Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Painted My Way" - Henry Fukuhara, A True Artist

Shadow of the distant pass;
Their memories still last
Manzanar: Monument of Tears.
Ignorance and pseudo-fears;
A wrong that can't be made right;
A blindness for lack of sight;
A day now engulfed by night;
A hope shaded, once so bright.
The memories still last,
… they still last

- "Manzanar" by William Smith

The best souvenir of my recent Californian trip was an art book "Painted My Way", designed and printed in 2011 by the APC Fine Arts & Graphic Gallery, Torrance, California. Phyllis Doyon, who has her studio and gallery in Camarillo, gave it to me when my daughter Yukina and I visited her. Yukina saved the local newspaper report of the "Painted My Way" Exhibition in Thousand Oaks during the month of August. I flew into LAX on Sept 2, so, I missed the exhibition. Calling Phyllis, the exhibition organizer, Yukina found one of Phyllis' works from the Exhibition still being shown at the Thousand Oaks Community Gallery. We dropped in after our lunch outing. Phyllis drew a newly built mess hall, which I wasn't aware of, on my Manzanar visit five years ago. Yukina and I, with grandson Ray, drove to Camarillo to hear what Phyllis could tell us.

It was the first time I heard about Henry Fukuhara (1913-2010), a water color artist and teacher. Henry was an internee at the Manzanar Camp with his family from Los Angeles. They all left for Long Island, New York when World War II ended. They were engaged in a floral business there until late in the 1980s when Henry decided to move back to Santa Monica.

He was an art oriented person when he was young. As Henry made the pilgrimage back to Manzanar, he thought of leading an art workshop with a number of his artist friends, welcoming anyone who responded to his lofty ideal, Japanese Americans or not. He conducted the first workshop at the age of 85 and kept at it until he was physically unable to do so. He continued even when his eyesight deteriorated and fell half blind. Now Phyllis, one of the chaperons, told me the "Painted My Way" workshop survived Henry's death and the exhibitions continue. She introduced me to key artists who succeeded Henry.

Upon my return to Japan, I checked to see if I had missed Henry Fukuhara's name among the Japanese American artists introduced in the two great exhibitions of Japanese American artists I saw in Japan. One was the 1995 Summer Exhibition held in the Tokyo Metropolitan Garden Museum (event cosponsored by JANM, LA and Japan Association of Art Museums for the 50th End of War Commemoration, with a tremendous collection of over 200 artwork, including Chiura Obata, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Dan Harada, Matsusaburo Hibi, Henry Sugimoto, and others.

The other was the most recent Smithsonian-sponsored "Art of Gaman" Exhibition held in succession at Tokyo, Sendai, Fukushima, Hiroshima, and Okinawa, since 2012. Arts and crafts items covered a wide variety of artifacts including tools, teapots, furniture, toys, games, pendants/pins, purses and ornaments.

When I found that Henry Fukuhara had not been introduced yet to Japan, I felt it my duty to let the Japanese see his powerful and inspirational work as shown in the book "Painted My Way".

His Manzanar days of less than 5 years influenced him greatly almost like an obsession. I know another artist from the same generation, with a similar obsession in Yamaguchi-ken, a neighboring prefecture to Fukuoka where I now reside. His name is Yasuo Kazuki (1911-1974) and his obsession was Siberia. Yasuo wanted to become an artist like Henry, but he was drafted into the army and sent to Manchuria. At the end of the War, Russians sent him to Siberia for hard labor. His Siberian experience was 2 to 3 years, shorter than Henry's internment at Manzanar, but he lived there with death all around him. Upon his return to Yamaguchi, he began producing prolific artworks (his Siberian Series won the Grand Artist Prize of Japan) which were all requiems to his friends who died in the Siberia gulag.

Kazuki wrote all the dreams I had in Siberia were about my old home in Yamaguchi. But upon returning home, all I dreamed about were Siberian scenes - heavy snowfalls outside the window; poor prisoners all with drooped heads treading leaden feet back to the camp; horrible dreams of dread of receiving sentences of longer penal servitude.

Kazuki wrote also about the difference between an artisan and an artist. An artisan is a person who chooses art as his profession, whereas an artist is a person who chooses art as his way of life. He humbly admitted he had a dual life as an artisan and artist, although he tried to be artist. Henry Fukuhara inspired 80 to 100 artists and artisans in Manzanar each year. That's something only a real artist can do. He was never an artisan. I sincerely hope the Manzanar pilgrimage will continue on and on.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Voluntary Evacuation

"Attempted but failed" was my understanding of what happened with the voluntary evacuation efforts by the Japanese Americans when Japan declared war against the Allied Forces in attacking Pearl Harbor. Ryo Takasugi's book on Fred (Isamu) Wada took me by surprise. The book, written a decade ago, was recently republished as The Man who Ushered in the (1964) Tokyo Olympics from Kobunsha. What caught me was its subtitle "The Story of an Issei Japanese Who Refused to go to the Concentration Camp."

The scene began in an affluent Chapultepec residence of Mexican General Jose de J. Clark Flores, then the Vice President of the IOC. Fred Wada visited General Clark as a special envoy representing the Tokyo Olympic Prep Board.

"Muy encantado de veer a Vd. por aqui y agradezco mucho a Vd., Senor General!
"Sr. Wada, Vd. puede hablar español!"
"Un poquito, nada mas!"

"I own ‘Farmer Fred's Market’ in Los Angeles. There are many Mexicans among our employees. So maybe OK for simple conversations."

General Clark softened with a smile.

"During the War, I was a farmer in Utah, as I didn't want to go to the camps."
"Sr. Wada, this is the first time I heard there were Japanese Americans who didn't go to the camps!"
"It's true, General. 130 of us went to Keetley, Utah. It was very wild and barren land. Masako and I had a hard time cultivating it!"

Fred, reminisced quietly awhile, and looked at Masako, his wife. The General stood impressed and shook Fred's hand and Masako's. This is the moment General Clark befriended Fred and eventually gave Tokyo, Japan his favorable voice and recommendation as the next Olympic site.

"130 Japanese Americans in Keetley, Utah!" Wow! First time I heard of this as well. I searched Keetley on Google. It was located about 60 kilometers east from Salt Lake City, and south close to Park City. It was once a mining town but is now submerged underwater in the Jordnanelle Reservoir since 1995. The Reservoir is north of Heber City. Both Park and Heber Cities belong to the same Wasatch (Native Indian word for Mountain Pass) County, aka Wasatch Back. Salt Lake City is aka Wasatch Front.

Upon hearing the news about Pearl Harbor, Fred Wada, a produce marketer in Oakland, felt that the evacuation of the Japanese Americans from the west coast was imminent. He had read in the paper that the State of Utah was short-handed in farming and traveled to Utah with Masako. With the help of a Japanese American acquaintance, he nailed down key people to talk to, participating in local farmers' assemblies and committing their allegiance to the U.S. Government. Although Duchesne (eastern Wasatch) was the only county which voiced assent, Wada felt there was a ray of hope. He sought the same Wasatch, but closer to Salt Lake City for marketing, struck the deal with George Fisher, the Mayor of Keetley, cattleman, and developer, for a 3800 acre land leasing agreement at $7000 a year when George offered his old housing facilities used for miners. Fred met Utah Governor Herb Maw before returning to Oakland, promising they would not be a burden to the state. Fred Wada made the right decision. I thought. Utah is known as a Mormon state, religiously homogeneous society. I wasn't sure if George Fisher was a Mormon, but Governor Maw was most likely a doyen (senior member), his words honored by most Utahans.

The Keetley Farm Colony plan was laid. Fred mustered like-minded colleagues and their families under the banner "Food for Victory." March 29, 1942 was the deadline they had to meet; otherwise they had to report for the enforced evacuation as per the Executive Order 9095.

The snow covered highland (1400 meters above sea level) and harsh winter (often down to 20 below zero) waited for their arrival, accompanied with racial animosity. As the community was setting up the hot bath they brought from Oakland, they were threatened with a dynamite explosion, which was triggered by the former mining dwellers that were requested to leave Keetley.

The Japanese Americans first busied themselves repairing the buildings in which they resided. Once the spring snow began to melt they cleared the sagebrush from the land, dug out the rocks by hand, and then began to plant a large truck garden with lettuce and strawberries. They raised chickens, pigs, and goats.

Their discovery when the snow thawed was disappointing. The arable land was 1/10th of the contracted 3800 acres, covered with ubiquitous stones. The deadly report, I read, 50 tons of stones hauled out of 150 acres. No machines were available then. All were done manually with sweat.

They didn't complain. They just went to work long and enduring hours. Once the farm was established, maintaining it was left to the wives and children while many of the men worked as laborers in sugar beet fields on surrounding farms. The first year's crops were presented to Governor Maw and made some Salt Lake City news, but later efforts were obstructed by the Anti-Japan road blockades. Fred had to switch to a less desirable neighboring market in Park and Heber Cities. The season was short, snow came in September.

