Chapter 6, segment 2 of 2, 'Marriage 1911, Spring'
“In order to do business in America, I have had to learn to be very direct, something most Japanese are not comfortable with,” Kazuichi began. “In America, they have a saying, ‘stop beating around the bush.’ In other words, they do not have time for endless pleasantries and neither I find, do I.”
Kichinosuke, startled, paused before saying, “Yes, I have heard of this direct form of communication,” he said warily, “Please go on.”
“I am very interested in marrying your daughter, but not Sanae-san,” announced Kazuichi. Before the older man could respond, Kazuichi continued, “Sanae-san is obviously very accomplished and beautiful, but she is like a porcelain doll. America is an uncivilized place. It is no place for a porcelain doll that would be broken to pieces in no time at all. I want instead to marry your other daughter.”
“M-M-Mizuko?” Kichinosuke said as he sat back on his heels in shock. “But…”
Kazuichi cut off Kichinosuke’s rejoiner with a dramatically lifted hand. “To me looks and refinement are not important. I need a wife at my side that can stand up to the challenges of hard work and motherhood.”
Mizuko's father rose unsteadily to his feet. The demands of this stranger had robbed him of his usual adroit thought and speech.
“Well, what do you say?” queried Kazuichi, quickly rising.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot answer you so quickly. I need time to consider your request and consult with my daughters.”
“I understand,” said Kazuichi. “But time is something I, unfortunately, do not have.”
Kichinosuke stood dumbstruck as the younger man moved toward the door. Kazuichi stopped and turned to face him. “I will come by tomorrow for your answer. Until then, thank you for your hospitality and goodbye.” Kichinosuke was only dimly aware of the snick of the sliding door closing.
Later after an abnormally quiet dinner, he summoned up the composure to discuss Kazuichi’s unusual proposal with his daughters. The dim light of the single electric bulb hanging overhead cast deep shadows into the corners, accentuating the unease Kichinosuke felt.
Sawano’s death had left him without a wife to care for their two young girls and son, in addition to the three daughters he already had. Thank the gods that Ayano had found a husband and moved out or he would be looking at six instead of five girls to marry off. Now this strange man Kazuichi had asked for Mizuko rather than Sanae. Part of him was still fuming over his temerity!
But perhaps Kazuichi’s request had merit. Mizuko, was smart and hard-working, yet so tall that Kichinosuke had long feared that she would never find a husband. He had always assumed that Sanae, delicate and refined beauty that she was, would be the more desirable of the two.
When he finally explained Nomura-san’s request to his daughters they were unexpectedly unruffled. Sanae had not been attracted in the least to the underlying coarseness of Nomura-san and seemed more than willing to wait for a better offer. Still, she initially was not enthusiastic about her sister taking her place.
“I might still want him,” she said haughtily. “Who knows? He might be more well-off than he appears.”
“This is not a matter to be taken lightly,” Kichinosuke said sternly. “If you are truly uninterested, then allow your sister to consider his proposal.”
After a lengthy hesitation, Sanae finally stood up and smiled down at Mizuko.
“He might be a good catch after all. I may come to regret it, but this might be one of the few opportunities you’ll ever have." She said to her sister. "You can marry him if you want,” she said as she exited the room.
Mizuko, inured to Sanae’s superior attitude, did not respond. While she remained concerned about forgoing additional schooling in Japan, she felt intrigued about America where everyone was reputably tall and where opportunities seemingly abounded.
Kichinosuke soon found himself in the surprising position of questioning her about the wisdom of getting married.
“You’ve only just turned sixteen. Are you prepared to be a wife and mother?” he queried.
“Have you even noticed what I’ve been doing since Sawano keibo died?” she asked pointedly.
Kichinosuke, momentarily taken aback by her uncharacteristic assertiveness, took a moment to respond. “I have more than noticed, and I am very grateful for your service to the family. But going to America promises to be even more hard work for you.”
“I know how to work hard,” Mizuko replied. “But there’s one thing I did observe. Nomura-san seemed older than what the go-between reported. He told Sanae that her suitor would be twenty-five or six, but doesn’t Nomura-san seem much older to you? I’ll probably have to spend my later years taking care of him, won’t I?” Mizuko continued, as she analyzed the possibilities.
Kichinosuke, sensing the tide turning and remembering the fearsome prospect of having five unmarried daughters said with sudden conviction, “You should accept his offer. He is already a successful man and his future appears even brighter,” he added.
“I don’t think I am ready to leave,” countered Mizuko, totally reversing her earlier position.
“That is not your decision,” Kichinosuke proclaimed, ending the discussion.
The next day, on Thursday, May 11, 1911, with the signing of the family koseki, Mizuko Takahashi, only three weeks past her 16th birthday, married Kazuichi Nomura, age 32.
end of Chapter 6, segment 2 of 2, 'Marriage 1911, Spring'