Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 10, 2020



The evening street festival in Kobe would be the last she would ever see of her homeland; therefore, she took every advantage she could of the festivities, food, and dance.
Her mother and father put on as best a happy face as they could muster while they walked with their daughter. In her arms, she carried her infant girl of whom she chose not to name, considering the circumstances. That choice she would leave for her parents. For tonight, there was no thought of the shame she brought upon her household by becoming pregnant out of wedlock. She wanted to enjoy the festivities and take in the night air of her home town once more. She wore a simple black Kimono with a yellow and red obi, nothing which would really make her stand out, but the simplicity of the Kimono is what made the article of clothing her favorite.

The din of celebration and merriment drowned out the height of her heartache. Almost on cue, as if Okami were listening, a deluge of rain inundated the festivities. Everyone runs to find shelter, but she walks, carrying her daughter. In the deluge, no one would notice her tears. Her parents take her example and cry, as well. The following morning, she would be on a ship to Hawaii, to marry a man she had never met, except through a picture he sent. Her parents will raise her daughter and never speak her name again. Haru.



"As agreed, my parents would tell everyone that I had died and that my daughter was left behind for them to raise. I'm not sure how it was said that I died, the point was that no shame would be brought upon my mother and father."

"When did this all happen?" I asked.

"1916," Haru confirmed. "I was twenty."

"You're how old now?" I pushed the recorder closer.

"I think ninety, I think," Haru replied.

"Was your daughter born the same year that you left?" I hoped she could recall.

"Yes, she was newly born that time," Haru confirmed.

"So, she would be seventy today?" I asked.

"Yes, seventy but still my baby," she smiled while her tears fell.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Kawano, maybe we should stop for now?" I apologized.

"No, you! Why you going to do that? We come to the best part!" Haru scolded me.

"Okay, sorry. Please continue," I turned up the volume a bit so that I wouldn't miss any details later.

"Every year, we went to the Obon in Wahiawā. We never missed one year, Sanji and I. But one year all of a sudden my husband tells me we're going to Kauai. His younger brother passed away, and the services were at the Soto-Zen in Hanapēpe. Obon was a couple of days later, so it would make sense to stay. The temple was close to the ocean, the wind that came in over the water was so nice and cool, but I was already eighty-two at the time. I could only dance maybe two times, and I needed a rest. My husband was having the time of his life, I was always so happy to see him having fun and enjoying himself. You know that man? Never drink, never smoke, never got mad, never hit me once. I was so lucky," Haru wept openly, dabbing her tears with a tissue.

"It was a tough life all around, you were one of the fortunate ones," I agreed.

"I was just sitting down, catching my breath," she began. "This woman asked if she could sit, so I told her, of course, she can sit down. Poor thing, I noticed she was sweating profusely. Then I noticed her Kimono was a kind of heavy material. Then I noticed the color, solid black, no wonder why she was perspiring so much. I told her that I had some extra happi coats in our car if she wanted to borrow for the night. Do you know what she told me?"

"No," I shrugged and shook my head.

"She said that the Kimono she wore belonged to her mother, who left to go to Hawaii but never returned. Her grandparents kept it after her mother left. One day, when she was old enough to understand, her grandparents told her everything about her mother. They also gave her the Kimono her mother wore on the last night of the street festival. At that precise moment, she decided to come to Hawaii to find her mother, but by that time, Japan had been plunged into war. I moved away from her and looked down at her Obi, it was yellow and red," Haru said in a hushed tone.

"Oh my god," I whispered.

"She told me when she came to Hawaii again in the early sixties, it was impossible to find anything, and there was still so much prejudice after Pearl Harbor," Haru began.

"So, what then?" I asked.

"She apologized for being rude and introduced herself. 'Harue' after her mother," the old woman could not continue at that point. "I realized that my parents never told her that I died."

Her seventy-year-old daughter suddenly enters the kitchen and sets down three cups on the table. She pours green tea in each one. She silently takes a seat and joins us. "Donʻt cry mom, Iʻm here now, that's all that matters, right? Us Kobe woman is strong, yeah?"

I held up my cup of tea in honor of the mother and daughter who found one another during a humble Obon festival in Hanapēpē. The steam coming from the cup of traditional tea hides my tears quite well.

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