Fred narrowly broke even his first year, but the second year brought a serious crisis. 50 pigs they raised died of a sudden disease. Planning to use the land for sheep herding, Fred negotiated with Fisher for the second lease agreement. Fisher vetoed sheep herding, because of his adamant conviction that sheep spoil pastures. The negotiation failed. Details of the aftermath were not known, but the main workforce went into subcontracting, leaving the remaining families in Keetley until the war ended.

Fred moved his family to Murray, near Salt Lake City, leasing a 16 acre farm, where he could produce celery and onions year round.

What drove Fred to Utah, in my opinion, was l) his clairvoyance and entrepreneurship; 2) his faith in humanitarian creeds; 3) his quest to test his excellence in marketing. He no doubt believes men have no enemies if he spoke from his heart, allaying fears of others and even profiting from adversity. He also put his full confidence in the Mormons.

I don't know if he knew Governor Ralph Car of Colorado who might have welcomed them to Arizona instead of Utah. I have just read Colorado Governor Ralph Car who saved the Japanese Americans (Japanese title, translation 2013) written by Adam Schrager. The original title was the Principled Politician: the Governor who staked his political future on his Jap stand. Governor Car might have provided Fred with a better test site that would have made Fred's marketing a slam dunk. Who knows?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Estonian Venture

My religion is quilts
I believe the textiles
Sewn in quilts have made it to heaven

- by Marja Matiisen, Viljandi Academy of Culture*

Kim, my Yokohama friend, a veteran skier (see Kim's Mont Blanc Ski Trek) headed for the Baltic Sea this time, because her ski trip got cancelled. This time she and a long time friend from school wanted to explore knitting and quilting in Estonia. Estonians make up the majority of the population and have rich cultural traditions - love of music, dance, choirs, folk arts, including colorful knitting and embroidery, probably still untouched and unseen by any Asians.

They started contacting possible knitters or schools who would accept them via the Internet and the effort paid off in friendly social networking and trips to inland, as well as beach cities, plus a couple of interesting off-shore islands. They flew to Helsinki and crossed to Tallinn on June 20 this year for a three week visit.

Kim, who knew I was in Tallinn, sought my advice, but my trip was a day excursion returning the same day. The only advice I could give was reminding her of the hour time difference between Helsinki and Tallinn. I‘m afraid I was one of those tourists that blindly recite the UNESCO designation that Tallinn represents Medieval Estonia. Yes, Tallinn, Tartu, Viljandi, Parnu, and Narva were among the listed Hanseatic/Teutonic cities, but Estonia soon became the battleground for centuries where Denmark, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Poland fought their many wars over controlling this important geographical position, with most of the Teutonic castles wrecked and ruined.

Swedish control did not last long because Russia defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War. The Russian revolution gave Estonia a good dispute and the Tartu Treaty in the early 1900s, but with the outburst of World War II, Russia annexed and suppressed Estonia for almost a century. Estonian independence came in 1992 when the compassionate human chain was formed among the Baltic three countries - Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Estonia joined EC in 2004 and has used the Euro since 2011. It is nicknamed today as the Baltic Tiger.

I am fascinated with Kim's travel photos and notes, realizing that you have to be out of Tallinn in order to know real Estonia, its diversity and hidden ethnic world. In hopping across the country, they used bus transportation which was more convenient than railroad. The bus was the right choice, leading to human interactions and warm hospitable receptions. Kim's party was greatly helped more than once by friendly drivers with a willingness to serve. For example, Kim dared to visit Koguva, a tiny village on Muhu Island, famous for the best preserved 18th/19th threshed barn house. Taking a bus to reach Koguva seemed challenging, particularly on the weekend. They were able to visit it with the voluntary help of the inn bus driver, who ferried them to the mainland.

I was told Estonians cherish the countryside and even urban dwellers maintain strong rural ties. Associating with their belief in the earth spirit**, I believe the Japanese and Estonians have a similar frame of mind.

I wish to congratulate the success of their venture and look forward to seeing their report on Estonian knitting.


1) Viljandi Academy of Culture merged with the University of Tartu in 2005. The UT VCA teaches professional higher education and performs applied research within information science, culture education and creative arts. The academy has about 1000 students, half of whom are open university students. Kristi Joeste, lecturer of Estonian native crafts met Kim and her friend and conducted an intensive workshop. Please visit Kristi's blog written in both Estonian and English.

2) The belief system of indigenous Estonians is called "Maausk" to which the Japanese concept "Satoyama" comes close.

3) Most Estonian island ferries carry buses and cars. Kim told me that the Baltic Sea freezes in winter, enabling cars to cross the ocean to small islands. Fantastic! Caution needed by keeping your direction fixed and being mindful of overall weight.

4) Kim's photo album

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Quilt By Accident

"Life is like a patchwork quilt
And each little patch is a day,
Some patches are rosy, happy and bright,
And some are dark and gray.

But each little patch as it's fitted in
And sewn to keep it together
Makes a finished block in this life of ours
Filled with sun, and with rainy weather.

So let me work on Life's patchwork quilt
Through the rainy days and the sun--
Trusting that when I have finished my block
The master may say: "Well done."

- poem by Elizabeth Ryan DeCoursey

In early September my son Raymond drove all of us to the LA County Fair in Pomona, the land of citrus fruit in the foothills of the San Gabrielle Mountains. We arrived just in time for the opening at noon. Our objective was to see his sister Amy's quilt block that won the Best in Show quilting award at the Fair. We encountered stuffy air and heat immediately after getting out of the air-conditioned car, reminiscent of my first step outside the airplane at the Phoenix Arizona Airport years ago. Oh no, how can we beat this deadly heat today! Relief in sight! One of the corporate sponsors, Sparkletts, treated Fair visitors with free ice-cold sparkling water. Yip-pee!

Raymond tried to decipher the complex Fair Map to locate the quilt exhibits. He tried Millard Sheets Center for the Arts first. It was in the innermost fair site, so we climbed over a little hill for a shortcut, passed the lagoon and entered a remote oblong-shaped building. We didn't find it. We inquired a few attendants. No luck. Finally, Raymond found the word "Tapestry" on the map which was inside the main building at the horse track near the Carnival Section, close to the entrance gate. After going back to where we started, we finally found Amy's quilt block.

Enclosed inside the glass case, Amy's owl on a bluish background was shining at the top of the block with a big gold medallion. There were 3 categories of competition, a) Piece (traditional), b) Appliqué (more of a free style), and c) Combined (which combines elements of the other two). Amy entered into the C category. She not only won the Blue Ribbon in C, but won Best in Show for all categories. The rules directed all entries to use the same fabric. I heard Amy donated her block to charity while all the others kept theirs.

The buildings, including Shopping Pavilions, were all air-conditioned; most visitors were there, relaxed and cool, enjoying grand shopping - a sort of summer exodus zone. I was surprised to see so many Jacuzzi / hot tub vendors displaying big steam sauna baths. Quite a change from the old state fair days I used to know.

Amy, per my daughter, is a microbiologist who graduated from Cal Poly Pomona. In her career, she works to ensure that drinking water is clean and safe. She manages field and lab work, as well as regulatory compliance for the area surrounding her home town of Hemet, California. She pursued quilting as a hobby almost by accident. Her enthusiasm and devotion to quilting was obvious by looking at her gifts to my daughter‘s family, which I was able to examine after visiting the LA County Fair. I liked her quilt with the sunflower appliqué. I asked my daughter how Amy fell in love with quilting. Apparently, she was interested in sewing from a young age.

Amy perhaps heard of my interest in her quilt work through my daughter and wrote to me, "My Mother-in-Law saw this little owl and wants me to make one for her too! I only have scraps of that fabric left. I have to see what I can do!!" "That sounds wonderful, Amy, my sister-in-law here in Japan is an ardent owl collector - from a stuffed owl to a tiny key holder with an owl on it! Can you make one for her, too?" I wrote back.

A day before returning to Japan, my daughter took me to the Conejo Valley Quilters Show and Auction, a two-day event, held at California Lutheran University Gilbert Sports Arena. My daughter's house is nearby. At the entrance was a car covered with the featured quilts, entitled "Quilt My Ride Car Cover." Fifty or more people contributed to this challenge.

The show has everything from lessons on quilting, shops for sewing machine (old and new), fabrics, threads, boutique and doll stores, to demonstrations of paper piecing, hand quilting, societies of appliqué, appraisers, etc. Just circling around the venue, visitors learned all about quilts - banners, memorials, themes, tree of life, pictorials, stories, etc. There were traditional and contemporary styles, and a bit of history on how American quilts were brought into the new world by immigrants and how it developed into a high art form.

Thank you, Raymond and Amy, for opening my eyes to the wonderful world of quilts.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Revisiting Balboa Park Japanese Friendship Garden

I wish to dedicate this article to: Will Hippen, Jr., Clara Breed, Marge Wells, Mark Umemura, Ken Takada, Denny Ikeda, and George Woodworth.

