Picture Bride, first published in 1987, is the story of a young Japanese woman who leaves, what she believes to be, the confines of her small village and heads for the broader horizons of the United States in the early decades of the twentieth century. Waiting for her is her future husband, a man whom she has never met. She has seen a picture of him and has heard stories of his prosperity, but she knows little else about the man, who has also only seen a photograph of her. Theirs is a typical story of the times in which Japanese bachelors ventured forth to the West Coast of the United States, hoping to find wealth, to buy a house, and then to send for a woman to marry. In most cases, both the men and the women were not fully prepared for the challenges of moving away from the security and comfort of their native country. Many of these new immigrants were caught off guard by the cultural and racist antagonism waiting for them in their adopted country, as well as the awkwardness of marrying a complete stranger.
Picture Bride begins as the protagonist, Hana Omiya, is sailing toward the United States to meet for the first time a man called Taro Takeda. Hana’s heart and mind are afire with imagined possibilities. Unfortunately, by the end of the story, many of Hana’s and Taro’s dreams are unrealized. They have watched friends die. Others have given up and returned to their native land. When World War II breaks out, Hana and Taro are detained in prison camps, their material possessions reduced to the contents of four suitcases. This is all they can show for their thirty years of hard work. They are mistrusted by non-Japanese people, their neighbors, employers, and government leaders. How will they find the strength and courage to begin again?
Although a prolific writer, Yoshiko Uchida wrote only one novel for adult readers, Picture Bride. The work was reprinted many times over the years. Despite the traumatic events presented in this novel, the story ends on a hopeful note, encouraging readers to cheer for the protagonist’s seemingly endless supply of courage.