Monday, February 27, 2017

Takahime (Hawk Princess) Part 1

Thursday Feb 16, I was on board the Super Express Nozomi #4 bound for Tokyo from Kitakyushu. The dignified snow-covered Mt. Fuji showed up in a wintry landscape in 4 hours (see photo). I was in Shibuya by noon, witnessing the world's  busiest scramble intersection in front of Hachiko statue - Tokyoites’ popular rendezvous site.

My objective - meet old Hino friends, receive my reserved ticket, exchange accumulated info over a bite, watch together Celtic Noh at Orchard Hall, Bunkamura. Hino friends chose my favorite Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich which I have missed for so many years. Bunkamura offers great gourmet dining for theatergoers.

Photo courtesy of Masataka Ishida

Celtic Noh? Yes, Noh was brought to Ireland by poet Ezra Pound to the 1923 Nobel Laureate W.B. Yeats (WBY: 1865-1932) who produced a number of Noh plays, including “At Hawk’s Well”.  The Hawk’s Well was performed in London in 1916 with Michio Ito as the Hawk dancer. I saw a paper advertisement of “Takahime”, a Japanese version, or Hawk Princess last year performed in Nara to commemorate the centennial performance. At about the same time my friend in Hino, who knew I was a Celtic Noh fan, purchased an advance ticket for me for another Takahime; this performance a collaborative work with the Celtic “Anuna” Chorus.

The WBY’s Noh plays were all based on the Irish mythological and folk hero Cuchulain whom I willfully compare with Susanoo, a Japanese gigantic humanoid in the Kojiki Story.  To WBY, Cuchulain was an inspiration at the time Ireland strode forcibly toward independence since the 1916 Easter Rising, along with the Celtic Revival Drive.

Cuchulain means ‘hound’ of Culann in Irish. Legend has it that a boy Setanta, at a tender age, arrived alone late for a feast at the residence of the smithy named Culann who wasn’t advised about Setanta's coming. The fierce hound was set free for intruders while the feast was going on.  Setanta was attacked by the guard hound. He fought with the dog; grabbing it by the neck, smashed it against a tree, and killed it, as per “Cuchulain of Mag Muirthemni”, written (translated from Gaelic) by Lady Gregory, mentor, financial supporter, Abbey Theatre cofounder of WBY.

The most famous story of Cuchulain is “Tain Bo Cuailinge” (Cattle Raid of Cooley) that takes place during the prolonged war between two countries, Ulster (North) and Connacht (West), caused by bluster and greed of the King and Queen of Connacht.  Competing against the white bull owned and boasted by the King, the Queen wanted to acquire an equally powerful brown bull from neighboring Ulster. War started when Ulster refused to part with its brown bull. When the Ulster troops were cursed immovable under a spell, Cuchulain, off on the spell alone defended Ulster as the sole protector until there was a truce. My favorite Cuchulain’s escapade is his salmon leap, being chased all over Ireland by the formidable witch, around the Loop Head, the rocky seashore in Clare County, just like the famous cliff of Moher.

WBY"s thorough study of the Japanese Noh was impressive. He apprehended Jo-Ha-Kyu, philosophy of Noh, roughly translated to intro, break or develop, and acceleration, all actions or efforts should start slowly, speed up, then end swiftly rising to climax. His keen interests shown in the Noh masks reverberated in his London premier.

The play At Hawk’s Well is set by a dried up well on a desolate mountainside which is guarded by a hawk-like woman. An old man has kept camp there for fifty years, waiting to drink the miraculous waters from the well which occasionally rise up.

