Monday, March 31, 2014

Ground Zero on Dear Miss Breed

My friend in the Tokyo suburbs brought me unexpected news. A small fire flickered in his town to read Dear Miss Breed, the story of a humane San Diego librarian who kept sending books and miscellaneous items to the Japanese American children in the concentration camps in America during World War II. I was told that a group of women who were intrigued by the story started the project.

I have no idea how it developed, but my friend probably made some reference to the book in his club talk or by some unexplained circumstances. They decided to read the book in English. They searched for Joanne Oppenheim's book published by Scholastic New York. They found only one copy at the National Diet Library in Tokyo. The inconvenience was that the city library had to serve as an intermediary and the book could not leave the city library. It had to be read at the library premises under supervision of a city librarian or staff member. Lately, there have been reports of book vandalism in libraries of Anne Frank's Diary for some reason. And then there was the National Diet Library lender time limit. So my friend reported that regretfully the book had to be returned without reading all of it.

I am keeping a few copies of the Japanese translation myself but gave away all of my English books to friends who helped me with the translation, and to the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni librarian who called me with her interest in obtaining a copy. I'm getting another copy myself, but not right away.

I looked through my old files and found a statement I made back in 2006, the year Joanne published Dear Miss Breed from Scholastic. Yes, my motivation was for the benefit of young Japanese readers who were unable to read it in English. I'm glad that I went back to ground zero of my Dear Miss Breed project. Thank you, ladies and my friend, who relit a fire again that originally inspired this project.

To whom it may concern,

This letter is to announce that I am now determined to translate Joanne Oppenhiem's "Dear Miss Breed" into Japanese for young readers to know the powerful story of Miss Breed. I look forward to the day when Japanese boys and girls acquire English language skills and can fully appreciate the author's original context.

I want Japanese readers to know, while they are as young as Miss Breed's children, that there was a remarkable librarian, Miss Breed, who loved the young disciplined Japanese Americans and gave them strength and inspiration while they were confined and isolated in the remote concentration camp during World War II. Access to the collections of touching letter writing by Miss Breed children will surely move the hearts of young Japanese readers.

Soon after "Dear Miss Breed" was published in April 2006, I expressed to both author and publisher, my desire to translate this most important book into Japanese. The publisher replied in June stating that I had to go through the Japanese book underwriter/publisher. I had a number of publishing houses in mind, but I realized that they would immediately ask for the manuscript, which I didn't have. I knew translation without a publisher's endorsement was risky, but I felt such a strong commitment to those whose letters I wished to translate. There is a Japanese saying "Knowing what is right without participating in it betrays one's cowardice". I am aware that there is a risk of losing some things in the translation.

I simply desire that the late Miss Breed receive recognition in Japan, as well as authors of letters who are still alive. I spoke with Clara Breed in the late 1980s, in the last stage of her life, when she was working as a substitute secretary for the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden where I served as a Board member along with Joe and Elizabeth Yamada. Therefore, I can attest to the modesty and sincerity of Miss Breed. I met Ben Segawa and the late Tetsu Hirasaki through my membership in the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.

Translating and publishing "Dear Miss Breed" is my thank-you to the Japanese American community who supported the Japanese Friendship Garden and other projects I worked on intimately, including Minato Gakuen, a Saturday School for the Japanese expatriate children in the San Diego area.

Fortunately I have found a working partner who has greatly enhanced the attached sample translation through Page 16. I wish to complete the translation by the end of this year.

Your opinions or comments on my ambitious self-declaring venture will be greatly appreciated.

Respectfully,

Rio Imamura

I wrote this in 2006, nearly eight years ago. How times flies! My objective was to alert the author, Joanne Oppenheim, and her publisher, Scholastic. I knew they wouldn't be persuaded unless guaranteed by a Japanese underwriter/publisher. I did all the promotion myself, sending a sample translation and the introduction of Dear Miss Breed which appeared in San Diego Magazine, and got a hit with one medium-sized publisher, a very cooperative 'Kashiwa'.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Encounter at River Elbe

On April 25, 1945, the Soviet Army advanced from the east and the American Army advanced from the west and met at the River Elbe; with only Berlin remaining for the siege and attack with fusillade. Both Americans and Russians did not know how to greet each other. One word “tovarishch” (comrade or friend) uttered by an American soldier’s slip of the tongue, broke the embarrassment.

