not for long. The third shogun, Iemitsu Tokugawa, dispatched 125,000 reinforcements. On April 12, 1638, his soldiers stormed the Hara castle in near-by Shimabara and beheaded 37,000 soldiers and civilians.

The depopulated Amakusa islands became the dumping ground for prisoners and other undesirables. (The population doubled four times over the next century!) The too high taxes assessed in too many rice bags from too many peasants sub-dividing their too small plots to too many sons on unforgiving terrain created the environment for the karayuki phenomenon. Surplus sons might be able look for work on the mainland. But the daughters? During the Tokugawa era of Shunga erotic art and the plethora of bath houses, tea houses, and “Pillow geisha” emporiums of red doors supporting legal prostitution, what choices did these surplus girls have? Their parents have?

Karayuki originally meant going to China. When by the mid-nineteenth century, the Tokugawa Bakafu eased travel restrictions, Amakusans traveled to China to work as laborers or maids. For the women, servant work often evolved into mistresses or prostitution. When the Meiji restoration removed all travel restrictions, the karayuki became prized additions to Asia’s ports. Soon, the Japanese government noticed the hard currency the girls sent back to their parents. The parents converted the remittances to yen bequeathing Japan with the foreign exchange to build their military.

Yukichi Fukuzaki, the face of the 10,000 yen note because of his role in the modernization of feudal Japan, is quoted thus, “Japanese women who want to become prostitutes should go abroad and earn money” After introducing a former karayuki-san who built a home after coming back from abroad, he added, “It is necessary to officially approve their overseas migration to enhance the country’s economy.”

Tomoko and my dinner conversation was more subdued that evening discussing the parents’ dilemma and their daughters’ loyalty to family and country.


The next morning, on to the Gion Bashi. Having read about Japan’s largerst stone bridge built in 1832, I thought the bridge’s town might be Haru’s childhood home. On arrival at the village of Funanoo-machi, I took in the palisades of two story buildings hugging the trickling Machiyamaguchi Kawa. There was the stone bridge!

A transformational vision appeared. I “saw” a famished 13 year old Haru trying to resign herself to the fate her impoverished father has imposed. Once on the bridge, I looked up at the second story of the local temple and the scenario of how Haru escapes her fate appeared.

My trip was finished. Time to write that first chapter.

The Amazing story of John Manjiro by Mike Malaghan


The Amazing story of John Manjiro

How does a fourteen your old Japanese boy beach his wrecked fishing boat on a remote island, survive a Robinson Caruso existence for six months, is rescued by an American whaler, but cannot return to Japan under the penalty of death and yet … twelve years later, greets Captain Matthew Perry as the Shogun’s voice negotiating Japan’s first treaty with a Western nation?


imagesIn early 1841, Nakahama and four friends set sail from a Shikoku village to catch bonito. Caught in a violent storm, they are blown off course. After two weeks drifting mastless, they crashed on tiny Tori-shima, meaning Bird Island, four hundred miles south of Tokyo.

After subsisting on rain water, fish, and the raw meat of albatross for six months, the gaunt survivors were rescued by the whaler, John Howland, captained by William Whitfield. Initially frightened by huge rough looking sailors, the Japanese were soon calmed by Whitfield who provided clothing and rice dishes.

08d968bc9ba3d145179c6a3912df85e3The kindly Whitfield took a liking to the industrious Nakahama, now called John Manjiro, who quickly pitched in harvesting oil and butchering blubber from the landed whales. Over the next half year at sea, the captain, having no son of his own, gave the bright youngster English lessons in his cabin. Little did the teacher or student know that this burgeoning mentoring would have a profound affect on an historical event twelve years hence.

While welcomed warmly upon landing in Honolulu in November 1841, John accepted Whitfield’s invitation to continue on to Massachusetts while his four companions stayed in Hawaii. He lived on the captain’s Fairhaven farm as America’s first Japanese immigrant.