Recently, I had the chance to re-visit the Balboa Park Japanese Friendship Garden. I tried to rely on my memory to find the entrance from the Organ Pavilion, the center of San Diego Balboa Park. I found myself at the VIP (or service) gate which was locked to the general public. Once I realized I was at the wrong gate, I stopped two girls who seemed to be returning from lunch and told them that I had an appointment with the Japanese Friendship Garden Executives. They opened the gate and ushered me into the nearest building, which was their administrative building, and fortunately exactly where I was supposed to be.

I found about five people there, one young man and four young women. From their appearances I guessed they were sales people selling wedding banquets. The waiting room table was full with wedding service advertisements for photographers, florists, hairdressers, and the like. When I was walking out around 4:30 p.m., a banquet setting was in preparation. I saw outdoor lighting, catering gear, band crew instruments, and other things that suggested a wedding. Seemingly the main business associated with the garden is related to wedding banquets. These young people were very lively, and I am sure they were quite good at selling the banquets. The Japanese Garden has a long history of catering to weddings; the brochure said 15 years of service.

The conceptual starting date, however, could go back at least 25 years ago. Will Hippen, Jr., Honorary Consul General of Japan in San Diego, 1st President and donor himself of the Japanese Friendship Garden, raised the banner and blazed the trail. He had his own Japanese garden complete with Koi pond and tea house, where he held a reception party more than once when the Japanese self-defense Navy frigate visited San Diego port. He invited officers and sailors alike, members of SD-Yokohama sister-city relations to mingle with food and drink, while the Japanese naval band played both US and Japanese music.

Two ideas for a Japanese Garden were circulating. The first had to do with the city of San Diego contemplating if its Balboa Park gorge area could be developed into a Japanese garden. The second consisted of a local group of Japanese Americans trying to rebuild the Japanese garden, a popular 1915 Panama International Exhibit, which was destroyed during WWII. It was Will Hippen who combined these two ideas into one grand plan. He first asked Mayor Wilson, and then his successor Rodger Hedgecock to sign a 100-year lease agreement to use the gorge in Balboa Park as a Japanese Friendship Garden. Thankfully, he ultimately succeeded. I was honored to attend the signing ceremony at the Mayor’s office.

A fund raising campaign started immediately with a very tough requirement; the lease agreement stipulated there be enough money to break ground on the project by a specified date. My former company, Kyocera, took the lead in the campaign, as Dr. Inamori, President, was thankful and enthusiastic for being listed among the best San Diego businesses to participate in the project. The Japanese Friendship Garden concept struck his heart and his first comment upon visiting Balboa Park was “Kyoto where he resides has more challenging venues than Balboa gorge and he never worried about the awkward cliff and sharp slopes to landscape despite the misgivings of the local people.”

When I left San Diego in the mid-1990s, I remembered the Japanese Friendship Garden sitting only on top of the gorge close to the Organ Pavilion, the Meiji style gate designed by Storrier Sterns, the curved pathways along the bamboo groves, the exhibit house as the main event center, the Karesansui (dried garden), the outdoor tea reception stage, etc. The crepe myrtle I donated in memory of Denny Ikeda (a Kyocera employee gunned down by two ruffians near Sea World) was still there, extending its branches.

Today, going down through Stern’s gate (which was moved to the newly expanded garden), I was thrilled to see a couple of pseudo-glens already covered with white stones—one cascade to be covered in water, other perhaps to remain dry—as I strolled down the cherry tree pathway. Mike Kawamura, the Japanese Friendship Garden VP and my fellow colleague at work, told me that more than 100 cherry trees were transplanted already. Honestly, I felt uneasy as to whether my physical stamina could carry me down the gorge and back to the top. Thanks to the ADA compliant strolling pathway, I had no problem, but found myself exhilarated with the walk while viewing the camellia/azalea slope garden.

As per their latest new release, the Japanese Friendship Garden, just a month ago, had the August Moon Gala and Awards Dinner celebration to open its north end of the garden expansion before the official public opening. This addition is now open. I saw many people walking down the roughly planted gorge, crossing the Dragon Bridge, zigzagging the cherry tree grove, stopping at one of the pairing ponds.

The other pairing pond, larger than the pond near the Dragon Bridge, is coming with what the Japanese Friendship Garden is calling the “Pavilion” and “Amphitheater”; the next and perhaps the last phase of construction. It will be located where the horse stables of the SD Park Police were once found. I heard that the Pavilion could be PAGODA shaped. That’s a fantastic concept and could contribute to this garden becoming the best West Coast Japanese garden; perhaps rivaling the Sankei-en gardens in Yokohama, Japan, which acclaimed the world’s best by Tagor and others. Dennis Otsuji is confident. The Japanese Friendship Garden President said they could definitely finish all the construction by 2015, the year SD will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Panama Exhibition at Balboa Park.

Finally, I dropped in at the donors’ board and fondly found very familiar names: fellow Japanese corporations: Sanyo, Sony, Fujitsu, Nissan, Union Bank. San Diego corporations: Naiman, A.O. Reed, Qualcom, Kokusai Travel. Then, Acquaintances: Saburo Muraoka & Family, Bruce Henderson, Marge Wells, Moto Asakawa & Family, Kay Leonard/J. Forsyth, Dr. R. Phillips, Dr. Harvey Itano, Takeo Uesugi, Kuramoto, Bishop, Bogart, Arthur Jonishi, 5 Samurais of Kyocera.


Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego

Discover Nikkei article source

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nagasaki Kaido Walk

Nagasaki and Kokura is strangely bound. They are two ends of Nagasaki Kaido, a famous road next to the five Kaidos, connecting Edo and Kyoto and others in Edo period. Nagasaki just marked the 68th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb this Friday with more than 6,300 people attending the ceremony including A-Bomb survivors and bereaved families at the Peace Park. It is well known irony that Kokura was the original bomb target but clouds over Kokura changed the bomber’s flight path to Nagasaki.

I recently read a travel log of a walker who took the 280 km Nagasaki Kaido. His name is Takuji Matsuo, who lives in Shimabara, Nagasaki. He was a Shimabara Junior High School principal and now serves as a Shimabara Castle Archive specialist. He visited shrines and temples, took notes and photos, updated local maps and news, documented folk stories while traveling. He divided his travel plans into several legs to suit his convenience, so the entire trip took a whole year to complete. The walking itself took only 17 days or 420,000 steps as per his trusty pedometer.

I was interested in his description of Hiyamizu (cold water) Mountain Pass, the Hakone Pass of Nagasaki Kaido, the most difficult and laborious route. It is sometimes called Pan Pass, because travelers scooped mountain water with a pan to soothe their thirsts. Yes, the pass was a hard one. He perspired intensely, but endured.

He wrote that all the railroads and highways today come and go there under their respective tunnels and travelers enjoy a great view from above. Records show an elephant calf, a gift to a Shogun, passed here.

It's a straight line from Dazaifu / Tsukushino to reach Iizuka / Kurosaki / Kokura. Uchino is the station coming off the Pass and Matsuo, the writer, found happily, that Uchino retained its form the way they were during the Edo days.

A "Nagasaki Walk" is occasionally held like "Earth Walk" or "Peace Walk," in spring and autumn by children and adults alike, sponsored by local municipal governments or newspapers.

This spring (2013), the city of Kitakyushu where I live, had a one day Nagasaki Walk Event to commemorate its 50th Birthday with great participation by its citizens. The full official course was from Tokiwabash Bridge (the elephant on the way to Edo) to Koyanose Station, including the Magari Row of Pines. I'm sure the path the elephant took depicted by artist Jakuchu was the same one. Other shorter courses were respectively 12 km and 15 km.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Thank You, Lt. Nicholson

I read about the "Lt. Nicholson Monument" in the recent Kitakyushu City Magazine "Kumo-no-ue" (Above the Cloud) No. 18. The monument must be in the same ward "Yahata-Nishi" where we live.

Who so blind as he that will not see! So true and I know the area well. I made a detour recently on my way back from the newly built library next to the remains of Nagasaki Kaido row of pine trees (see *Note below). The venue was closer than I thought. Alas, a bit off where the walkway crosses (熊西緑道ーKumanishi Greenway), within a stone's throw away and the monument was hidden a bit so as to be hardly noticed. A huge palm tree sits aplomb at the above crossroads, the corner across from Kumanishi Elementary School Compound. Passers-by would be more attracted to the palms than a cluster of rusted irons, unless otherwise advised.

The English text on a metal plate reads:

"Not so long after WWII, on Nov. 12, 1947, the airplane piloted by Lt. Rodney Nicholson of the U.S. Air Force ran into trouble when it was flying over this area. Even though he had the opportunity to bail out, he chose to remain at the controls, so as to avoid crashing into the residential area. He crashed into a nearby field owned by Mitsubishi Kasei Corp and was killed. The people in the area admired his humane act and built a monument in his memory, whereby they could pray, in May 1948.