They cheered, hugged, toasted in celebration and pledged that youths should never ever confront in war. The Elbe Day was recorded in history, but the pledge was fleeting and quickly vanished as the Cold War soon followed.

A few months prior to the Elbe Day, the city of Dresden, known as Florence of the Elbe, 100 km upstream, had fallen into utter ruin engulfed in an inferno from the Allied force’s heaviest air raids that lasted for two days. There was fire everywhere and everything was on fire! Hot winds from the firestorm killed people as they fled into underground bomb shelters. It is not clear how many perished because the population had not been recorded. An estimated 25,000 to 200,000 people lost their lives.

Amongst the survivors, there was a POW American witness, Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007). He was detained underground in the now well known “Slaughterhouse Five” that withstood the heat. American POWs, including Kurt, were mobilized for mass burial.

“Our leaders had carte blanche as to what they might not destroy. Their mission was to win the war as quickly as possible, and while they were admirably trained to do just that, their decision as to the fate of certain priceless World heirlooms - in one case Dresden - were not always judicious. When, late in the war, with the Wehrmacht breaking up on all fronts, our planes were sent to destroy this last major city.

I doubt if the question was asked, ‘How will this tragedy benefit us, and how will this benefit compare with the ill-effect in the long run?’ Dresden, a beautiful city, built in the art spirit, symbol of an admirable heritage, so anti-Nazi that Hitler visited it but twice during his whole reign, (and food and a hospital center so bitterly needed) but the city was plowed under and salt strewn in the furrows.”

Kurt wrote this in his Armageddon in Retrospect in 2008, a posthumous book. I have followed him as one of my favorite contemporary writers, and because my first German friend, a young Bosch engineer I befriended, had the same name Kurt. I almost cried when he added “I stand convinced that the brand of justice in which we dealt a wholesale bombing of a civilian population, was blasphemous,” also referring to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As to the Russians who discovered that Kurt was an American, he wrote that they embraced Americans, congratulated them on the complete desolation of Dresden, Americans accepted it with good grace and modesty. However, Kurt wrote that he felt he would have given his life to save Dresden. Well said, Kurt!

In 2005, I traveled from Berlin to Prague by express train. Dresden was the first stop. I hurriedly took a picture of the station. The train crossed the Elbe and I saw the city recovering with great effort and sacrifice. Sheer consolation! The city Meissen, nearby, across the Elbe had escaped the bombing. Meissen is the home of the world famous white porcelain manufacturing.

As I approached the German-Czech border along the Elbe, my eyes were fixed on the breathtaking riverside sceneries. The spectacular hills running along across the meandering Elbe River was so awesome and beckoning, I forgot to take photos.

I noted one of the station names: “Bad Shandau.” Later a Google search found that Bad Shandau (bad is spa in German) was the location for the Romantic Saxon Switzerland National Park Center. It is surrounded by the Elbe sandstone highlands, reportedly the source of the Dresden cathedrals and maybe the Meissen porcelain.

Pardubice is a medium-sized Czech town where I spent about a week, with the help of my friend George (introduced in Riosloggers as the silver iron man). The Elbe River comes down from Hradec Kralove (Queen's Town) and runs through Pardubice. Entering the city of Pardubice, a smaller river Chrudimka flows into the streams of the Elbe. I remember seeing a sightseeing boat. I would like to return to the Elbe River someday and visit Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland.