A call to the eye of the mind
A well long choked up and dry
And boughs long stripped by the wind
And I call a mind's eye
Pallor of an ivory face,
If lofty dissolute air,
A man climbing up to a place

心の眼もて見よ 泉は古く嗄れ果てて 樹枝は長く風にさらさるるを 心の眼もて見よ 象牙の如き青き面 すさみてもけだかき姿 ひとり登り来るを

Here arrives Cuchulain, knowing by hearsay that the waters bring immortality. The Old Man urges Cuchulain to leave, telling of his wasted lifetime there and how, even when the waters did rise up, he was thwarted by a sudden urge to sleep. Cuchulain, definitely in need, is determined to stay.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Choshu Samurai Aspiring to See Dawn of Meiji

"Trying to reverse a world of boredom and tediousness"

"What allows us to savor life is the richness of human spirit"

(Linked Poem by two, first stanza by Shinsaku Takasugi, second by Buddhist nun Motoni Nomura)

Shinsaku Takasugi (1839-1867) stood out among Meiji Restoration Loyalist Samurais as a theatrical performer, comparable to Ryoma Sakamoto, who mediated the Choshu/Satsuma Clans coalition to demolish Tokugawa Shogunate. Shinsaku, in appreciation, reportedly gave his prized pistol to Ryoma for self-defense later in Kyoto.

However, Shinsaku seemed a man of precise and nimble planning, shying away and keeping skillfully out of trouble, keeping to himself for possible contingency. He didn’t join the so-called Boshin War in Kyoto nor was involved in attacking foreign ships passing through the strait of Shimonoseki. He left his own clan four times without the clan's permission - worthy of crime and punishment - and was recalled instead whenever the weight of his presence was needed; a proof that his talent was highly valued by the clan, as Shoin Yoshida’s favorite disciple.

Takasugi had four enemies to combat: 1) against Tokugawa Shogunate; 2) against the “Deference Party” (faithful to the Shogunate) of his own Choshu Clan; 3) Naval Powers of the U.S., British, French and Netherlands, winners of the Battle of the Straits of Shimoseki; and 4) His own health affected by neglected cold and chronic tuberculosis.

1) and 2) were external and internal (civil) wars to Shinsaku. First he vigorously lead the militia comprising of Samurais, merchants and farmers of just 80, attacked the Deference Party at the Shimonoseki Station and won the internal battle decisively. If 1) and 2) were like a tiger at the front gate, 3) was the wolf at the back gate. Fortunately he had settled it as a clan peace negotiator before cases 1) and 2), disguised under an alias to represent his clan lord. Shinsaku claimed that Choshu bombarded foreign vessels just following the Shogunate directives and Shogunate should be responsible for the repatriations, while Choshu was exempt. Shinsaku stubbornly refused to lease an adjacent island to Shimonoseki to the foreign powers, as he knew how miserable Colonial Shanghai looked during his younger days on a trip to Shanghai. A British Ernest Satow, the translator of the Allied Powers, seemed very impressed with Shinsaku.

The Shogunate forces invaded Choshu at four corner's fronts. Shinsaku tactics were superb. He himself was engaged in two battle fronts, 1)Suwa Oshima in Seto Inland Sea and 2) Shogunate’s watchdog Ogasawara Clan in Kitakyushu. Shinsaku on board the steamship turned battleship (bought in Nagasaki) made a surprise night attack and sank a couple of Shogunate anchored vessels. 2) Shinsaku landed at Moji and spearheaded in front. The Choshu militia, equipped with modern weapons, surpassed mostly Ogasawara soldiers but met stronger Kumamoto soldiers, and seesawed for days. The news that Iemochi Tokugawa died changed the whole picture. All the Kyushu clans supporting Ogasawara retreated. Ogasawara clan who had to fight alone gave up and lit the castle on fire.

Shinsaku was heavily sick in bed fighting the flu linked with worsening TB. He was attended by his wife and a Buddhist nun, Motoni Nomura (1808-1867). Shinsaku hid in Fukuoka care of Motoni when he faced danger from the Deference Party above mentioned. He had to flee Choshu and sought refuge in Fukuoka. It was Motoni who rendered help. Motoni was a Fukuoka poetess but entered into Buddhist nunhood when her husband died. She had traveled to Osaka and Kyoto with her plan to publish her book. During her travel, she observed a new wave among the merchants and publishers to sympathize with loyalist samurai and she herself followed suit, assisting them secretly in her capacity. She was imprisoned by the Fukuoka clan and was exiled to an off-shore island of northern Kyushu. Shinsaku rescued Motoni, sending his friends, and brought her to Choshu, close to his home.

