Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 15, 2021

Coming Soon! Beginning Friday, July 23! 100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021!

 Kenzoku


It was the morning of April 1, 1946. Kenzoku Ueshima and his wife Janet Ueshima just survived a night of bitter arguing, which first started in their small matchbox of a house. However, not wanting to make shame with their neighbors because the walls were paper-thin, they decided to take their argument elsewhere and ended up down at the peninsula at Laupāhoehoe.

Amid the yelling and screaming of accusations on Kenzoku's part and the denials on Janet's part, Kenzoku finally saw the futility of any more fighting. He was exhausted, and his throat was hoarse from screaming above Janet's screaming. He let out a deep sigh and walked away, saying, "If you come home, you come home. If not, go to Honolulu as you want. It doesn't matter with who or without who. I don't want to live this way anymore."

"For real?" Janet wondered. "Are you serious, Ken? It doesn't matter?"

Kenzoku didn't answer; he kept walking back up the hill in the pitch black, wanting only to lay down and sleep. And if he were lucky, he'd die in his sleep too. Ken recalled locking eyes with Janet Saito at Nishimoto's store. He'd gone for supplies and canned goods because no one kept fresh meat because of a lack of a place to store the meat where it wouldn't spoil. It wasn't good manners to stare, of course, but Ken couldn't help himself. Janet was beautiful. To her credit, she noticed Ken before he noticed her, but she was hesitant to do anything beyond that as she was recovering from a broken heart. Janet moved from Honolulu to Ninole with an aunt of hers, her father's sister. Perhaps she could carry on and forget. Janet never mentioned this to Ken until they were seriously dating. 

She worked in the health room at Laupāhoehoe High School because she had some nursing experience in Honolulu. Kenzoku's job was to assist one of the Nishimoto boys who managed the flume, where all the bundled stalks of sugar cane were sent along with a system of rushing water from further up. Ken was familiar with Yukio Nishimoto, whose parents ran the store, so he managed to get his attention and asked him quite discreetly, "Who's that? That girl with the blue hairband and the curls at the bottom?"

"Her?" Yukio squealed. "That's Mitsue Saito's niece, Janet. She is from Honolulu, but she is living with Aunty Mitsue now. The parents sent her up here for a little while."

"Oh yeah?" Ken was curious. "For what?"

"I dunno," Yukio shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe she lazy, or maybe her Aunty needs help?"

"Oh, ok," Ken nodded.

Yukio gave Ken a look of discontent and looked in Janet's direction. "Eh, Saito! Janet! Come!"

Janet walked over to the two young men with a furrowed eyebrow and her arms crossed. "Can't you call a young lady over with better manners than that?" She demanded. "Come!" She affected as if she were a giant burly samurai. "We're not living in the stone age, you know!"

"Aaaaah!" Yukio waved her off. "Go back shop, den! Neva mind!"

"No!" Janet insisted. "You called me over, so what is it?"

"This is my friend Kenzoku Ueshima; he wanted to meet you and say hello," Yukio gave Ken a big smile, to which Ken pulled down the lower lid of his right eye as retaliation for putting him on the spot. Then, Ken bowed and gave his best smile like how his mother taught him growing up in Fukushima.

“Go aisatsu, watashinonamaewa ken-zokudesu!”

"Janetto," she returned her bow and then apologized. "That's the best Japanese I can do,"

"It's ok," Ken reassured her. 

Janet thought for a second and then replied, "Totemo hikōshikidearu tame ni watashi o yurushitekudasai!"

Ken laughed, "It's ok, we're among friends! No need to be so formal!"

Soon, Kenzoku called on Janet for dates that included dinner or lunch to make and pack himself. As for formalities, Janet's aunt Mitsue was very old school and expected it. She was rough and tumble and could best any man at any gambling or drinking game. Mitsue Saito was glad to hear that Ken's family was from Fukushima.  "Watashinokazoku wa shingata shusshin de, watashitachi wa hotondo rinjindesu!”

"Hai!" Ken replied. "Neighbors!"

In the circumstances like this, it was only customary that the courting process not go on for too long. So, the marriage between the two was approved by Mitsue, but not so by her brother in Honolulu, Janet's father, Genji. He was too afraid of his older sister to go against her. He expressed his displeasure quietly but not in a tone of voice that was defiant. The happily ever after didn't last more than a month. Janet's father got word to her former boyfriend that she had married someone on the big island that he disapproved of. He was even willing to pay the boyfriend a fair amount of money to fly to the Big Island and get Janet to come back to him. One night, in the confines of their humble home, a heavy knock was heard on the front door. Ken brightened up the kerosene lantern and pulled the door back to see a well-dressed and well-groomed Japanese man standing there with his hands in his pocket. 

"Shijo," Janet expressed a tone of shock at the familiar figure.

"Janet," Shijo stepped forward, and Kenzoku shoved him backward until he stumbled outside.

"Kuso yarō!" Ken grabbed his cane knife and was soon looming over him.

"Shijo! What are you doing here?" Janet demanded.

"Your father sent me to bring you home," Shijo explained. "He wants you to leave this man and come back to Honolulu and marry me!"

"I'm already married!" Janet shouted. "You can't just show up and expect to have things your way!"