However, because of the redevelopment of the city, we obliged to break the monument in August 1988. The Kitakyushu Municipal Government and Mitsubishi Kasei Corp decided to erect a sculpture for the eternal memory of his heroic action and asked Kiyonori Bori, an iron sculptor from the area, to create a sculpture. Lt. Nicholson's heroic act will remain in the heart of our citizens forever with this work of art.” - April 1989

It is a well written plate and I'm deeply impressed. While working in the naval town of San Diego, California, there was a similar plane crash incident. The naval jet had trouble as soon as it took off at the Miramar Airbase. The pilot tried to control his jet to fly out to the ocean in vain. He ejected himself right before the jet crashed into the parking lot of our Sorrento Valley plant. A dozen cars and the plant roof eaves were damaged but there was no loss of human life.

I read also Nicholson's plane knocked off the Elementary School building eaves, while classes were in session. Nicholson's death must have saved many school children.

Years ago, I belonged to the Kurosaki "Prince Hotel" tennis and swimming club center. However, the change of hotel ownership kept me away for awhile from the area. The swimming pool and skate rink were demolished first. Then home appliance and food shopping centers emerged, replacing the indulgent sporting villa. Outdoor tennis courts turned into restaurant rows. Kept vacant after bulldozed and compacted was where the indoor tennis courts and club house were across from busy State Route 200. Nicholson's monument may be exposed soon when the new development move surges. I hope it will stay eternally as written on the plate.


Historic Nagasaki Kaido in Kyushu, started from Nagasaki and ended at Kokura, the stretch of walk of 228 kilomters (142 miles). The walk usually took one week. In the Edo-Tokugawa Shogunate days, there were 25 posts / stations to stay and rest in between Nagasaki and Kokura. Feudal lords in northern Kyushu had to commute at certain intervals to Edo in procession for the dual residential duties in their continued subservience to the Shogunate. Dutch traders also tread the same route, including famous Philip Franz Von Siebold (1796-1866), Engelbert Kaempfer (1743-1828), Carl Peter Thunnberg (1796-1866), etc. Kurosaki Station is between Kokura (last station) and Koyanose. Rows of pine trees were famous between Koyanose and Kurosaki. Most of them are gone. Today, Kurosaki kept 86,000 sq ft as a park - 310 meter (1000 ft.) long, 25 meter wide (80 ft).

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Visit to Former Residence of Chang Hsueh-liang in Wufong, Taiwan

I made a "beat the clock" solo trip to the hidden back mountain border of Taiwan. I had just one and a half days to accomplish it, so the countdown started as soon as I landed at the Taoyuan International Airport. Delayed departure at Fukuoka was the reason for a delayed arrival, causing everything to be an hour later from the original schedule, even deducting the time difference of an hour between Japan and Taiwan. It was 2 PM (3 PM in Japan) in the afternoon when I completed clearance at immigration and customs. "No use panicking. Go easy!" I told myself.

The airport shuttle bus took only 15 minutes to the Taoyuan Station of the Taiwan High Speed Railway (THSR). I was relieved greatly. Ticket purchase was super fast at a special window serving women and seniors only with passport, and I was on board the speed train by 3 PM bound southward.

In another 15 minutes, I was at the Hsinchu THSR station, where I deposited my heavy luggage and souvenirs in the time locker permitting 24 hour overnight stay and quickly exited for the bus headed for Tsing Hua University. The THSR service gave me the bus line number, so I just followed directions.

By 3:30 PM, I was at Tsing Hua University to change buses for Chutong, per the instruction of an ex-Chutong friend. I faced one snag there. The Chutong bus stop was a little further away from the regular Hsinchu bus stop. My embarrassment was on my face because the young man at the small ticket office came out, locked the door, and walked me to the right bus stop where several people were waiting for the Chutong bus. He asked one elderly woman to help me when the bus comes. She nodded and she sat with me on the bench. We waited there for about 15 minutes. Bus showed up and we got on together.

Another snag was that I used up all my small change (coins used for bottled water purchase), and the bus driver didn't accept paper money. This woman paid NT$40 for me from her purse. I offered my NT$100 bill but she didn't accept. She got off before Chutong, but after asking another passenger to signal me when the bus got to Chutong. I showed my appreciation by gestures and with bowed head.

I expected some change of scenery between Hsinchu and Chutong but same scenery continued until the Chutong bus stopped. The fellow passenger was a real help. It was now a little after 5 PM and I got in before the bus station service office closed. I asked the bus station attendant about the morning bus schedules for the following day and confirmed there was no change from the March schedules I had looked up on the Internet. The man in charge kindly suggested that I could take the return bus around noon to Hsinchu Station without any bus transfer on the way back. He didn't name any particular hotel in Chutong, but gave me instructions where I could find hotels a few blocks away. I was able to check into a clean hotel before dark. It was all I wanted on Day 1. I made it! But only with the big help of those two kind women I met on the Chutong bus. Thank you, Chutong ladies!

My destination was Wufong (meaning 5 mountain ranges), situated on the northernmost part of Tri-Mountain (Lion's Head Mountain, Lishan and Baguashan), a scenic area that spread out in Central Taiwan, but close to the Shei-Pa National Park whose Wuling Farms is popular as the vacation land of the Taiwanese, the area known for the aboriginal mountain people "Atayal" or "Tayal" tribes.

Now here's why I needed to go to such a hidden and remote location.

In late 1990s, I befriended a Korean Chinese student named Zhu through my Tokyo friend who taught Japanese at Jilin University. He graduated from Jilin University and got a job in Shanghai. Shanghai and Kitakyushu were pretty close by air when Kitakyushu opened its new airport. I had taken an inaugural one-hour direct flight charter airplane to fly into Shanghai and then traveled to Xian in 2004. I accepted his wedding invitation lightly. Then I found the venue of his wedding was not in Shanghai but in Jilin, his hometown near North Korea. I regretted my hasty answer, but I decided to honor my reply. He sent his brother to Shenyang Airport to escort me to Jllin. On my way back to Shenyang Airport, I was alone and spent a couple of sightseeing days in Shenyang.

There I visited Chang's family residence in downtown Shenyang and there I was truly dumbfounded by the huge chateau-style buildings and the luxurious way of living. The building looked like a big banking headquarters, called Daqinglou (大青樓 - shown up top) which belonged to Chang Zuolin, Hsueh-liang's father, killed in a plot / railroad accident by the Japanese imperial army. Hsueh-liang occupied Xiaoqinlou (小青樓 - shown right). Zuolin had actually his bank in this quarter. Chang's residence is a traditional Chinese quadrangle with a courtyard in the middle, surrounded by a number of concubines' homes of Chang Zuolin. I had a preconceived notion that they were bandits, plundering in the mountainous countries. I had to correct my big misconception. On this trip, I had no knowledge how Hsueh-liang fared in his later life during and after World War II. The gigantic chateau and the mysterious family affairs left a deep impression on me.

While visiting Taiwan often, I came to find a couple of familiar Manchurian names which were associated with Taiwan. One is Aisin Gioro (orAixin Jueluo) clan poet, calligrapher and artist Puru or known as Pu Xinyu, who taught at Normal University. He was a cousin to the last Emperor - Puyi.

The other is Chang Hsueh-liang who spent half a century in house arrest by the order of Chiang Kai-shek, since the 1936 Xian incident. Hsueh-liang was brought to the above noted Wufong (the destination of my hasty overnight trip in April), along the retreating Kuomintang (KMT) from the Continent.

The 7 AM Chutong minibus climbed up curving mountain roads picking up and dropping off passengers along the way for two hours. The bus was following an edge-meandering path along the riverbed; I was not able to see from the bus window. At 9 AM, I was at the small park dedicated to the Chang Hsueh-liang Museum at one of the mountain gorges. I've read that this house was rebuilt similar to the former residence of Hsueh-liang which was destroyed by a typhoon and now a museum by the village master to promote the hot springs in the neighborhood across the river.

I waited for the museum to open at 10 AM. It was a very simple unpretentious dwelling as compared to the Shenyang chateau I saw. An old sewing machine, a chair that dominated the house, fishing rod and sedge hat are the main exhibits with a collection of books in a glass book cabinet. There was a video for visitors to learn more about Chang, in addition to the houseful of photographic illustrations of Hsueh-liang's biography.

The custodial locations of Hsueh-liang changed often, almost annually, while on the Continent. Hsueh-liang should have found his first solace here in Taiwan, represented by the fishing rod and sedge hat with use of hot springs nearby

I did not cross the suspended bridge to visit the hot springs. I hopped onto the return bus after taking photos of the surroundings and a cross on a church, towering over the museum. I got back to the Hsinchu, picked up my luggage deposited at the new Hsinchu Station and headed to Taichung, the Day 2 destination, satisfied with the mission accomplished.