The poem cited at the top was sung between them while Shinsaku was bedridden. Motoni was honored as grandmother (or aunt) of Meiji Revolution along with hero Shinsaku. Her book was published soon after her death by her ardent followers in Choshu and Kyoto. The 150th anniversary of her death was celebrated on November 2016 both in Yamaguchi (Choshu, the site of her death) and in Villa Hirao, Fukuoka, where she sheltered Shinsaku.

Hawaii / Japan Connection

My old friend Hawaiian-Japanese Richard Miyao sent me the latest Hawaiian Newspapers reporting how Izumo Taisha in Honolulu celebrated its 110th Anniversary in October and November. Richard is a Korean War veteran who studied law and commenced practice first in San Diego. He deals with issues regarding immigration and offers other legal counseling. He also helped Japanese expatriates to charter San Diego Minato Gakuen, a Saturday school for our children.

He relocated to Hawaii when his father, Shigemaru Miyao, the Bishop of the Izumo Taisha was at an advanced age. I was amazed and surprised to read about the history of Izumo Taisha in Hawaii - the bishop performed marriages of 6,900 couples, during the early days - girls landed ashore from Japan were all picture brides! Shigemaru’s brother was the first Bishop. Sjhigemaru succeeded him after his brother's death. Izumo Taisha certainly was responsible for a lot of family beginnings.


Hawaii, the U.S. stopover for the Japanese, had ceased its function a long time ago when trans-Pacific flights refueling became no longer necessary. I’m not alone in grieving for opportunities lost to visit. Hawaii used to be the place for a businessman’s breather, particularly on our return trip to Japan, even for an overnight stay.

Today visiting Hawaii is regarded with envy. 
I had more than a dozen visits to Hawaii; my latest one  was 20 years ago.  Before my retirement and return to Japan, (my wife and) I took our last one-week vacation in Hawaii to meet and chauffeur my wife’s sister and her friends. We circled around the Big Island of Hawaii and drove to Lahaina in Maui. The Big Island is half  the size of Shikoku (where I was born). We departed Kailua Kona in the morning, then south to Captain Cook and circled round the southern end of Mauna Loa in a counter-clockwise circle.   We drove to Volcano National Park for an hour's stop and then to Hilo.  After lunch in Hilo,  we headed north to the Kohala mountains, via Honomu, Honokaa and Waipio Valley. It was close to sunset when we rounded the north point to Kohala Coast where the sacred open-air Puukohola Heiau is located. Finally, we  hurried back to our hotel in Kailua Kona before it got dark. 


Yes, “sacred” Puukohola Heiau! The name I almost forgot came back to me when, a month ago, I visited Izumo Taisha, the oldest shrine in Japan.  Annually in October, Izumo Taisha celebrates reunions of thousands of gods from all over Japan as the God Okuninushi (Great Land Master) acts as the presiding god. October, therefore, has been called the month of no gods in Japan, as all gods are congregated in Izumo.  Okuninushi secured this presiding privilege in lieu of his land transfer to Yamato Kingdom as per the “Kojiki”, one of the oldest chronicles of Japan. 


Thousands of gods arrive at Inasa Sacred Beach lit under bonfires and travel to the shrine Izumo Taisha.  I remembered Hawaiian gods gathered at sacred beach venues called “Heiau”.  Gods, either Hawaiian or Japanese, gather to create/renew the connections among them, thus to induce humans to bond together and love one another. Okuninushi is revered as the deity of happiness, good fortune and matchmaking. Izumo Taisha was adopted in Honolulu during the Japanese migration in the early 1900s, and despite WWII hardships, has long been dedicated to Japanese Hawaiian parishioners.  This is their 110th anniversary. 