"I made a mistake Janet, come home with me, and I'll make it right," Shijo stood up and removed a ring box, and revealed a diamond engagement ring. He knelt on one knee in the red dirt. "Marry me, Janet. I'm serious."

Kenzoku dashed the ring from Shijo's hand and struck him with the blunt handle of his cane knife on his right cheek, leaving a big lump. He then kicked Shijo on the chest and knocked him over. Shijo quickly got up, prepared to retaliate, but Ken was already bringing his cane knife down to split Shijo's skull in two. In the act of desperation, Janet inserted herself between the men just in time to ward off her husband's blow with a cast iron pan. Then, turning to her old flame, she said, "You have to go; this is your only chance. Otherwise, my husband will kill you."

"Let him," Shijo stood his ground. "Let him kill the both of us. I'm not going back to Honolulu without you."

Janet turned to her husband, with eyes pleading for some resolution. Ken had only one answer. "Whatever you have to say, you can say in front of me, but you're not leaving here with my wife. Not alive if that's what it comes to."

"What if I leave Ken-san? What if I go somewhere else? That way, I won't trouble either one of you," Janet offered.

"No," Ken was stern. Right now, there was only one way this was going to be resolved. "I know you told me about someone you left behind, and I thought that was left behind with him?"

"I'll go," Shijo replied with his hands up. "I don't want any more trouble. I'm staying at the Hilo Town Inn. If you're not there at noon tomorrow, I'll return home alone."

It was the morning of April 1, 1946. Kenzoku Ueshima and his wife Janet Ueshima just survived a night of bitter arguing, which first started in their small matchbox of a house. However, not wanting to make shame with their neighbors because the walls were paper-thin, they decided to take their argument elsewhere and ended up down at the peninsula at Laupahoehoe. Amid the yelling and screaming of accusations on Kenzoku's part and the denials on Janet's part, Kenzoku finally saw the futility of anymore further fighting. He was exhausted, and his throat was hoarse from screaming above Janet's screaming. He let out a deep sigh and walked away, saying, "If you come home, you come home. If not, go to Honolulu as you want. It doesn't matter with who or without who. This is not how I wanted to live."

"For real?" Janet wondered. "Are you serious, Ken? It doesn't matter?"

Kenzoku didn't answer. He kept walking back up the hill, wanting only to lay down and sleep. If he were at all lucky, he'd die in his sleep too. The sun peaked over the horizon, and Ken didn't realize how long he and Janet had been arguing and just how far they walked. Was it past 7 am already? The buses were dropping the children off, and teachers were gathered outside their cottages, all gazing toward the ocean. Surveying the peninsula, he saw that Janet was already gone, he didn't bother to look in which direction she might have left, but something strange caught his attention. The ocean water was gone. He could see fish on the reef.

Suddenly the strange silence was broken by the gleeful cheers of excited laughter, and the little ones ran out to the reef to gather the fish. That's when Ken saw the water coming back. It came without warning, and it swept the children up the hill and then pulled them back in its dark current. The next wave took the teacher's cottages and then everything else. The strong surge even took an automobile. Ken got to the ground high enough that he could run away in time to avoid the water that was now coming in waves but not receding the way it was a second ago. He wanted to help, but he couldn't. Everything was moving so fast, and the current was treacherous. All thoughts about the fight with Janet were gone. He had to help somehow. He could not just stand by and do nothing but soon realized that others were just as helpless. Helpless as they watched their siblings, their friends, their teachers, and parents get washed away, with most never being seen again. Ken wasn't even sure about what kind of tree he climbed out of desperation. He remembers hanging on for dear life, closing his eyes, crying, and asking for forgiveness over and over again. His cries were lost in the cries of those who were calling out for help.

Ken would learn later, as everyone else would, that what happened was a tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake way up north in Alaska. More devastation affected Hilo bay and other locations. One of the waves pulled a train right off the tracks at Hakalau bridge, and the company never recovered. 

Time was seamless. There was no beginning or end, no start or stop, no day or night. In his state of shock, Ken walked six miles back to his home in Ninole. When he finally arrived, he collapsed on his bed and fell into a deep sleep. The morning events played themselves back to him in his dreams but in slow motion, causing Ken to relieve every fine detail with horrible clarity. The dark waves had a life of their own. It pounded those bodies on the sharp jagged rocks of the peninsula again and again. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Kenzoku jumped up from his bed drenched in a cold sweat, but the sound of the pounding followed him from his dreams, or at least it seemed like it did. It was his front door, and someone was knocking loudly. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Turning on his kerosene lantern, Ken cautiously approached the portal and pulled it back. 

It was Jane and Shijo. They were both soaking wet.

"Kenzoku, I am with the man that I am meant to marry. He is my husband now. So we will be together from now on," Janet bowed slightly and took Shijo by the hand. 

"Janet!" Ken exclaimed in utter grief. "What happened?!"

"I didn't know that Shijo had been following us the entire time we'd been fighting. Then, when you left, he suddenly appeared and proposed again. I could not help but accept. We found a quiet hidden spot where we made love together. Suddenly, we were swept away by a powerful wave, and now we are bound as one for all eternity." 

They turned and walked away, and their forms became as swirling puffs of black smoke, merging with the darkness that surrounded his shack of a home. All Kenzoku Ueshima could do was scream, and what a scream it was.


Credit ArtWork - Edwin Ushiro

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