Kauai in My Heart

Kauai in My Heart (excerpts)

Kauai in my Heart on AmazonChapter 1
From Japan to Hawaii, 1907

My father, Kichijiro Yamanaka, bowed low and gently grasped his mother's hands.

“Only three years and I will be back,” he whispered.

His mother (my grandmother) bowed slightly with her palms resting on her thighs and looked deeply into the eyes of her 17-year-old son.

“Work hard. Endure. Keep this charm,” she said, handing him a small omamori (good luck) pouch that he gently put in his pocket. “I will see you in three years.”

My grandfather stood a few paces behind, nervously glancing at the commotion on the busy Yokohama docks: Japanese men, women and children bustling around them; steamships lining the piers while men loaded and unloaded cargo; everyone attired in their best dark-colored kimonos.

As people walked the gangplank onto the stately steamship, the vessel swayed and creaked as passengers bound for Hawaii got on board. The large ship sounded its horn, signaling it was time for all passengers be aboard and all others to disembark.

“I’ll return with a lot of money and pay the taxes my parents owe to the Japanese government,” my father thought to himself. “Then my parents can live peacefully on their land.”

But as the ship gently rolled in the tides of Tokyo Bay, Kichijiro’s parents had an ominous feeling that this would be the last time they would see their Number Two son.


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Chapter 8
The Ghost of Felix

Mother believed that drinking the blood of the koi fish was an antidote for any ailment, and she drank some periodically to keep herself strong. It must have helped her — to raise 13 children took a lot of energy.

One evening after work, my father prepared to go koi fishing for Mother. She fried a bit of maguro fish for him to use as bait, including a small piece of the blood-red central part of the body to enhance the bait smell. She mixed it with granulated pig mush and carefully wrapped the gourmet fish food in a ball in the remnants of an old torn shirt. We kept worn-out clothing as rags in a barrel for such uses.

Father looked around for someone to keep him company on his fishing trip.

“Iko ya. Da're ikitai, ka.” (“Let's go! Who wants to go?”) my father called out.

The only kid around was me.

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Chapter 12
My First & Last Cockfight

The two men tethered roosters outside in their dirt yard. Each rooster had a little corrugated iron house and a can of water. These birds crowed and crowed throughout the day. I imagine this constant crowing was a call for dominance over hens, but Antone and Lazario raised no hens, so I suppose all the crowing was in vain.

When the two men came home from work each night, I heard the clanking sound of them refilling the roosters’ cans of water. They also tossed a handful of scratch feed on the ground. The men seemed to feed their chickens more carefully than they fed themselves. It looked to me like the men ate primarily rice, sharing some nightly with the cat that lived on their porch.

On Sunday nights, Antone and Lazario joined other Filipinos for cockfights in which roosters were made to battle each other while wearing metal spurs on their legs to harm one another. Spectators placed bets on the birds they thought would win. Cockfighting was made illegal in 1884 in Hawaii but for many years it was done on a regular basis in semi-secret.   

Read more about Harry's life in Kauai in my Heart


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