I visited Izumo Taisha Honolulu perhaps about 30 years ago. It is located on Kukui Street close to the Foster Botanical Garden, and China Town across from  Nuuanu Stream.  Kukui is a Hawaiian word meaning “tree of light” and has a spiritual meaning. It was designated as the Hawaiian State Tree in 1959.  First and foremost, kukui was a canoe plant, whose seeds, roots and cuttings arrived with Polynesian immigrants.  They knew how valuable the tree was as it turned  the kukui into a virtual botanical factory; roast, bake, grind the kukui nut for medicine, dye, food, per the wisdom of their culture.  But, nothing beat the use as  a “torch” or “light”, when an oil-rich kernel of the kukui nut provided them with their primary source of night-time light. Kukui nuts were threaded onto the stiff midribs of coconut leaflets and burned as candles, hence their English name “candlenut”.  Today the main use is for making lie, necklaces, bracelets for Hawaiian custom and ceremonies, and occasionally for children’s spinning tops; also votive offerings of “kukui” wood-carved-pigheads to their Fire-Goddess "Pele" residing on Mt. Kilauea. Seems like Hawaii and Japan are bonded in the mythic connections of gods.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Adachi Garden & Museum of Art

“Glory to your home! Glory to your home!”  So sung Byron Louis Cage, an American singer.  This is my tribute to Zenko Adachi (1899-1990), who built the Gardens of the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture.  He was born exactly where the museum sits – not with a silver spoon in his mouth however.  He likened his boyhood to male “Oshin”, a country girl sent off to work as a babysitter to support her family at age 7.  The Oshin TV movie, though fiction, held sway over the minds of not only the Japanese but all Asian minds around the early 1980s.  Zenko wrote in his autobiography that he tackled all kinds of jobs – carter, coal/charcoal retailer, shellfish dealer, street trader, rice broker, etc. He was discharged at age 20 from the military service with a superior private ranking.  His stint in the military opened his eyes to the world and gave him strength and confidence.

He traveled to Osaka. After working for a coal/charcoal wholesaler, 
he started his own firm in good earnest. Adachi returned to Yasugi 
for marriage and opened his firm in charcoal venturing, the beginning 
of the Adachi Conglomerate. He had extremes of fortune, ups and downs, frequent changes of commodities, from grains and textiles to hardware 
and swords manufacturing.  He worked at many different side jobs such as automobiles, real estate, financing, all which helped to produce synergism.

While developing his taste for arts, he started to purchase Master Taikan Yokoyama’s (1868-1958) artwork to which he was personally attracted.  I believe he bought them as an alternative to mortgage and insurance, as they were actually sold whenever necessary.  But the accumulation of artwork, his treasure trove, should have encouraged his ambitions not only to create an art museum but also the museum garden.

It was in 1968 that he submitted to Yasugi City Office his building
permit to erect the Adachi Museum, and in 1970, the museum had its opening ceremony for the public.  To date, the Adachi Museum has existed for 46 years, almost half a century.  I myself left for the U.S. in 1973 and returned in 1994 and was not aware of  the museum.  In 2003, the Journal of Japanese Gardening, a
 magazine on Japanese Gardens in the U.S., ranked Adachi No. l 
and I was surprised.  Adachi Museum has kept its dominance 
since then.

I planned to visit Adachi for a long time but did not make it
 until this summer. For one reason, it took me a while to find where it is located.  JR Yasugi Station (famous for Yasugi folk song of
 loach scooping with a bamboo basket) is the closest station where I waited for the first courtesy shuttle bus in the morning. The bus was packed.  I asked the driver how far he was driving. His answer was 15 km. To the west on the San-in Road toward Matsue and south along the River Iinashi, merging with Hii-River (supposedly the raging river personified 
as an 8-headed, 8-tailed serpent tamed by God Susanoo per the Kojiki, the Legendary History of the old Japan).

At Furukawa-cho, about 20 big luxury buses were ahead of us offloading passengers. They were all Chinese visitors, showing their passports at the ticket counter. 
I checked in my knapsack while waiting then followed the hordes of Chinese tourists. Adachi was reported to be concerned about the annual visitor declining down to 10,000 visitors after the initial visitor rush.  Were he still alive, he would have been all smiles to see a huge number of Chinese tourists. It started raining but luckily visitors observed each garden gallery  through wide screen glass windows.