On the way to Taichung I was reciting Hsueh-liang's poem I scribbled down from the stone tablet in front of the museum:

不怕死 不愛錢 no fear of death, no love for money

丈夫 決不 受人憐 a true man never accept pity from others

頂天 立地 男兒漢 me, one stand-up man

磊落 光明 度餘年 will live remaining life with honor and dignity

In 1954, Chang Hsueh-liang sent Chiang Kai-shek a self-critical paper of 200,000 words and was allowed to move from Wufong to Taipei later in 1961, but he was still under informal confinement. It was only after the deaths of Chiang Kai-sheck and Chiang Ching-kuo, Kai-shek's son in 1991 that he became free and chose to live in Hawaii, ending over more than half-century of imprisonment. He died in Hawaii in 2001, as a centenarian.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Calligraphy Greenway, Taichung

I frankly never thought I would yearn to return to Taichung and become more knowledgeable of the city Government's visions and driving efforts of urbanization and revitalization. Taiwan Toastmasters Conventions in which I have participated in the past had mostly chosen venues in suburban Taichung rather than the downtown area, except the ones held at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel, Chungkang Road, and the new Taichung HSR Station Complex. The Evergreen Group, I understood, was a great sponsor of Taiwan Toastmasters. The Hsin Wuri Conference was timely right after the HSR inaugurated Taiwan Shinkansen.

I'm not at all complaining about the suburban venues, like Dajia, Longjing, Shalu, Wuri, etc. Rather I very much enjoyed visiting those areas, all bordering Greater Taichung Megalopolis. I remember I visited Dajia twice. I never would've had a chance otherwise without the great selections by the Taiwan Toastmasters. Each had a unique landscape and culture of its own. At Tunghai University, the palm-folding style Luce Chapel was beautiful, as was the pious campus and the library. Dajia Jennlann Temple and its Cultural Center Palace taught me about the elegance of centuries-old Mazu pilgrimage and festivals. The rented Education and Training Center Facilities in Wuri and Shalu were first class and promoted convention venues away from the hustle and bustle of Taichung. Free bus transportation, exclusive for Toastmasters, was offered from the new HSR Taichung station to the respective venues.

This April, Paul Lee, a retired business executive turned scholar in Japanese literature (his favorite author is Soseki Natsume), took me to this new POI green belt zone, immediately after the Spring Toastmasters Conference near Taichung Airport before inviting me to his apartment.

When I saw "草悟道” the Kanji character, I interpreted it "Enlighteners' Road", as in the "Philosophers' Road" in Kyoto I know. I wasn't sure about ”草” the grass, but remembered ”陽明山” was once "草山” in Taipei which may have similar nostalgic connotations like the Japanese ”里山”.

Paul informed me that Taichung City named it "Calligraphy Greenway" in English. The designated zone starts at Taichung North District, home of the Natural Science Museum and the Civic Square, and ends at Taichung West District, home to the National Museum of Fine Arts, Culture Affairs Bureau, and Taichung City Hall. It is about 3.6 kilometers in length (almost comparable to New York Central Park of 4 kilometers) and a dozen of street blocks in width, it incorporates the Jingguo Parkway green belt zones which had existed before.

Paul told me when the road was officially opened in the spring of 2012, a scroll of paper was spread out on the road for more than one kilometer for many famous calligraphers' competition for their cursive script (草書)writing demonstration with brushes, attracting the admiration of on-lookers. ”草” in ”草悟道” therefore, is used to symbolize the calligraphy, brushes and Indian ink splashing free and easy like a river flow meandering and purifying the urban streets, plus the artistic inspirations, sculptures and objects, arranged throughout Calligraphy Greenway. Street names, like Mofan (model), Yingcai (genius), Gongyi (public interests) all help to enhance the spirit of visitors.

Taichung City Government admitted that Calligraphy Greenway was modeled after Tokyo's Omote Sando renovation, designed by Architect Tadao Ando, with a basic concept of integrating living environment with nature, bringing sites together of home, work, exercise, socialization, enrichment, and entertainment, aiming for a well balanced, sustainable ecosystem neighborhood. Playful, exhilarating and colorful life style is sought in the concept with the use of water motif of rivulets, cascades, fountains, water curtains for the greenway. In addition, it incorporates enforced no-smoking zones, expanded clean-air cyclist and pedestrian lanes, and park stages for live jazz music concerts. With the eco-friendly green walled CMP Parklane Department as the anchor landmark, hotels, bakeries, cafes, restaurants and fashion stores surround the area to attract people for shopping, dating and partying.

Worthy of note for the Japanese tourists is my finding of Issey Miyake's Taichung store at 2nd floor 245 Chungxing. I was told the store complex had existed for almost ten years before the Calligraphy Greenway was announced.

I am expecting the Taiwan Toastmasters to hold its semi-annual convention in this Calligrapher Greenway very soon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Jerry Fig / Jabuticaba

A jerry fig is a native tree of Taiwan found accidentally by a tea trader in the 1800s when he drank from a river near Chiayi. He found a clear yellowish jelly in the water he was drinking and was refreshed upon trying it. Examining the jelly, he noticed it was fruit hanging on vines that exuded a sticky gel when rubbed. He marketed it under his daughter's name Aiyu (pronounced o-gio in Taiwanese) successfully. Today, lemon aiyu jelly is loved by children and adults alike as their favorite summer refreshment. I heard there are aiyu jelly specialty shops in Tokyo. The problem is that preparation takes a lot time for a small profit margin.

I had a chance to try it in Taiwan and was interested in taking a look at the tree. I looked up Chiayi Toastmasters website to ask where I can see the tree. Bingo! The president of Chiayi Toastmasters was Dr. Lai, with the Chiayi Experiment Station, Governmental Agricultural Research Institute. He introduced me to Dr. Chung, an expert working on low land cultivation of the jerry fig. I learned that the jerry fig thrives in a misty highlands like Alishan, which requires plant breeding in the lower land and special farming preparations such as a watering networks, trelliswork, vining support, etc. I was looking forward to meeting Dr. Chung. So I sent email when I decided to join the Spring Toastmasters Conference in Taichung, he didn't respond. I contacted through my Taichung friend. I was told he retired last year.

An alternative advice came from Taichung Toastmasters friends. A new member joined them who was with the Taichung Experiment Station and he could drive me to a jerry fig farm. It was a case of wish fulfillment and I jumped on the opportunity.

The Taichung Experiment Station Complex in Wufen we dropped in on the way (about an hour drive from central Taichung through a new highway) has been the main headquarters of the Government Agrarian Research Institute since 1997, occupying 145 hectares (ha) including 17 ha building and 128 ha of experimental farms served by complete irrigation and drainage systems.

Unfortunately, the Puli farmer we visited no longer owned jerry fig farms any more. He took us, the disappointed guests, to a jerry fig farm in the neighborhood mountain. They are taller than I thought. The owner didn't go into detail, but I'm guessing he either sold it or changed all of his plant acreage from jerry fig to jabuticaba, a new lucrative business, grape tree native to Brazil for the following reasons: l) the fruit is new to Taiwan and has rarity value; 2) farmer receives possible Government subsidies; and 3) provides opportunity for sightseeing and on-site grape picking tours. He was excited to welcome tourists coming soon after us. He gave us fresh jabuticaba on trays. Tasted like grape, more viscous than regular grapes.

Edson Aoki, my Brazilian friend (see Imamura Church post) sent me info on Jabuticaba from the Netherlands. He wrote:

Jabuticaba is indeed a typical Brazilian fruit from the Atlantic rainforest, and hence is common in my state of São Paulo. I don't think jabuticaba is produced in a large scale, but it is commonly found in small farms and ranches, mostly for local consumption. ‘Jabuticaba’ is actually a word from Tupi (a Native Brazilian language) and it means ‘button fruits.’ But ‘Jabuti’ alone is also a word from Tupi, which means ‘tortoise.’

My jerry fig hunt caught jabuticaba instead! I met a smart farmer ahead of his time!


I searched books giving information on jabuticaba in the library. I found one "The Fruits Hunters - A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession" (2008) by Adam Leith Gollner. Here is some information from the book:

1) Appearances are embryos of cosmonauts. Tastes, however, are fantastic, incomparable to any other fruits.

2) Jabuticabas grow on the trees like mushrooms. Children in Brazil sneak into the orchard of others to play "jabuticaba kiss", pluck jabuticaba by mouth, with sounds like puk, gooch, pooch.

3) At Hilo Airport, Hawaii, I pulled out souvenir jabuticabas from my pocket. As I gazed at them, these cubes I've never been aware of before seemed to veil unworldly riddles. I photographed them, one sharp focusing, the other blurred and hazy to have cubes melt in a geometric pattern. Jabuticaba promised hopes, endowing revelations which I have not experienced. Just holding jabuticabas in my hands, I felt miracles to descend, answering my prayers I'm humming without notice.