Whitfield convinced the local school teacher to accept Manjiro, who never had seen a classroom, into her one room school house. Try to imagine a fifteen-year-old reading “Jack and Jill went up the hill” with kids half his age. A quick and dedicated learner, not only did Manjiro graduate from an American high school three years later, but the town took to the ambitious stranger in their midst. Friends came easy to Manjiro’s pleasant personality.

With Whitfield’s encouragement, Manjiro next attended navigation school. Upon graduation, Whitfield found a whaler willing to sign on Manjiro. When the captain had a mental breakdown in the Far East, the first officer took over the ship and the second officer moved up requiring a new second officer. The mainly all white rugged sailors voted for the man most likely to help them return safely and profitable … Manjiro. Upon returning from the forty-month voyage in early 1850, he received his $350 crew profit share. ($9-12K in today’s dollars)

Despite American hospitality, Manjiro worried about his widowed mother. He also dreamed of briefing the shogun. If only the shogun knew the reality of America, Japan would drop their fear of foreigners and foreign domination. But would he go back to Japan with its death edict proscribed for returnees? Yes, decided Manjiro with the hubris to brave the risk.

Needing a larger stake, Manjiro headed for California’s gold rush. Panning in the mountains, he added $600 to his nest egg. In October 1850, he worked for his passage to Hawaii where he convinced two of the original survivors to return home with him. Manjiro bought a second hand whale boat for $125. Then he convinced a ship captain plying the China tea trade to carry the boat and drop it, with him on board, near Okinawa. Manjiro knew no foreign ship could dock in Japan whose policy was to confiscate any such ship. He landed on Okinawa in February 21, 1851 and was taken into custody but treated well.

After being integrated in Okinawa, then Nagasaki, and then allowed to return home in October 1852, where he was interrogated again by his daimyo, Manjiro was told not to leave his home town. So much for his aspiration to bring Japan into the modern age.

attachmentThis might have been the end it, but for the arrival Commodore Perry and his black ships entering Tokyo Harbor July 8, 1853. After Perry presented his demands to sign a treaty opening Japan to trade, he left promising to return early the following year for an answer. The Shogunate had no modern navy to challenge Perry’s cannon laden squadron, but ordered harbor defenses to be built.

The panicked shogunate summoned Manjiro to Edo as Tokyo was then called. Manjiro told the Bakufu, the shogun’s military administration, “America greatly hopes to enjoy a deep and abiding friendship with Japan. America does not come with suspicious designs but with a full and open heart.” Over months of debriefing, Manjiro took full advantage of enlightening the Bakufu’s suspicion men of the wonders of the modern world and the benefits of joining it.

attachmentWhen Perry’s ships returned in February 1854, he was greeted by Japan’s new interpreter, Manjiro who had been appointed to the rank of hatatmoto, a two sworded samurai retainer of the shogun. Manjiro soon migrated to the shogun’s diplomatic corps and helped negotiate the Convention of Kanagawa that ended Japan’s two and half centuries of isolation.

Six years later, Manjiro was part of Japan’s first delegation to Washington. In 1870, as the military attaché representing the new Meiji government committed to modernize its army, he observed the Franco-Prussian war. On the way back from Europe, he stopped to pay his respects to Captain Whitfield. One can imagine Whitfield’s pride in the success of the former castaway in whom he had a hunch … that this was man of great potential in need of a mentor to develop it.

220px-Nakahama_John_ManjirōManjiro settled in as a professor at Tokyo’s famed Imperial University where he taught Japan’s first generation of post feudal leaders. At age 71, he passed away on November 12, 1898.

What if there had been no Manjiro? Or suppose Manjiro had not possessed the latent intellect ready to burst under the right tutelage. Or suppose Captain Whitfield had been a stern man raised in slave holding America?

Without Manjiro’s soothing advice, the Shogun would have rebuffed Perry. In that case, Perry had orders to open his cannons. This display of gunboat diplomacy would have forced an unequal treaty under conditions that would fostered the same type of anger the Chinese still feel today over the concessions they made with the smoke of gun powder still in the air.