Each garden gallery observed what Mr. Adachi advocated
 as “Japanese Garden be like a Living Painting”.  The garden is
huge - 200,000 square meters (50 acres) has hills, pagodas,
 cliff and falls.  The garden has 1000 pines – 800 red pines and 200 black pines. The red pines are from Noto Peninsula.  At one time after the garden opened, Adachi had a company trip to Noto.  From the railroad train window he saw pines of great posture and abruptly got off at the next station to search the pine forest he saw.

Authentic stones used for the dry gardens are from Totteri Sajigawa Stones, and Osakabe River stones, on the border of Tottori and Okayama. 


It seems Adachi lived inside the museum upon completion until his death 20 years later. The original landscape was designed by Kinsaku Nakane, President of Osaka University of Art.  The landscaping is indeed spectacular - acres of meticulously arranged rocks, moss, trees, and sand set against an unspoiled mountain backdrop, and for good measure, a waterfall in the distance.

Adachi Art Museum now enjoys its honorific title as Taikan Yokoyama Art Museum because of its awesome possessions of Taikan’s  master artwork. Visitors should be thrilled to spot so many Taikan’s Mt. Fuji, Sunrise in the Ocean, a timeless child clad in rags called “innocence”, and may wonder why such Taikan’s exhibits were made possible.  Zenko’s personal attachments came to fruition. Here’s to the long cherished zeal and obsession of Zenko Adachi which has finally found the moment of his life endeavors.  “Glory to your home! Glory to your home!”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Avenues of Flowers Galore

by Mitsuko Nakachi (1928-2016)
, translated by Rio Imamura

The city of Lubumbashi where I moved to from Musoshi thoroughly got rid of my prejudice that Africa is a dark continent. Lubumbashi is the "city of flowers".  Blooming flowers in various colors are all over in fine displays on fences, along roads, inside gardens, one after another, producing a grandiose paradise.  The prudent planning of city streets just surprised me.

The flower season in Lubumbashi starts in September, the month of blooming jacaranda trees.  The streets I stroll innocently everyday turn suddenly into tunnels of purple mist.  Jacaranda on both sides of the streets are in full bloom, blended and crisscrossed. African roads are wide and long and jacaranda trees continue far and farther away. Purple color tunnels spread until eyes become dim and hazy.  Jacaranda, unlike the fast scattering Japanese cherry blossoms, keep their flowers for a little over three months.  When I walk alone under the quiet purple tunnels, the words "Land of Happiness" pop into my mind.

Jacaranda, however, succumbs and starts scattering by the end of October.  Then, as if waiting, comes the next street of flowers, and the baton is being passed.  This time fire-like crimson color Flamboyer contrast their red against the blue sky horizon. Flamboyer is translated into Japanese as the tree of flame.  Flamboyer trees, after purple Jacaranda, make avenues painted by crayon into a red dye-color.  The large sized Flamboyer flowers bloom in full boughs; the scenes look gaudy, ostentatious perhaps.  Only in Africa is it possible to walk the avenue and have the feeling of being engulfed in fire.

Soon after the celebration of New Years by the Japanese colony, red avenues turn next into yellow avenues, when acacias come into full bloom.  The front of our house is all acacias.  One night I smelled a sweet fragrance around our salon window and in the morning I found the Avenue "Kapenda" in the front of our house covered and buried in yellow color.  Acacia flowers are small, but they cluster.  So it is quite a sight when big trees are fully loaded and when the chrome-yellow avenues join the evening glow at sunset.  The fragrance of acacia is strong as compared to other trees; so the night stroll gave me a special pleasure.

When the acacia is gone, the next bloomers are the tulip tree de gabon.  It's the last of four 'avenue trees'.  The massive pedals on the flower are as thick as a human palm and very heavy.  The color is fresh orange.  The tulip flowers kerflop, just like the Japanese camellia.  Thickly covered and postured trees offer nests for many species of birds.  I drove almost daily to the nearest lake along the tulip tree avenue, glancing at the dotted orange flowers in the deep green mass.  No one was on the lakeside, but waiting for me were numerous unfamiliar flowers in the garden which was well taken care of by the gardener.