4) Brazilian photographer Silvestre Silva stopped endangered white jabuticaba from extinction after his 10 years of personal battles. It was in the suburbs of Guararema, the State of Sao Paulo. Soon the white jabuticaba will be cultivated and we will be able to see it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Puli Water Bamboo

Beautiful Mishimae inlet where I marked sheaves of growing water bamboos as mine.
Alas, I haven't time to crop up as yet! (#07-1348)
三島江の玉江のこもを標めしより己がとぞ思う いまだ刈らねど - 万葉集

She suggested Mishimae Inlet journey for water bamboos.
Hurray, she might have got the thing in me! (#11-2766)
三島江の入江のこもを刈りにこそ 吾をば君は思いたりけれ - 万葉集

You've probably heard about Hakka*1) and Hakka cuisine in Southern Asia, especially in Guangdon, Fujian, Taiwan, Singapore. They are Han Chinese, but speak Hakka Chinese, a subdivision language of Chinese. Taiwan Toastmasters have an independent Taiwanese Speech Contest in a variant of the Hakka language, resembling other variants of Hakka spoken in other parts of the world but differs vastly in terms of pronunciation.

Hakka, "Keijia" in Mandarin, literally means guest families, whose ancestors immigrated out of China and settled wherever they are now. During my April trip to Puli, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Taichung to see Jelly Fig farms *2) accompanied by my Taichung friends,I was treated at Ya-Zhou, one of the famous local Hakka restaurants, which was very close to the famous Puli Brewery *3), the sightseers' spot.

Chang Meili suggested that I order "Makomo", popular Puli produced water bamboo or water oats. The scientific name is zizania latifolia. Puli is known for the quality of its water, as is the capital of Taiwan, Shaosingjiu.

I was served half a dozen fat Makomo served on a bamboo basket. I enjoyed them, peeling green skins, eating a mouthful of white roots. I remembered that I picked up the unique city brochure (see photo) of Puli some years ago inviting long-term Japanese visitors to stay and savor water bamboo touting its healthy qualities.

Containing lots of water, water bamboo helps clean the bowels. It also contains calcium, Vitamin B, black lead and is good for diabetes, insomnia, gout and high blood pressure. Upon my return, I learned that Puli *5), produces close to 90% of Taiwan's water bamboos. No wonder they are so proud of it and hold a special festival to choose an expert to grow it annually. Puli promotes sales and export, including to Japan, with fancy names such as "beauty's rich thigh", "Sweet smelling beauty" *5).

Hakka dishes are excellent, added with the rural entertainment atmosphere of separating groups of guests by tables. I thanked my host Tonyo Tsai for this induction. He is a retiree from the Governmental Agricultural Experiment Station.

Japan had produced and is still producing "Makomo" or "Komokusa" since the olden days of Manyo, on occasions related mostly with divine affairs. Komono in Mie Prefecture, for instance, advertises its Makomo and Makomo tea sales. Komono seems to present its first crop to the "Ise Grand Shrine" annually as a Shinto ritual. It's also used in dishes prepared with medicinal herbs.

Komokusa grows 1.5 or 2 meters long, and the dried Komokusa is said to make huge straw festoons for Shinto shrines, such as the "Izumo Grand Shrine" in Shimane Prefecture.

Looking more into historical notes, I dug up two poems quoted above from Manyoshu, the Anthology of Myriad Leaves, compiled in mid 700C. Both poems, whose authors are unknown, refer to the water bamboos and to the same Mishimae River Inlet. Mishimae is an old name in the suburban area of Kyoto along the Yodo River, and amazingly, if you follow it downstream, you’ll reach southern Takatsuki City in Osaka, where I spent my college days. Back then, I crossed the Yodo River to Hirakata to see the famous Chrysanthemum Dolls Festival there in the mid 1950s. I rambled on foot along long dusty roads with my classmates. Mishimae, Tamae or Ichinoe are seemingly popular boat ride stops along the Yodo River. Makomo led me to these “golden” names of place, which we can only find in the 7th century Anthology (Manyo - shu) or Collection of Poems of Ancient and Modern Times (Kokin - shu).


1) Hakka
Some notable Hakka descendents:
Den Xiaoping, China
Lee Teng-hui, Annete Lu, Chen Shui-bian, Soon May-ling; Taiwan
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore
Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra; Thailand

2) Puli Jerry Fig Farm (Gaolin Jaboticaba Farm)
I saw the neighboring ferry fig farm surrounded by wire fences. The altitude is about 700-800 meters above sea level. The fig trees were quite tall, 4-5 meters. They barely had figs yet. Too early for the season.

3) Puli Brewery
During the Japanese colonial days, Sake Brewery was established here. Chiang Kai-shek ordered change to Shaosing Brewery, right after World War II. Shaosing in Japan mostly comes from Puli. "Chen-shao" meaning Shaosing stored for more than 7 years. They are highly craved for.
Puli Brewery Website

4) Water Bamboo Nutrition Table

5) Water Bamboo merchandising
Example 1
Example 2

6) YouTube cooking demo

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Imamura Church

Edson Aoki, a Japanese Brazilian, whom I just got to know, visited Tachiarai**, Fukuoka recently. Tachiarai, easily reachable by train from Kurume (20 km further inland) or Fukuoka Tenjin Station, is a quiet rural country with rice paddies. We can't imagine what it looked like during World War II. Tachiarai back then was heavily bombed because the Imperial Army Air Force base was there. It was the training center of young pilots and AA artillery armies. I barely remember the odd name Tachiarai in the Kamikaze pilot song of my younger days, but I didn't know where it was located.

I read that in the early 1900s the Army looked for a suitable site for an airbase that met the following conditions: 1) was close to Korea and China; 2) was reasonably inland and impregnable from coast bombardment of enemy warships; 3) had no tall obstacles around to hinder flight activities; and 4) had few human habitations. Thus Tachiarai prospered for more than half of a century as military capital.

I read also that returnees from China and Korea right after the war were mass allotted there to turn airbases back to rice paddies. The story was that they worked hard sweating and with blisters. The hard asphalted airstrips remained in town as main roads.

Edson's visit, however, had nothing to do with the penitence of the war. He told me he visited "Imamura Church" in Tachiarai, showing me a colorful pamphlet. "Do you know Imamura Church, Imamura-san" was his first question to me. Imamura, in this case, is not a surname but the name of the village inside Tachiarai.

"No, I don't! Any particular reason for the visit?" I asked him.

"My ancestors were from Taichiarai. "

"No kidding!"

I remembered again that many Fukuokans immigrated overseas to Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Argentine, etc. ever since the early 1900s**, and quite a few were from the Yabe River area, the branch river of Chikugo River further inland. Fred Nabeta, father of my San Diego friend Joyce was from Kuroki, along Yabe River. Father of Senator Daniel Inoue, Hawaii was from Yame, also along Yabe River. George Ariyoshi, ex-Governor, Hawaii has his father born in Buzen. Antonio Ueno, President of Parana State Chamber of Commerce had parents from Fukuoka. Marcia Uematsu, currently a court judge in Sao Paulo is a 3rd generation Nisei who graduated from Kyushu University with her law degree. Yes, Brazil boasts 2 million Japanese Nisei population.

According to the brochure Edson showed me, there were quite a few Christians in Imamura in the late 1500s, influenced by the Christian Lord Sorin Otomo. But after 1638, when Tokugawa had a bitter experience suppressing the Christian's Revolt at the Shimabara Peninsula and subsequently closed the doors of the nation, Christians were expelled and punished. It was the beginning of hidden or crypt-Christians in Kyushu. Informers were awarded with prize money. Joanne Hirata Mataemon, who was crucified on the cross by the Kurume Clan, was memorialized in the corner of the Imamura Church. When the ban was withdrawn in 1853, about 200 from Imamura stepped forward as Christians.

Missionaries arrived and the construction plans were drawn under Rev. Honda. It was in 1913** when the red-brick church was completed by architect Yosuke Tetsukawa with donations from Europe, Germany in particular, and from the Imamurans who immigrated overseas in early Meiji period. Religious freedom and limited land acreage to share among the families were reasons for the exodus.

Today, I had a sudden revelation and visited Kitakyushu City Library to research Tachiarai Village books. Tachiarai and Kitakyushu are in the same prefecture.

I was quite thrilled to discover a couple of Imamurans who were active in Brazil as reported by Asahi Broadcasting (the book dated 1997). One was Rev. Aoki, who assisted Rev. Honda while in Imamura, the other Mr. Hirata, politician, probably descendent of the martyr Hirata. I understood now why Edson was so eager to visit the Imamaura Church.

Introducing again, Edson Aoki, is a researcher from the University of Twente, Enschede**, Netherlands visiting the Kitakyushu Institute of Technology during the month of April. He is a member of Twente Toastmasters (see photo) and he wanted to visit Kitakyushu Toastmasters as a courtesy call and exchange information while staying here in our city. Kitakyushu Toastmasters greatly enjoyed the company of this tri-national visitor.