But there was a Manjiro (And a Captain Whitfield) and history has been the better for it.
Posted on January 14, 2015Leave a comment Edit
Amakusa – The Island of the Karayuki

Kamehameha Welcomes First Issei 1806 by Mike Malaghan

Kamehameha Welcomes First Issei 1806


When stranded, fourteen-year-old fisherman Nakanohama and four of his fellow fishermen were rescued by an American whaler in 1841, they knew their life in Japan was over. Two centuries earlier Tokugawa Iemitsu issued an edict that proclaimed in part, “If any Japanese returns from overseas, he must be put to death.”

So begin the legend of the man history would come to know as John Manjiro, the first Japanese to land in Hawaii and return to Edo in splendor twelve years later on an American warship. But wait. Was he the first “immigrant” as many people believe?


We will get back to Manjiro in the next article. But now, the story of the real first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

Sailors again, but the year was 1806.

Captain Niinaya Ginzo, and his crew of seven, left Shimoda, near the tip of the Izu peninsula, famous today for its beaches, tightly jammed with Tokyoites every sweltering August. The ship sailed west across the Enshunada Sea where on a clear day you might behold the snow capped glory of Fuji-summa. But on this day of January 6, 1806 they wouldn’t see Mount Fuji and most likely not even the Aichi coast.

Nor would they ever again.

A snow blizzard descended. Winds buffeted the ship out to sea as driving rain replaced the snow. The following day, Captain Ginzo ordered his men to swing their axes to cut down the Inawaka-maru’s mast to save the rolling ship from capsizing in the typhoon type winds. Then, the ship drifted east.

On January 11, optimism flickered. Two rocky islands appeared in the distance. The crew wiggled the rudder to beach the bobbing vessel on either islet. But without its mast and its attendant sails, the tips of the sea mountain outcrops faded into the horizon. It would be three months before men would see land again. And that land would be Hawaii.

By January 20, they drank the last of ship’s potable water. Then, they relied on the too infrequent rain to quench their thirst and to boil rice, which gave out on February 28.

They must have wondered … not only if they would live or die … but if they did live, could they return to Japan and risk beheading. For this was the time of Sakoku or “chained country.”

Under the edicts of Tokugawa Iemitsu issued from 1633 to 1639, no foreigner could enter not could any Japanese leave the country under the penalty of death. While later Shoguns allowed the Dutch, Chinese, and Koreans to trade through designated ports at Nagasaki, the death proscription for Japanese leaving and then returning to Japan remained.

Further, by the same edicts, Japan’s ships were limited in size to shore-hugging boats. So, the crew must have realized that salvation could only come from a foreign vessel. Proof they had left Japan! One can imagine the grim dialogue of the men drifting on the wide waters day after day, then week after week.

A spark of hope rose when flying fish alighted on the boat. Sashimi for all! Then the cook brewed soup. They used the guts to bait hooks to catch more fish. The fortuitous meal portended their change in luck. Five days later, on March 20, the starving sailors spotted a passing ship. The men jumped atop the deckhouse and begin waving mats. Seemingly to no avail. The ship was passing them.

Then it turned.

Captain Cornelius Sole, commander of the trading vessel Tabour, drew along aside the Inawaka-maru, whose frantic crew alternated between rubbing their stomachs and bowing. Upon boarding and inspecting their empty galley, Captain Sole understood their predicament and took the men aboard. The men ate sparingly for five days, understanding that a full meal might mean death, before sharing the American’s crew thrice-daily meals.

Almost two months later on May 6, the first Japanese landed on Oahu. King Kamehameha, having united Hawaii barely a decade earlier, (And the landing of the New England missionaries twelve years in the future) agreed to look after the sailors in exchange of forty axes from Captain Sole.

The sailors created quite a stir. Here was another Asian race two thirds the size of native Hawaiians. The crowds must have looked at the men like children going to the zoo and seeing elephants and lions for the first time. While Kamehameha’s men cut down trees and women wove thatch roofing to build a hale for the stranded men, the Hawaiians brought the men taro and sweet potato. Once the house was completed, Kamehameha provided a cook for the men. He had to place guards to stop gawkers from wandering into the hale.