Top photo courtesy of DTM Valerie Wagnerova who is currently VP of Public Realtions for the "Pardubice Enthusiasts" Toastmasters Club.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Yoshino Tennin

"Sakura" season is galloping here within a month!  Outside it’s still very cold, but we feel the air to be a bit milder, the trees awakening from dormancy and starting to breathe and vibrate. Forecasters say the blossoming peak will be around March 20 for southern Kyushu and around March 30 for northern Kyushu for the Somei-Yoshino species, the most popular cultured cherry trees. The name Yoshino derives from Mt. Yoshino in Nara Prefecture where mountaineering ascetic monks lead their secluded life, including the famous Samurai Rev. Saigyo whose poem read:

”Let me die in spring under the blossoming cherry trees
Around that full moon night of Kisaragi month”

Mt. Yoshino, well-known for its thousands of cherry trees, must be the best venue for viewing in Japan, crowned with the 2004 UNESCO certification. (See the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Moutain Range")

However, Somei-Yoshino is a minority in Yoshino; majority of them there is the wild mountain cherry tree, planted at different altitude zones. In order, starting from the foot of the mountain to the top they are; Shita-Senbon, Naka-Senbon, Kami-Senbon and Oku-Senbon, which denote thousands of cherry trees at ground level, in the slopes half-way up and the top and deep within the mountain. Yoshino visitors can enjoy flowers probably for over a month as the blossoming shifts upward gradually from the ground level.

I remembered Tomoko Iwasaki, my neighbor and friend in Hino, who performed Noh-play “Yoshino-Tennin”, about 15 years ago. I was one of the invitees to her dance and I met her husband (deceased now) who joined as a senior executive with a newly formed IT venture where my ex-employer is closely connected. I’m glad I found her photo to introduce her as the Noh "Shite" player, a.k.a. Yoshino Tennin, an angel. Look at how noble and divine looking a dancer she was!

Yoshino-Tennin is a two act play in which a man from Kyoto travels to Mt. Yoshino to see the cherry blossoms. There he encounters a beautiful young girl who claimed she, too, came to see flowers from the nearby village. The two enjoy viewing flowers together until the man questions more about her. She confessed she was a Tennin, a celestial being, and if he could wait there until evening she would return to perform the ancient imperial court harvest celebration dance.

In the Second Act, with the moon in the east and the sweet and enchanting music filling the air, Tennin appears in her true celestial form, and dances gracefully using a fan in praise of cherry blossoms, gradually fading away into the twilight mist upon a cloud of cherry blossoms.

Yoshino-Tennin Mrs. Iwasaki played on the day was the Second Act only, thus called Han-Noh (half of the Noh), omitting the First Act. The event was the 25th Year Anniversary of the club she belonged to. I saw the event program had a number of Noh 'lyrics play' without music accompaniment before and after the Yoshino-Tennin. In other words, Yoshino-Tennin was the featured Noh of the day, accompanied by four musicians, a full music ensemble (flute, and three drums - stick, hip, shoulder), and Tomoko was the star of the celebration.

Personally, my voice is low. It's bass. Yoshino-Tennin was a hard one to sing when I was a young Noh student. During a one-on-one lesson, I simply couldn't imitate my male teachers' feminine voice. The teacher suggested "just relax and try to tone softer" but I think I failed in Noh.

The lyrics of Yoshino Tennin closes with:

Miyoshino Oh, Mt. Yoshino
The blanketed mountains with the blooming cherry trees
In one exquisite color of tint
Now as the evening dusk gathering
All turning into a misty haze trailing high and low
Riding on the cloud of pedals
Riding on the cloud of pedals
Then mingling with the mist of Heaven
Now lost to sight

Video of Yoshinoyama:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finland and Japan

During the summer of 2000, I took FinnAir for the first time in order to attend the "Next 30 Years Towards Senior Society – a Japanese Nordic Conference“ held in Helsinki, wherein the challenging and compelling topics of aging were discussed - growing healthcare and pension expenditures, tax burdens, etc. The program included visits to senior and healthy active living community centers.