** Notes

1) The name "Tachiarai" comes from the old fierce battleground Chikugo River in the Northern and Southern Courts Period (1336-1392), when the civil war spread nationwide. Kikuchi Clan, Kumamoto, siding with Southern Court, confronted with Isshiki and Shoni Clans, the Kyushu Commissioners of Northern Court of Muromachi Bakufu. The statue of Takemitsu Kikuchi, the brave lord warrior stands in Tachiarai River Park, as the site where he washed his sword blade after winning the battle.

2) The first boat to Brazil sailed in 1908.

3) Centennial Anniversary this year

4) Enschede, famous for Twente Canal, is a northern Netherlands city, close to the German-Nertherlands border, which is about 100 km north of Dusseldorf.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hikone Castle Part 3

I left the hotel luncheon early to visit the Hikone Castle Museum, which was not included in the trip itinerary. I wish to touch upon two points of Hikone Castle from what I saw. One is Naosuke Ii's as a tea expert, and the other about the so-called Hikone Byobu (Folding Screen), the registered national treasure of art.


Tea Expert

Naosuke, a man of tea, used Munemi (water of no root) first and Sokan later in Edo as his pseudonyms. He probably learned tea by watching his father and others during his boyhood and enthusiastically read available books on tea at random as he grew older. In his 20’s, he already wrote a couple of books on tea, including guidebooks for beginners and a history of tea, quoting and compiling anecdotes of tea masters such as as Rikyu Sen, Enshu Kobori, etc.

Along with Zen Buddhism, he found tea as the ultimate jewel and beauty for a samurai in pursuit of both swordsmanship and literature. Furthermore, upon being summoned by the Tokugawa Shogunate, he concluded the way of tea was compatible with the way of politics. His writings are found in the two most famous books: "Collection of Notes of One-Chance Tea Ceremony" and "Stories of Tea at Tranquil Night". Naosuke started writing in Hikone and continued in Edo. He had excellent penmanship.

Sen no Rikyu, the founder of Senke Tea School, taught that both host and guest be so disciplined to practice "one encounter, one chance" , the core value of Chado and Budo (ways of tea and swordsmanship). Naosuke quoted Rikyu's core word "one chance" on his book title. There aren't any do-overs or Mulligan shot, as in the game of golf. Always seek perfection. It's a life and death matter as in combat. Naosuke devised a new word "Yojo Zanshin", mediate awhile and when the ceremony is over, deeply reflect on the experience. Honesty, Harmony and Tranquility are the three creeds he sought to produce, denying formalism as well as denying the use of rare and fancy tea utensils.

In Edo he contacted Tokugawa's tea master Soen Katagiri of Sekishu School, known for "Teas for Samurais" and exchanged views regarding the tea ceremony. "The Questions and Answers exchanged with Tea Master Soen" was soon published. Some people called Naosuke a New Sekishu school, but it seemed that Naosuke wanted to create a new school of his own in due time. The recorded numbers of Naosuke's tea ceremonies are 50 as host and 200 as guest; venue-wise, 70 in Hikone and 180 in Edo.

The museum exhibits had many tea items: books, scrolls, utensils, and in particular, numerous hand-made incense containers made by Naosuke himself, of various shapes, insects, pine cones, etc. He gave them as gifts to friends.

Naosuke li is listed among three giants of tea in the Tokugawa period along with Sansai Hosokawa (1563-1646) and Fumai Matsudaira (1751-1818 ).


Omi Byobu (folding screen)

Omi is an old name of Shiga Prefecture with Lake Biwa in the central position. The word derives from 1) fresh water and 2) the inlet near Kyoto, the capital. Kyoto depended on most of its food coming from the fertile Omi land and fish from Lake Biwa via seaway. The name Omi prevalently used includes Omi-Merchant, Omi-S(Z)ushi, Omi-Onna, etc. Omi-Merchants are famous for their business creed and philosophy of three way excellence, "aim business to satisfy seller, buyer and society". Today, Omi-Onna (woman) is a Noh-mask of matured woman. The mask bears compassion of the commoner woman, with down-turned eyes, used in such Noh plays as famous "Dojoji-temple", "Autumn Foliage Excursion", etc.

On this trip, I found another one - "Omi-Byobu". Probably this one might have been as equally popular as the above mentioned Omi-stuff. I just wasn't aware of all this. Omi-Byobu is a gilded folding screen with 6 panels, height 94.5cm (37.2 inches) width 278.8cm (110 inches). It's a registered national treasure, so the exhibit is displayed for limited amount of time every year during the golden week in early May. I was unable to see it the day I visited but I saw a replica, photos, and related exhibits such as individual dolls from the screen, postage stamps, trays, platters and metal containers with inscribed figures of the arts.

The screen was successively owned by the Iis, until the Hikone Municipal Office became the new owner. Naoyoshi Ii, great grandson of Naosuke, who served as Hikone Mayor, died in 1993. The Ii family, unable to pay Naoyoshi's inheritance tax, opted to sell the screen. The municipal Government, with the help of benefactors, acquired and restored it extensively for the 400th year anniversary of Hikone Castle.

The screen depicts 1) Kyoto street scenes - a young samurai reclining with his sword as a squire flirts with three girls who are passing, one of them walking with a dog, 2) Joyful quarter indoor scenes - letter-writing woman, a dictating couple, and a kneeling waitress. 3) Noisier groups of three-string Shamisen players (one of them is a priest), three backgammon players over the board and an observing waitress, all in front of a Chinese mountain art screen.

Hikone Byobu has a somewhat a darker sensual side in the Edo period and many people tried to decipher the mysterious story narrated by an anonymous artist.

There's one theory that provoked my interest. This person (deceased) noticed green leaves of plantain as the dress motif of a girl whose long hair hangs freshly washed and she claims she is the spirit of plantain, from the Noh play "Plantain". One of the proofs, according to the claimant, is that the Chinese Screen therein has the famous Lake Dongting scenes in the present-day Hunan Province, China, the imaginary venue of the Noh "Plantain". In the play "Plantain", the spirit of plantain, disguised as a woman, haunts the mountain village allured by mantras chanted by priest. Seemingly an interesting opinion, but how to explain all the other figures on the screen? Incidentally, I learned later that the disguised woman uses the "Omi-Onna" Noh mask.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hikone Castle Part 2:
From Bogwood Samurai to Tokugawa's Great Elder

The last stop of our castle tour was the "Bogwood House", where Naosuke Ii spent his youth and adulthood as a single man as the 14th son of Ienaka, 11th generation but not in line of succession as a child by Ienaka's concubine. Most of his elder brothers left Ii as adopted children and Naosuke too was called to Edo together with his younger brother for such an arrangement. His brother was chosen to stay and Naosuke returned to Hikone crestfallen. As a child, he was taken by his father, already retired, to teachers of both literary and military arts and he yearned to study local Japanese classics, tea ceremony, poems, and develop swordsmanship like archery and the way of quick draw. However, after his father passed away, he saw his destiny as a bogwood tree, so naming his residence, and lamented his ill fortune. The knowledge needed to administer as Tokugawa's Great Elder was nurtured during this limelight period. At the time, he was not well off financially at all.

His career suddenly took a turn when his other brother who was supposed to succeed Naoaki Ii, 12th generation, passed away. And when Naoaki passed, Naosuke inherited Ii Clan's 350,000 Koku (see Notes l) as 13th Hikone lord. Naosuke was reported to have distributed 50,000 Ryos (see Notes 2) among his clan samurais, merchants and farmers according to the bequeathed will of Naoaki, his foster father. The generous 50,000 Ryos were comparable to a year’s income in the Ii Clan. He also financially assisted temples and the like, reinvigorated Kodokan, school for children, banned the red light district, and the people hailed him as benevolent lord.

Naosuke's performance as Tokugawa's protocol officer, which included foreign affairs, steadily pushed him up the ranks. He headed the coast guard along Tokyo Bay and circumvented the black ship threat and proposed his own defense plans which were highly praised. He declined to accept Chief Minister (Great Elder) position at first, in view of the impending downfall of Tokugawa. He had to deal with not only black ships but confrontations among clans as to who to select as the next heir to Tokugawa, relations with emperor and courtiers in Kyoto and the rising movement to "Restore the Emperor and Repulse Foreigners." He probably anticipated what could happen once he had taken the reigns. I wrote in detail why he was assassinated in Part 1. Naosuke antagonized Mito Clan Samurais when his Ansei Purge involved harsh punishments against Mito. Naosuke, despite the attack warning, didn't reinforce security more than the number stipulated by Tokugawa.

As mentioned earlier, Naosuke studied Japanese Classics and revered the emperor but remained as Tokugawa's caretaker. It is a tragic tale of a bogwood-to-be-samurai who grabbed prestige and power second only to the Shogun. After Naosuke’s death the Ii family was disgraced for many years. Recently, however, Ii’s actions have been looked at in a more favorable light and Ii Naosuke has taken his place as one of the most important political figures in Japanese history.


