Within days of arrival in Honolulu, Haru learns of the “other” religious giant of the turn of the last century’s great community leaders for the Issei, the historical figure, Reverend Takie Okumura. He and Bishop Imamura worked for the same goal of bringing solace and religion to the mostly single men Japanese community in the early 1900’s; picture Brides, places of worship that doubled as community centers, and the controversial Japanese Language Schools, etc.
Readers will have ringside seats to the drama as the paths they advocated for assimilation competed for adherence. Below is Picture Bride introduction to this the Reverend who is still remembered today.
As Bishop Imamura drove the Takayama family up Bishop Street toward the Fort Street Hongwanji, they didn’t notice a thin, bat-eared man strutting up a set of fire stairs on the side of the two-story granite Bishop National Bank building.
Hitting each steel step with purpose, the formidable fifty-six-year-old Reverend Takie Okumura, a descendant of a long line of samurai who had converted to Christianity during his Tokyo activist days in the 1880s, wasn’t looking at passing cars and missed his chance to see his new adversaries.
Okumura’s baptism had soon led him to the priesthood. Imbued with the zeal of a convert, he chose Hawaii for his missionary work and arrived in Honolulu in 1894 to eradicate Buddhism in Hawaii with the same zeal as the Boston missionaries who were determined to stamp our Hawaiian paganism a century earlier.
Despite anti-Asian immigration laws dating back to 1790, Okumura never wavered in his promise to Japanese immigrants that America’s prejudice would be swept aside if only they abandoned Buddhism and Shintoism and embraced Christ, stopped sending their children to the language schools, and quit labor agitating.
Never mind that sugar barons like John Waterhouse and Walter Dillingham, who encouraged Okumura’s Christian advocacy and were grateful for his anti-strike and anti-school stances, had never granted an Asian—Christian or otherwise—membership to the Pacific Club.
In the late 1890s, Okumura and Imamura had joined forces in their efforts to stamp out Japanese prostitution and gambling. According to Okumura, this collaboration led to an agreement to keep any schools established by either of them as secular.
As the scene and the novel moves forward, Haru learns of the consequences when the agreement, if they had been one, is breached.