While enjoying the Aloha friendship of the islands, the Japanese understood they could not stay. When an American ship offered them passage to Macau, they took it. Five hundred Hawaiians gave them gifts and food and waved good-by to the men who, barely held back their tears. From Macau, they hitched a ride on a Chinese schooner to Dutch ruled Batavia, now Jakarta. After surviving the ordeal at sea, the crew were little match for tropical diseases. Five died.

Despite the death sentence that might await them, the remaining three sailors boarded an American ship flying a Dutch flag to take them to Dutch Nagasaki designated concession on tiny Dejima Island, Japan’s sole window to Western trade goods and technology. The sixth sailor died on arrival June 17, 1807.

As expected, the two survivors were arrested. One committed suicide during interrogation by the Bakufu, the shogun’s feared military styled officials.

Hirahara Zenmatsu, the last survivor was allowed to return to his home village where at the order of his daimyo or lord he recounted his odyssey in a document titled Iban Hyoryu Kikokuroku Zenmatsu. (Yes, you can look it up on Google.) Hirahara did not have much time to savor his celebrity status. He died in the spring of 1808.

It would be another three decades before another lost-at-sea Japanese crew made it to Hawaii. The story of John Manjiro had a happier and far more profound ending.

Yasukuni Shrine – History 1869 – 2015

Yasukuni Shrine 1869-2015 by Mike Malaghan


When in 1906, Picture Bride heroine, Haru gazed in rapture at her emperor’s horseback entrance into Yasukuni Shrine, the war memorial had already evolved into a symbol of his divinity. By design, the Shrine tapped into the spirit of bushido driving Japan’s military supremacy over its Asian neighbors. Of course, no one then had an inkling that this hallowed ground would engender so much vitriol from its neighbors a century later. How did that happen?

2000_513_sThe young Meiji emperor established Yasukuni Shrine in 1869 to honor the 7,751 soldiers who died in Boshin War that overthrew the decaying Tokugawa shogunate the previous year. Another 6,959 soldiers were enshrined eight years later after Meiji forces prevailed again in the Satsuma rebellion led by Saigo Takamori who attempted to restore the rule of the samurai. Thus ended the first of four stages of Japanese militarism.

attachmentA few years later, the Meiji restoration’s dominant intellectual (and the face of today’s ten thousand yen note) Yukichi Fukuzawa coined the phrase fukoky kyohei – “rich country-strong army” that encapsulated stage two. Japan must build its military prowess and modernize its institutions or fall to the Western Powers like China who refused to change its feudal ways.

In 1882, the Tenno Heika consecrated Yasukuni’s Military Exhibition Hall sanctifying the glory of dying on his behalf. The same year, his military begin reciting the “Imperial Precepts to Soldiers and Sailor” that pledged “selfless loyalty to the emperor is the supreme duty of the fighting man” and declared, “Duty is weightier than a mountain, while death is lighter than a feather.”

Japan’s military modernization soon secured it shores from foreign incursion. What next? Continued fortress Japan or Asia’s defender against further Western encroachment?

Neither. On March 16, 1885 Fukuzawa published his “Datsu-A Ron” or “Shedding Asia” manifesto calling on Japan to abandon the medieval governments of China and Korea and join the ranks of Western Nations bringing enlightenment to backward neighbors. Fancy words to announce the third stage of the march to militarism. Rather than trying to stop western colonization of Asia, Japan would join in the hunt.

Japan, seeking acceptance into the club of world powers, noted that all western nations had constitutions. So, in 1889, announced as a gift to his nation, the Meiji Emperor promulgated a Constitution. While a parliament (Diet) was established, sovereignty still resided in the Emperor on the basis of his divine ancestry. Article 3 affirmed, “The emperor is sacred and inviolable.” The emperor was given “supreme Control” over the army and navy.