The dry season starts in April in the Congo Highlands, when tree tulip flowers are gone.  It signals that the four-relay flower season will enter into a recess until the voluptuous Jacaranda comes back.  Meanwhile, green avenues in Lubumbashi remain rustled and insipid with dry winds. I heard that the city planning and tree planting in Lubumbashi was devised and carried out by Belgian colonists who settled in and started copper mining in the early 1900s.



The above translation is my belated tribute to the late Mitsuko Nakachi, who passed away some months ago.  She was among the coterie magazine members of Hino City, Tokyo.  I once also belonged to that group upon my return from the U.S. in the late 1990s.  I never met her, but I wrote a fan letter after reading her Lubumbashi stories. I wanted to learn more about her African life and asked my Hino friend in her neighborhood (and her junior at Tsuda University) if a meeting could be arranged. It was then that I learned that she had passed away, soon after her husband's death.

The following is what I could piece together after studying the advance and retreat of the Japanese mining consortium in the Republic of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) from the 1970s to the 1980s. At one time the Japanese Consortium had hired about 10,000 local people, including copper miners, built a town for the miners and their families, with markets, hospital, schools, post office, plus 500 Japanese expats, engineering and administrative staffs accompanied with 100 families.  It must have been a bold and huge investment for Japan trying to import copper ore.  Apparently after a few years of operations, the Consortium faced a myriad of unexpected fatal management problems including devaluation of the U.S. dollar (Nixon shock), power and food shortages, changes of railroad routes and shipping ports, worsening political situation (Kolwezi tragedy); all of which contributed to their decision to withdraw. A wise decision considering it was before the collapse of the Mobutu Government culminating in the Congo internal disputes and violence.

Mitsuko Nakachi, joining her husband with the Consortium, must have spent a few years, about 5 years in Musoshi and Lubumbasi. Mososhi is one of the copper mining towns, 150 km southeast of Lubumbashi and close to the border with Zambia.

I regret that I lost a chance to meet her.  Searching her name on the Internet, I found her poem, which was selected as the best of 2015 by a Tokyo Newspaper:

“Informed I have but one year to live
Befriending cockscombs ablaze with autumn tints”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

San Diego Memories

Having seen real okapis with my own eyes
My long time dream accomplished
It's certainly my day!

                            - Hirohito

Found among my old storage is a 100 page booklet "Collection of memories of Imachu Classmates", published around the early 1990's in commemoration of the 40th year graduation. As I read the book acknowledgment, the book was actually published a few years after the 40th year, which was 1988 when 80 classmates met for the reunion in Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture and resolved to issue the booklet in minimum time and at as little cost as possible.  There were 200 graduates, but I counted 63 contributors (excluding teachers), corresponding to 30% of total graduates.  Here is my contribution translated into English.


San Diego Report

I'm surprised to receive your request to report how I'm faring after leaving 40 years from Imachu (abbreviation of Imabari Middle School).  I must apologize to all for not writing for so long. Let me redeem myself by reporting on and from San Diego, in Southern California where I currently live and work.  These days of globalization, you may abhor or be tired of hearing rampant accounts of overseas trips of travelers.  However, there are some places that should be seen by globetrotting travelers.  I'll try to focus on such places that would be of interest.

After hectic trans-Pacific re-locations, Tokyo to New York back to Tokyo, I've now settled in San Diego.  This is my 15th year.  I could soon become a native San Diegan. I will most likely remain here until my retirement, barring any unforeseen developments.  San Diego is hometown to our children, just as Imabari is my hometown.  They were educated here and all their friends are San Diegans.