The non-stop FinnAir directly connects Narita with Helsinki. After taking off in Narita, I think I saw the Siberian coast that faces the Sea of Okhotsk. It was a very enjoyable flight; no different from flying across the between L.A. and Narita. The flight hours are about the same, 11 - 12 hours. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian Baltic Fleet took six months to sail from the Gulf of Finland to the Japan Sea. Look how far we have come in 100 years!

Japan and Finland have some things in common. Both are direct neighbors of Russia, sandwiching Russia on the east and west. Japan and Finland have territorial issues with Russia, for which both engaged in wars against Russia. Karelia, a part of Finland, was taken by Russia. Four of the Kurile Islands of Japan were also taken by Russia.

What do you associate with Finland? Sauna bath? Yes, Finland has a fine sauna culture. Karevara? Yes, an oral and tradition-oriented epic. Yumin? Yes, it's a lovable cartoon creature. Jean Sibelius? Yes, Finlandia! How about Linus Torvalds? No? He is the creator of the Linux kernel, the would-be Bill Gates of Finland, if he had continued on with his business ventures.

Anything else? Well, I have news that's a big surprise. Just about the time I was visiting, Finland was cited No. l in the world for their business environment. Oxford University's Global Competitiveness Report listed the top five countries as follows; 1) Finland, 2) U.S., 3) Germany, 4) the Netherlands, 5) Switzerland. And where is Japan on this list? Japan is No. 14!

Why Finland? The index factors reflect not only Government policies, but also the quality of the infrastructure and the skills of Finnish industries. Are there internationally known industries in Finland? Yes! This small North European Nation is home to Nokia, which scores highly for efficient innovation. I saw the Nokia headquarters building close to the highway and its complex extensions under construction on my way to visit Hvittrask in Kirkkonummi, 30 km or 20 miles west of Helsinki.

Hvittrask (H is silent), meaning 'white lake' in Swedish, is a lakeside villa and a summer studio of three eminent Finnish architects, Eriel Saarinen (1873-1950), Armas Lindgren (1874-1929) and Herman Gessellius (1874-1916) , all from Helsinki University. Nationally romantic style homes were made of logs and natural stone. Here Eriel's designs of the National Museum of Finland and the Helsinki Railway Station were completed according to the Master Plan of Helsinki City (never realized due to cost). Eriel later moved to the U.S. where he was employed as a professor at the University of Michigan and his son Eero became famous for his Arch design of St. Louis, Missouri. This visit to Hvittrask was the best thing I did during my week's stay. I walked to Eriel's gravesite in the woods. It was so pretty and I felt like I was in Lake Tahoe. Please view the following video for a taste.

Before leaving Helsinki, I had the pleasure of inviting Mr. & Mrs. Kimanen to a Russian dinner through an arrangement made in advance by email. They are great musicians well known to Kitakyushu citizens as the founders of the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. They brought the Festival regularly to Kitakyushu where I live. Mrs. Kimanen, a.k.a. Yoshiko Arai, is Japanese who was born in Kitakyushu. Both are regular members of the Jean Sibelius Quartet, Seppo playing cello and Yoshiko the violin. They gave me a CD of their own performance of Mozart as a souvenir. Overall, this journey was an unforgettable experience.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Yuyake Koyake" Song

Mt. Fuji in full sight
and verdant air over mulberry capital
once crossing the Asakawa River

- by Rev. Saigyo, Samurai priest and poet (1118-1190)

"Hachioji", meaning "eight princes*", is a commuter city of over half a million people, the majority of them working in the greater urban Tokyo area. It is located 40 km west of Tokyo. I had quite a few friends in Hachioji, when I was living in Hino, bordering Hachioji. Haruo Toda, a good photographer, is among them. Another, the Armour family resided in Hachioji in 1960s.

A few years ago when I traveled as Kyushuan, Haruo drove me to the so-called "Yuyake-Koyake Fureai no sato" (the friendly village of Ongata), now merged with Hachioji, where Miyakichi Takei, aka Uko Nakamura (1897-1972), the poet who wrote the famous children lyrics "Yuyake-Koyake", was born. Ongata Village sits on Jinba Kaido (heading for Mt. Jinba), known as the back road of Koshu Kaido (heading for Kofu, Yamanashi).