Stage three in practice commenced with the 1895 China war that acquired Taiwan at the cost of 17,000 lives whose souls were enshrined in Yasukuni. Ten years later, the emperor honored another 78,000 souls to Yasukuni’s rolls as his navy sank the Russian fleet and his army crushed the tsar’s soldiers. The Manchuria railroad concession and half of Sakhalin were added to the empire. Japan now had a free hand in Korea which it annexed in 1910.


The fourth and final stage of Japan’s militarism begin in 1931. Ignoring civilian orders, the army contrived an incident and invaded Manchuria. A few years later, all pretense of civilian oversight ended when General Tojo became Prime Minister destined to be the most famous of the 14 class A war criminals and whose eventual presence in Yasukuni would remind Japan’s neighbors of some very bad days.

At the end of WWII, MacArthur’s staff decided to burn Yasukuni shrine. However Father Bruno Bitter of the Roman Curia convinced them to keep it because “honoring their war dead is the right and duty of citizens everywhere.”

Shortly after I arrived in Japan in the fall of 1978, my home in Kojimachi was but a few blocks from Yasukuni Shrine. I still remember the first time I walked under its massive red Torii gate soaring high over my head. Taking my cue from other visitors, I bowed, and clapped my hands in respect to men who died defending their country. I thought of Arlington.


I knew little of Yasukuni’s history then nor was I aware that Emperor Hirohito, who had continued to visit the shrine after the war, would never do so again. Why he stopped is the source of the Yasukuni controversy today.

Each year, following the war, an annual ceremony honored new souls. The discovery of remains in remote outposts and POW’s dying in Soviet post war work camps kept the numbers up in the late 1940’s. The chief priest was prohibited from enshrining convicted war criminals until the last Class B & C prisoner (Those not directing the war) was released in 1958. Then, the deceased of these two categories were added to Yasukuni’s rolls.

The policy to exclude the 14 Class A prisoners, like war time Prime Minister Tojo and his leading generals, seemed set in stone. However, the year I arrived in Japan, former navel officer Nagayoshi, who had never accepted the war crime verdicts, was appointed Chief Priest. He secretly conducted a Gōshisai to enshrine the infamous 14. The act was not made public until the following year. Even then, polemics were muted.

attachmentPrime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s August 15, 1985 official visit outraged China. How could the head of government honor a memorial that enshrined the war’s criminal leadership who had triggered and guided so much death and destruction!

When in 2005, some Diet members proposed transferring the 14 Class A war criminals to another site, the Shinto priests stonewalled. They cited the Japanese Constitution guarantying freedom of religion.

attachmentPrime Minister Koizumi, who owed his election to the LTP’s right wing that have never accepted Japan’s war guilt, promised to visit the shrine every year if elected. To the consternation of China, Korea, and the US State Department, he kept his promise from 2002 through 2007. The current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the shrine in December 13, 2013 that set off riots in Korea and China that resulted in destruction of Japanese property and boycott of it goods.

Three years ago, I returned to Yasukuni Shrine to walk the grounds to prepare writing Haru’s emperor gazing scene. Once again, I strolled up the shrine’s steps, pulled the cord to ring the bell, bowed, and clapped my hands in the correct protocol.

Afterwards, I visited the Kamikaze museum on Yasukuni’s grounds. I read the pilots’ last letters (mostly to their moms) translated into English framed underneath the pictures of young men in leather helmets. Their commitment to sacrifice their lives to Hirohito, in a cause that had only had months to run, might have been misplaced, but their nobility of sentiment and their sincerity could not be denied. I knew bowing in their memory a few minutes earlier was the right thing for me to do even I as I have argued it is a horrible thing for a sitting Japanese prime minister to do.

As I left the museum and took a backward look at the Torii gates, I thought of the last words of many of the Kamikaze pilots as they saluted each other astride their planes on the runway of no return, “Until we meet again at Yasukuni.”


The Tears of Sandakan’s Cemetery by Mike Malaghan

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The Tears of Sandakan’s Cemetery

 As I wandered among the weathered tombstones shaped like stunted obelisks, I noticed the ages of death were mostly the early 20’s. A military cemetery? “No,” said my wife looking at a Kanji enscripted grave stone, “These names are all girls. They were are the karayuki, the prostitutes of the Meiji era sent to the ports of Asia.” Little did I suspect this emotional discovery would inspire chapter 1 of a book I didn’t know I would write one day. What would happen, I later asked, if a girl sold to a brothel escaped her fate?