San Diego used to be overshadowed by Los Angeles, a more popular gateway to Southern California.  However, thanks to the Maquiladoras, San Diego stood in the spotlight of trilateral trade (U.S., Mexico, and Japan).  San Diego is located between Los Angeles and Tijuana.  L.A. is reachable by air in 30 minutes and 2 - 3 hours by car.  Tijuana is a 30 minute drive away.  San Diego is a Navy town and tourist spot. It is now also the TV capital of the U.S. with the arrival of Sony, Sanyo, Matsushita, Fujitsu and Samsung.  Kyocera, my employer, came in 1969 as a pioneering manufacturer from Japan.  I joined Kyocera in 1973.  There were only a few Japanese restaurants then but today many Sushi and Karaoke bars have opened as the number of Japanese expatriates and their families increased.

Kyocera has taken initiatives to contribute to San Diego.  Every summer we send two dozen boys and girls to Japan for home-stay experience;  sponsor a local women's pro golf tournament, donate part of the proceeds to a local hospital and non-profit organizations; participate in planning and building activities of the Japanese Friendship Garden; and help introduce Japanese music and artworks as well as theatrical plays.

I personally have been involved in building "Hoshuko" Minato Gakuen, a Japanese Language school for expatriate children since 1978.  This year I'm serving as representative director to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the school.  It originally started as a self-governed entity, but is now approved and authorized by the Japanese Ministry of Education.  Currently Minato Gakuen has a total of 290 students consisting of 220 elementary, 50 junior high and 20 senior high school students.  The teachers number 20, including a principal sent from Japan.  These students are referred to as "returnees" (returning to Japan).

San Diego is situated at the same latitude as Kagoshima in Kyushu.  The weather is nice and mild and not much rain falls throughout the year.  We are south of hot L.A, but no air-conditioning is needed because of the off-shore wind.  We sometimes go fishing and my friend caught a salmon.  There are many ocean activities and sports.  Whale watching is popular around the New Year.  Scuba diving flourishes along La Jolla Shores.  Dennis Connor of the San Diego Yacht Club just won the America's Cup from Australia.  OTL (over the line) is a popular  beach ball game with 3 players, particularly women's teams with colorful swimsuits.  You may have heard about Sea World in Mission Bay and about the famous splash of Killer Whales.  The Victorian styled Hotel Del Coronado, built in 1888, is one of the largest wooden buildings here that was cherished starting in the 19th Century by Prince of Wales Edward and Wallis Simpson.

San Diego boasts the largest naval population and base in the U.S.  I once boarded the Carrier "Enterprise" and the nuclear submarine "Ranger".  Miramar Naval Base (of Top Gun fame) has the Blue Angel Air Show every summer.  Another thing - I had a chance to see the grunion run at night which is unique to Southern and Baja California. Grunion is a sardine sized fish of the silversides family.  They swarm ashore on sandy beaches to lay their eggs at night after the high tide around a full moon -similar to a Crab Run in the Seto Inland Sea near Imabari.  Bonfires are allowed on the beaches.  I saw them light up the ocean late at night.

Lastly, let me tell you my favorite story.  In 1975 Emperor and Empress Showa visited San Diego on the last leg of their official U.S. visit.  It was a hasty day trip.  Emperor Showa visited two places - the San Diego Zoo to see "Koala, Okapi and Humming Birds" and then to Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  As a biologist, his visit to Scripps (and Woods Hole, Massachusetts),  was on his bucket list.  The imperial request reached Kyocera for the service of one person to assist the entourage.  I was chosen and accompanied the men and women chamberlain from the airport to the Sea Lodge in La Jolla, close to Scripps Marine Lab, and the Zoo visit.  When the Emperor left for Scripps, the Empress had short walks along the beach.  All the press corp followed and snapped pictures.  When I was at the poolside, I noticed Vice Premier Takeo Fukuda (1905-1995) who then headed the imperial mission and was sitting alone.  I asked him if he would mind me sitting besides him to talk.  He agreed and we had a pleasant chat about San Diego.