Uko was also a commuter when he started to teach at an elementary school in Nippori, Arakawa Ward in Tokyo. There was no bus like there is today between Kami-Ongata Village and Hachoijo Station, so he walked 16 km everyday one way and then took the train to Tokyo.

Uko recalled the day he wrote the lyrics. "One fine afternoon I was returning home for summer vacation, freed from school duty. The time I was approaching Ongata I saw clouds and the mountain ranges turning color, flocks of crows heading for nests on Mt. Takao, Mt. Jinba and Hachioji Castle Mountain, and then all of a sudden temple bells of local Kokeiji, Jofukuji, Shingenin rang out in chorus for curfew. The tinged sky with dusk gathering and the evening bells produced a grand spectacle, baffling all descriptions, and induced in me sadness as well."

Uko posted his lyrics in the Poem Magazine in 1919. Five years later in 1923, Shin Kusakawa (1893-1948), a music major born in Nagano (in a country-side similar to Uko), wrote music to Uko's lyrics, using quarter note patterns. His simple repeating melody makes the song pleasurable to the ear.

I remember a visiting foreigner said to me, "After some time living in Japan I realized everyday at 5PM in many places you could hear a 30 second catchy chime melody "Yuyake Koyake". You can usually hear it near schools and city hall over powerful speakers and if you are walking around Tokyo at 5PM, you will most likely hear it." Yes, I had the same experience, but have almost forgotten it.

Now I have quoted the Rev. Saigyo poem above. Perhaps Rev. Saigyo was heading west either from Kamakura, or on his way back from Hiraizumi, Iwate, where the northern Fujiwara clan prospered. I was happy to find the familiar name "Asakawa River" in the 12th century. It must have been a big river then and the area Hachioji was already known as the capital of mulberries and silk production.

My old house in Hino City is close to the Asakawa River. There was a nostalgic river ferryboat and a citizen swimming pool where I used to take my children. I traced the source of Asakawa back to Hachioji and found the River Ange running through the Ongata village is another name for Asakawa. I'm excited that Ongata and Hino are connected through the Asakawa River, upstream and downstream.

I just wish to add lastly that Hino where I once lived is getting highlighted as the urban waterfront space for irrigation and greeneries as environmentally advanced city in the Greater Tokyo Blueprint.

Notes

1. Eight princes appeared in the dream of ascetic scholar monk "Myoko" as a sign of his revelation at Mt. Fukazawa where Ujiteru Hojo built his castle during the Warring Nation Period (1482-1558) and named it after eight princes. The castle was short lived, leaving the ruins of the castle.

2. youtube "Yuyake-Koyake" song

Monday, January 13, 2014

Is the Japanese language the Devil's Tongue?

"The popular Weekly Times magazine clearly stated that the Japanese language is the devil's tongue in its special Japanese language edition. Yes, many people may agree because the Japanese language embraces lots of irregular and contradictory rules which are often difficult to comprehend. It seems extremely difficult to master Japanese for people whose mother tongue is different.

Japanese is a compilation of native Japanese, Chinese characters and words of foreign origins. Native Japanese consists of 'Hiragana' and 'Katakana' writing, making it further complicated. Speaking of Chinese characters, there are two ways of pronunciation, one is 'on-Yomi', the other 'kun-Yomi' and very often, there are special 'Yomi' as exceptions to the rules.

On top of all that, the delicate relationship between the persons communicating is reflected in the use of their language, the so-called honorific, humble, and polite words. They are the hardest barriers to break through.

And you might conquer those barriers by being in an environment where you constantly hear Japanese being spoken - listening to the radio, TV, and movies. Your confidence may easily be shattered by encountering local dialects and/or newly imported 'Gairaigo', words of foreign origin. Devil's tongue therefore is not such an exaggeration as Times magazine designates in their article.

