#AtoZChallenge: W is for Wasshoi

Day 23 of the A to Z Challenge is the letter “W”:

W is for Wasshoi

Wasshoi is another Japanese word that is difficult to translate to English. A literal translation is “heave ho,” but its deeper meaning is “unifying together.”

When Nobu answers “no” to Questions 27 and 28 of the Loyalty Questionnaire, he is sent to the maximum security prison at Tule Lake. There, he joins the other No-No Boys. During many of their exercises and drills, they chant “Wah-shoi! Wah-shoi!

Finally, he has found comradeship in those who understand his frustration and anger over being treated as less than American–as enemies.




Nobu heard shouting in the distance, a group of men calling something out in rhythm. But he couldn’t make out what they were saying. The uproar grew louder, until finally, he could understand the words.

Wah shoi! Wah shoi! Heave ho! Heave ho!

The ground rumbled in a cadence. The noise grew louder. Just as he stood to see where the commotion came from, the group turned the corner. There must have been a hundred of them, marching like military men. All wore the same hachimaki that Ichiro had worn.

Wah shoi! Wah shoi!

The strange energy fed his curiosity and he decided to follow, staying far behind, hidden in shadows. Marching through row after row of barracks, the formation grew as more men in hachimakis rushed out of their apartments, feeding an entity that grew larger, louder. They stopped in a large area near the gate, each man like one cell in a huge organism.

Precise. Uniform. United.

Push-ups. Sit-ups. Jumping jacks.

All in unison, all the same.

Five straight lines of men. Two stood at the front to lead.

One was Ichiro.

Pairing up, they began a choreographed sequence of karate moves. Clench-fisted stances. Blocks. Kicks. All accompanied by strong, guttural cries.

A powerful dance.

Like the tumbleweed that whipped around Tule Lake, Nobu felt pushed toward these men, chased by the winds of injustice. What was it that drew him? Their shouts? Their cadence?

No. It was their cohesiveness. Their brotherhood.

This entry was posted in Excerpt, History, The Red Kimono and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to #AtoZChallenge: W is for Wasshoi

  1. Mustang.Koji says:

    It is amazing you picked such an unusual word such as わっしょい…and your correct conclusion on its translation. It truly is more than “heave ho” and more towards unifying and togetherness at the soul level. Again, quite remarkable a selection for “W” and you are to be congratulated.

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