Note:
All photos with the exception of the photo of the Emperor at the SD Zoo were provided courtesy of Haruo Toda, my friend in Hachioji.  He visits SD often to visit his daughter's family.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Biwa Lake and Tahoe Lake

My past job involvement with Lake Tahoe in the U.S. led to my interest in Lake Biwa. My studies started with the vital lake data comparison as follows:

Comparisons of the two lakes, Biwa and Tahoe are just for my personal information. However, as I proceeded, I'm pleased to find evidence of some resemblance and commonality between the two.  Tahoe was inhabited by the native Indian tribe Washo.  Legend has it that the tribe was led by a coyote (guide) to Lake Tahoe by a divine oracle; that the plants, medicines and animals of this area grow strong in order to provide nourishment for the Washo tribe whose responsibility was to take care of it.  Summers were mild, but in harsh winters, the tribe had to travel down to the lower valleys, gathering pine nuts and acorns.  I've read that the people of Jomon and Yaiyoi periods (Iron Age) in ancient Biwa Lake spent summers fishing the lake, but seemed to prefer living in the rural landscape for gathering nuts/acorns, as evidenced in the archeological excavations from the shell mounds in the Biwa Lake basin.  The silts of nuts and acorns were discovered along with shell heap. Biwa Lake occupied my concerns as one young Osakan who shared the benefits of Biwako water.   I spent the 1950s in Osaka as a student.  It was a real shock to read an interview of Masayoshi Takemura, who served as the Governor of Shiga Prefecture (1974-1982), and later on as the Hosokawa Cabinet Secretary and Finance Minister.  He was questioned by the press around 1990: how long will Biwa Lake hold out after its first eutrophication was reported in the 1980s.  His reply was "about 30 years more or less".  I returned to Japan in the mid-1990s after my retirement and 20 years has elapsed since.  If I literally believe his prediction, only 10 years is left.  Is there any way that the lake could outlive his prediction?  I felt impatient.

I decided to go see Biwa Lake.  Biwa Lake Museum is located in Karasuma Peninsula in Kusatsu City, closer to Biwa Lake Toll Bridge connecting Otsu and Moriyama, a bit inconvenient to be dependent on the Kusatsu bus to and from Kusatsu JR station.  I took a taxi (6.6 km) from the station.  I had about an hour before the Museum opened.  It was Sunday morning and quiet.  I headed for the lake front and saw a tremendous number of parked cars and men fishing in silence at intervals around the lake.  Also saw a few inflatable rubber boats afloat on the lake.  A good sign that the lake is alive!  I felt happy. Biwa Lake was designated as a quasi National Park in 1950 and Ramsar Site in 1993.  It was in 1996 that Shiga Prefecture built the Biwa Lake Museum for environmental education of the lake that occupies 16% of the prefectural land.  More than  100 rivers from the surrounding prefectures flow into the lake, but only one river flows out - Seta River in Shiga, then Uji River (Kyoto) and finally Yodo River (Osaka), which discharges into Osaka Bay.  Kyoto has been connected to Biwa Lke through Lake Biwa Canal built for multiple purposes in the late 1800s.  Kyoto and Osaka are two megalopolis' sharing the water supply from Biwa Lake.  Today Biwa Lake management is under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism called 'Water Resources Agency' (WRA) whose mission is stated as "to provide safe, good-quality water stably and reasonably for the people".

At the Museum.  I was dumbfounded at the exhibition concerning natural history.  Human life - 100 years at most, Civilization - 1,000 years to formulate, Human Evolution, Evolution of Life, Geological timescales - beyond 100,000 years -!  Felt like seeing the Cosmological Calendar - HOW INSIGNIFICANT WE HUMANS ARE!  There were great displays of excavated sediments from the ground where the museum stands.  Among the sedimentary strata were deposits of volcanic ash from Kyushu, corresponding to 1.8 million years ago. Going back to Jurassic Days!

My visit to Biwa Lake alleviated my immediate concerns.  I felt a little at ease and renewed my conviction along the religious philosophy advocated by Rev. Chodo Mitsunaga of Temple Isaki, Omi-Hachiman, Shiga, who had completed harsh ascetic training at Mt. Hiei, requiring a 7-year mountain circuit.  He states, "Talking about Biwako is meaningless.  Mountains and rivers set their own rules.  You have to start from there."  Rich oceans and lakes come from the rich mountains and forests.  My thoughts are that this is related to the Washo Indian teachings at Lake Tahoe.