Despite my criticism of the Japanese language, I'm the one who had been hooked and captured by the devil's tongue as an eternal student of the Japanese language. Needless to say, language is a tool for communication. Although it is difficult to compare it with other languages, Japanese has a wider and deeper threaded structure and has a lot of atmosphere, which I like most. You may call it gracefulness. It goes deeper into the heart and appeals to emotion, rather than logic and the intellect.

You know how babies learn languages. They unconsciously learn language by listening to their parents and conversations around them. They start talking by repeating sounds. We learn a foreign language in school just the opposite way. We start by reading and writing the new language as we learn grammar. Hearing and speaking are not emphasized as much as it should.

Hence, many people can read foreign languages but cannot speak the language. Our clubs' priority, however, is listening and speaking, so I believe we can create many masters of the Japanese language.

Regarding our fellow Taichung Central Toastmasters, particularly the young and earnest ones, let us pledge our all-out efforts today to listen like innocent infants and speak anything that comes to mind spontaneously like splashing water from a spring, sharing together our joy and pride."

I quoted this awesome and fabulous speech bf Dennis Chen, in full, as above from the Taichung Central Archive "10th Anniversary Keynote Speech." He delivered it in Japanese (Note 1- see original Japanese text) and I just translated it into English for my blog readers who cannot read Japanese. I have never seen such clear and concise introduction of the Japanese language. I saw Dennis's obituary on Facebook hidden among the many 2014 New Years greetings, the most unexpected communication. I'm glad I noticed it. He wrote to me six months ago saying "no more letters please." I was wondering how he was battling his cancer. He sent me a CD a few years ago in which he recorded his own singing of "Like a River Flow," a song popularized by singer Misora Hibari. “Oh, nice, he likes to sing" was my honest reaction without knowing singing was his way of therapy, a desperate escape from the pain of his illness.

I first met Dennis in the late 1990s. It was when I visited Fengyuan Toastmasters, an English language club, with which I was corresponding often and exchanged club newsletters with. The club venue, a Kennex Hotel basement, was full and thriving. Someone must have called Dennis and he came in just about when the meeting was adjourning. Then he took me to Taichung to meet another English club and introduced me to David Wang, who later became Taiwan's District Governor.

I read that Dennis's first encounter with Toastmasters was when he was relocated by his bank managing business from a Fengyuan branch to a southern Taichung branch. One day, at a newly relocated branch, a Canadian professor from the nearby National Chung Hsing University visited to open an account and Dennis was in charge of the customer because he had to address him in English. This Canadian, together with his university faculty members tried to set up a Toastmaster club and Dennis was invited. He was hesitant at first, in fear of the slow progress of study as people get older. But Alice Young, Dennis's wife, recommended that he pursue it and he got on board.

The rest is history as written by Robert Lee, the editor of the Rostrum, the Fengyuan Club Newsletter dated Feb 2000:

"Success doesn't come overnight, especially when we try to start everything from scratch…. However, our Club Founder, Dennis Chen made it happen. Our Godfather, Dennis was a man with a vision. He believed that Fengyuan was a special and unique place where he could uncover many outstanding potential Toastmasters without any problem… Believe it or not, he was also a member of Taichung, Wheelers, Beast and Fengyuan at that time."

Dennis was listed among the Hall of Fame - 1999 ROC Japanese Toastmasters’ Tall Tale Contest Champion.

We Japanese Toastmasters have lost our best friend from Taiwan and the best Japanese speaker there.

Note 1:
Dennis Chen and his wife Alice Young joined the International Toastmaster on April 4th 1984. Since then Dennis established seven clubs, including clubs for four different languages. Dennis really set a good example for every Toastmaster member. Dennis used to say "Old soldiers never die."