1) "Koku" was a unit of fief wealth. Originally one Koku was the volume of rice a person can eat in one year
2) "Ryo" was an Edo period currency, available as Oban (large size coin of higher denominations) and Koban (small size coin of lower denominations).
3) Hikone Museum exhibits artworks of both Sekigahara Battle and Sakurada Gate Incident

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hikone Castle Part 1

"I stepped out into town in the early morning. I was surprised that it was brighter than the lakeside, which was still in the dark. Shaded areas here and there in the street corners looked graceful. It is still February. I smelled winter morning in the lingering smoke coming from burning dead leaves. The castle stone steps proved awkward for me. Breathing heavily while climbing, I glimpsed a group of dozen men coming down spread out evenly. They all looked around 50 years of age or older, all clad in plain suits and coats, speechless, yet keeping pace together and breathing in unison. 'Clansmen,' I muttered."

- from "Strolling in Omi", by Ryotaro Shiba

February is almost over. March is taking its time arriving but will most likely hurry along. Then what? A sudden burgeoning of cherry blossoms without mercy! You don't have a month. Are you ready? Time's up!

I had a bitter-sweet experience. Our San Diego Business Fellow Veterans gather every mid-April. The secretariat by turn picks the venue and invites us. We usually meet in Kyoto and Osaka and I take the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kitakyushu to be in time for the gathering. Last year, the venue was at Hikone in Omi District. The Shinkansen doesn't stop at Hikone and you have to take a local train from Kyoto, which may take an hour.

I was late in making hotel reservations and found no vacancy in decent Hikone hotels. I panicked. Then I changed my strategy. I searched the satellite towns, near Hikone. It worked. I got a hotel in Minami Hikone (southern Hikone), which happened to be very close to the station. Hikone was all hustle and bustle the following day with thousands of visitors viewing the cherry-blossoms planted around the moat and inside Hikone Castle.

Now the story starts in 1590 from the Battle of Sekigahara near the current Ogaki City in Gifu Prefecture between two great clans, Tokugawa and Toyotomi. General Hideyoshi Toyotomi died shortly after his retreat from Korea without accomplishing his wild dream of conquering the Ming Dynasty. Tokugawa claimed his turn and opened hostilities. Mitsunari Ishida, Hideyoshi's administrator, raised an army in support of Hideyori, Hideyoshi's son, but he could not mobilize enough supporters. Ieyasu Tokugawa won the battle by forming a coalition of warlord and their followers.

Naomasa Ii, who served as Ieyasu’s page, valiantly fought and defeated Mitsunari and was endowed with the Hikone land, including Sawa Castle owned by Mitsunari, the defeated. It was his son who established Hikone as a strategic stronghold, since Sawa Castle was a mountainous castle, and the Ii Clan had to face off not only western Japan Daimyos, but supervise Lake Biwa seaway transportation on behalf of the Tokugawa clan. Hikone was the main route and gateway for eastern Daimyos to enter into Kyoto.

The historians exaggerated it as a decisive war of the nation which attracted troops from all parts of Japan. Yes, soldiers assembled, but as fence sitters to see which way the wind would blow. Mitsunari Ishida lacked actual battle experience and the cunning Ieyasu Tokugawa took advantage to enlist opportunists.

Hikone Castle took 20 years to complete, with carpenters and masons mostly mobilized from the east. Stones, towers and gates were transplanted from the old local castles and temples, like Otsu, Nagahama, Sawa, etc. Hikone Castle survived 400 years as one of the four designated national treasures, the others being Himeji, Matsumoto and Inuyama.

There were three crises during which Hikone Castle could have been lost. The first one was the decommissioning crisis, when Naosuke Ii (1815-1860), the 13th generation, Chief Minister of the Tokugawa clan, responsible for signing the Harris Treaty without imperial sanction, carried out the so-called Ansei Purge to quell opposition, inviting grudges. He was assassinated by enemy Samurais, and the Ii clan was discredited from the Tokugawas.

The second was when it escaped the Meiji Restoration War, because the Ii Clan was left out of the war altogether. The Aizu Clan, replacing Ii Clan as the Kyoto safeguarding agent for Tokugawa, ran the gauntlet of Meiji Restoration Troops and eventually lost its castle in Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima in the fire.

The third time was when castles in the country were all being demolished when the Tokugawa period ended. Emperor Meiji, who stayed at Hikone Castle, wanted to preserve it because of its true beauty.

We Japanese are really blessed to be able to see the original Hikone Castle today.

Accompanied by two volunteer guides, we took tours of the four hectare (10 acres) castle area including Genkyuen Garden. Before entering the front gate, we saw a hall turret and a flat Edo stable, which is the only stable of this kind existing today.

On our way to the hilltop, we walked under a unique curved and symmetrical wooden bridge, which gives the impression of a balancing scale. According to our guide, the bridge connecting the two towers can easily be collapsed in the event of an emergency. The supporting stone walls are also of special layering called burdock blocking, also collapsible. We went through authentic Bell and Drum Towers to reach the main keep. The view of Lake Biwa and the flowing river and moat complex from the castle keep were truly gorgeous.

Coming down, we entered Genkyuen Garden, at the opposite base of the castle, leading to the Konki Children Park where the statue of Naosuke Ii stands. Genkyuen is one of the best three Daimyo Gardens*, which offers the pleasure of Japanese landscapes for every season - new life of spring, deep green of summer, brilliant foliage of fall and quiet snow of winter. Modeled after a detached palace of Emperor Genso of the Tang Dynasty in ancient China, this Chisen-kaiyu style garden (landscaped around a large pond) was constructed in 1677. It incorporates the Hoshodai Guesthouse built on an artificial hill, and trees and rocks imitate the famous Eight Views of Omi region, Biwa Lake, Chikubujima Island and the White Rocks of Oki.

The 400th Annivesary of Hikone Castle was held in 2007 from March to September with a variety of cultural celebratory events such as cherry blossom festivals, music concerts, guided historical city walk tours, clean-up movement, etc. 760,000 visitors were recorded during a 250 day period, well over the targeted half a million, bringing a rippling effect on Hikone's economy.

Getting back to the San Diego Business Veterans Meeting - about 40 members participated last spring and after the tour we had a great luncheon party at Hikone Castle Hotel facing the moat surrounded by beautiful cherry trees.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I So Love Shimonoseki!

Speech given on Feb 20, 2013 at Tokyu Hotel cafe lounge
"Live a pleasant life in the unpleasant world!" This is a famous quote of Shinsaku Takasugi, Choshu Clan Samurai, perhaps your hero, who played a pivotal role in the pre-Meiji Restoration. He passed away young before his dream came true; however, his strategy of organizing militia and his visionary leadership should well be long remembered.

Ladies and gentlemen and guests, I'm honored to speak today for Shimonoseki Toastmasters in the making. Shimonoseki is my favorite city where I'm always hoping to return. My sister-in-law invited my wife and me to live in Kitakyushu upon our return to Japan from the U.S. The first place she drove us to was Tsunoshima Resort, a beautiful cobalt blue ocean view and sand beach and a bridge to the island. The scenery is comparable to the 7-mile Bridge, Key Largo, Florida. I was so impressed that I have taken American guests there, also my son from New York and my granddaughter from California.

Representing Kitakyushu Toastmasters, I was fortunate to meet today's Chair TM Miyake. She visited with me at Kozanji, Mohri Palatial Residence, Nogi-jinja, etc. in Chofu. I had a chance later to visit Akama Shrine, Shunpanro, Yume-Tower, and Karato. Oh, I so love Shimonoseki!

Thank you for coming today to join us in our noble venture, and I know you are anxious to know what Toastmasters is all about. First and foremost, Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of improving English communication and leadership. Founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley in California, it covers over 110 countries and accommodates a quarter million members. The greater San Diego District, where I used to work, had a population of 3 million and had about 150 clubs when I left. In other words, 50 clubs per million there. Upon my return in 1995, I found clubs in Japan narrowly reached 60.

Kyushu had only one club, in Fukuoka, right after the war, started by a GARIOA scholarship student who came back from the U.S. It is one of the oldest clubs in Japan. Fukuoka, therefore, had a few Kitakyushu members who commuted twice a month by train. They were so happy to join the newly formed club in Kitakyushu. It was in 1997, over 15 years ago. Now the time has come for Shimonoseki to claim the same exciting beginning.

New members will learn tonight, through well established protocols - the one minute self-introduction and the two-to-three-minute response to table topics question. Then, after you are inducted as a member, you must give a formal 6-minute speech. You will then be evaluated by your friendly fellow members and the mentor in charge for improvement. Friends help friends practice in a warm accepting atmosphere. You will advance step by step following the Toastmasters Manual, the treasures of this century old wisdom to success. The project manual covers speech organization, vocal variety, language, gestures, humor, persuasion, etc.

I'm sure each of you has made your New Year's resolution in January to brush up and expand your English communication this year. It's never too late to empower yourself by way of joining the Shimonoseki Toastmasters as founding members. Seize this opportunity and realize your dream! It is better late than never. Welcome to an exciting adventure.