Back in the early 90’s, my wife Tomoko and I lived in Taiwan. I managed a Disney licensee selling English Language materials featuring the Disney characters. While on vacation to near-by Koto Kinabalu in the Northern Borneo province of Sabah, Malaysia, we flew to Sandakan for a day visit to the orangutan preserve. Tomoko wanted to pay her respects at a near by Japanese cemetery. If she had told me the purpose of the cemetery, I had not listened carefully. A fault I still struggle to overcome.

Gnats buzzed around my ear canals and mosquitos feasted on my neck while we sweated up the hill to the tiny graveyard. I admit I wasn’t all that eager to visit the cemetery and the tropical heat gave rise to excuses I wish I had thought of earlier and let Tomoko do the honoring herself. I was not prepared for the date of death images that have stuck with me to this day. I still think of how each girl arrived needing to pay off the debt the procurer paid her parents. Did she dream of sending money home for five or ten years and returning? Or did she know once you entered the trade, you can’t go back? What were these girls last thoughts as they neared premature death?

Brothel madam Kuni Kinoshita originally from Amakusa, an island almost synonymous with karayuki a century ago, opened the hilly memorial in the 1890’s to pray for the souls of the girls who died there. She is buried on top of the hill overlooking the hundreds of women who sacrificed their lives for family and empire.

Surprisingly, the burial grounds, didn’t look as tattered as I anticipated given that no one had been interred there for three generations. Tomoko explained a feminist writer from Japan had heard about this cemetery and used her own funds to spruce it up. I understand from TripAdvisor updates that the cemetery has fallen back into dilapidated times.

That feminist was journalist Tomoko Yamazaki who in the early 70’s found a survivor of Sandakan 8, one 20 Japanese brothels each known by its number. In 1972, she wrote a best selling book, “Sandakan 8” based on her interview with the survivor. The karayuki sex trade had long been a taboo subject in Japan. Yamazaki’s book created a sensation by opening up the topic to lively debates. Two years later, Kei Mumai directed the movie version staring Kinuyo Tanaka.

Upon returning from our holiday, with the help of a new company called, I ordered the English translation of the book and the movie with English sub-titles. They are gut wrenchers.

The story of Saki Yamakawa (a pseudonym ) was typical of the era. Told that it was her patriotic duty, she was acquiescent when her poor parents sold her to an agent when she was ten years old to work as a maid in Sandakan. Upon puberty, she was forced to work in a brothel. A faithful girl to her family, she always sent money home. Karayuki earnings not only helped improvised parents, but after coal and silk was the most important source of foreign exchange, which explained, why Meiji government facilitated the trade.

Saki was lucky. She still had her health when she finally retired. Saki sailed home to live with her brother in the home she had bought for him and his wife.

Now the saddest part. Her brother refused her … after all he couldn’t have a prostitute living in his home could he?

The cemetery visit, the book, and movie were evocative moments in my life. But ones that would surely fade from memory as the years passed. But they didn’t.

It would be a decade before I began to write.

Picture Bride, the first volume of my trilogy, celebrating the Japanese Americans who fought in WWII, focuses on their mothers who arrived in Hawaii or the West Coast with anxiety, hope, and a picture of their husbands. The first question I had to ask was, who would be the novel’s heroin, my Scarlett O’Hara who overcomes all obstacles? Where would she come from?

Some where in this creative process, I wondered what would have happened, if among the tens of thousands of young girls sold overseas, one escaped her fate.

Haru was “born.”

What kind of environment shaped her young life? How would she escape it? To Where? How could she start a new life? What happens to her parents who sold her? What sort of woman would she grow to be? Those questions took me to the island of the karayuki … Amakusa, forty miles south of Nagasaki.

And that’s the story of the next article.