Note 2:
2007セントラル会創立10周年
発起人の挨拶

「悪魔の言葉」に挑戦

世界で一番有名なアメリカの週刊誌タイムに掲載された日本語特集の記事に、 日本語は「悪魔の言葉だ」と、はっきりと書かれていました。確かに、日本語には、不規則で理解しにくく、ルールが矛盾しているのでは、と思われる部分が沢山有ります。日本語が母国語でない人々がそれをマスターするのは、極めて難しい事の様に思えます。

日本語は、和語、漢語と外来語の混合体ですが、先ず、和語は平仮名と片仮名で表現されるので、複雑になります。次に、漢語には、音読み、訓読みと言われる2種類の読み方がある上に、別の特別な読み方がある場合も決して珍しくありません。更に、話し手と聞き手の間の微妙な関係で使い方が異なる尊敬語、謙譲語と丁寧語は、日本語を習得したい人達の前に立ちはだかる最も高い壁だと思います。こういった難しさを克服して、日本語をある程度勉強しても、ラジオ、テレビや映画の随所に出てくる地方の方言や新しい外来語を耳にすると、たちまち自信が無くなってしまいます。ですから、悪魔の言葉といわれるのも無理はないと思います。

以上、散々日本語の悪口を書きましたが、実は私が日本語演説会の会員達と同じく「悪魔の言葉」魅せられて、永遠の日本語学習者になってしまったのです。もともと、言葉というものは、コミュニケーションの道具です。他の言葉と客観的な比較は出来ませんが、日本語は幅が広く奥ゆかしく、論理的というより、むしろ情緒的な言葉ですので、頭脳というよりは、心の奥深くに届く点が、素晴らしいと思います。

言葉を学習する一番よい方法は、赤ちゃんが言葉を覚える遣り方だと思います。 赤ちゃんは無意識に父母や大人たちの話を聞いて、時間が経つにつれて片言で話 をし始めます。しかし、私たち外国人が学校や塾で外国語を学習する時は、順序が違います。

ほとんどの場合、教科書から読み始め、字を書き、文法を習います。聞くことと話すことはあまり重視されていませんので、難しい外国文学を読める人が外人との簡単な会話を流暢に話せない様な事が良く起こります。その点、日本語演説会では「聞く」と「話す」に重点を置いているので、「日本語の達人」が生まれてきます。私達の欠点を十分に直すにはよく聞き、よく話すことです。子供のように、無心で聞き、

思いついたままに話すことができたら、しめたものです。私達の台中中央セントラル日本語会は創立10周年になり、今月から第11年になります。例会、読書会、親睦会やコンテスト等の活動で会員達に日本語を充分に話せる環境を提供して来ました。

会員達(特に熱心な若い人)は著しい進歩。これからも、このクラブの素晴らしさと楽しさを皆さんと分かち合ってゆきたいと思っています。皆様、誇りを持って、頑張りましょう。

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Anjiro, Japanese Guide for Xavier

Happy New Year everybody!

Miracles abound in history. Some people call them destinies. It was in 1547 that St. Francisco Xavier (1506-1552), known as the Apostle of the East, met a Japanese named Anjiro in Melaka, Malaysia, introduced by Portuguese Captain Jorge Alvarez. The name Anjiro comes from the English Angel, and no personal records were found except that he was born in Satsuma, now Kagoshima in Kyushu. It was said that Anjiro was a fugitive seeking a shelter overseas after committing a felony. On board the Portuguese vessel, the above Captain Alvarez took his crew member Anjiro, perhaps as a Samurai who was willing to atone for his crime, and suggested he better embrace Christianity. Anjiro, following the captain's advice, became a Christian, studied both in Melaka and Goa, and when he met the captain years later, his Portuguese was fairly brushed up, and he was almost ready to serve as an interpreter for Xavier.

Upon departing from Lisbon, Xavier had relished a noble dream and hope as a young missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. After the long tiresome voyage over the treacherous ocean, stopping a year in Mozambique in Africa, 3 years in Goa in India, and two years living in Melaka, while traveling to Timor a few times, he thought he did his best despite language barriers. He converted many people, but progress was slow with lesser success than he had anticipated. He wasn't fully satisfied. When he encountered Anjiro, he was struck with joy and so reported "God has put it into my heart" to King John "to go to the islands of Japan to spread our holy faith."

Melaka Viceroy Pedro de Silva, the 5th son of Vasco de Gama, pledged financial help for the voyage and propagation, prepared gifts, such as a music playing clock, organ, matchlock, crystal glass, satin damask, bottles of wine, books, etc. On April 15, 1549, Xavier set sail on board the Chinese junk accompanied by Father Cosme Torres, John Fernandez and Anjiro, arriving at Kagoshima on August 25. Kagoshima was Anjiro's native city, and he quickly obtained from Lord Shimazu permission for Xavier to preach. While Anjiro translated and circulated the Creed, and some simple prayers, Xavier set himself to learn the Japanese language.

As soon as he could use it fluently, he began to preach. But, not long afterwards, the Lord grew angry with the Portuguese merchants because they had abandoned his port of Kagoshima to carry on their trading at Hirado, a better port a little to the north of Nagasaki. He withdrew the permission he had given and threatened to punish any Japanese who became a Christian. The few converts remained faithful and declared they were ready to suffer punishment or death rather than deny Christ. After a year at Kagoshima, Xavier decided to push on to Hirado, carrying on his back all the articles necessary for the celebration of Mass. At Hirado the missionaries baptized more converts in twenty days than they had done at Kagoshima in a whole year. Leaving these converts with Father Torres in charge, Xavier and his party set out over land for Kyoto, the imperial capital. They went by the beautiful inland sea to the port of Yamaguchi, and Xavier preached there, in public and through Anjiro, before the local prince.

After a month's stay at Yamaguchi, Xavier resumed his journey with his companions. It was nearing the end of the year, and they suffered from inclement weather and bad roads. They reached Kyoto in February and here Xavier found that the city was in a state of civil disorder and utter chaos, and the emperor was in retreat. So after a fortnight's stay, he returned to Yamaguchi. He received an official invitation from the Bungo Lord Sorin Otomo, a breakthrough. He was successful to have one of the powerful Daimyos christened and under his auspices, his friends and relatives who followed suit. However, these favorable turn of events did not hinder his personal ultimate goal to travel to China to preach the Gospel. In 1552, Xavier left Japan without knowing he was doomed to die on the way.

Portuguese missionaries, such as Luis Frois, Francisco Cabrel, Alessandro Valignano, Gasper Vilela followed Xavier, to harvest seeds sowed by Xavier, but all the Jesuit's efforts came to naught when in 1587 deportation orders by Taiko Hideyoshi took effect, and in 1612 Christianity was banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Were Xavier, Anjiro and all the other Jesuits forgotten? No, not at all! We see statues of St. Xavier in Kagoshima, Hirado, Nagasaki, and Oita in Kyushu. Yamaguchi, Xavier's favorite city, built not only the Xavier Memorial Church (see photo) but concluded sister-city relations with Navarre (now in Spain) where Xavier was born. Anjiro is remembered both in Kagoshima and Melaka. Without him, Xavier's visit to Japan never would have happened. We certainly recognize their footprints in the Portuguese words adopted into Japanese, such as, alcool, carta, caramela, castella, pao, padre, sabao, tempero and many more. They were the first Caucasians to land in Japan (given nicknames were "Southern Barbarians") that surprised and implanted deep impressions on the Japanese and opened their eyes to the outer world. The National Treasure, Kano School artwork on the folding screen at the Kobe Museum illustrates scenes from their mission.

Records of Anjiro became blurred along with his Christened name Paulo de Santa Fe once Xavier left Japan. He might have taken all the blame that his translations caused problems, e.g. Dainichi for Christ, Mary for Kannon, etc. versus Buddhism. Rumors said he traveled again overseas.

Note:
The above article first appeared in the magazine CABARAN (Challenge) of the Chi Wen Secondary School, Bahau, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.