Saturday, December 26, 2015

Maizuru Repatriation Museum Part 1

The North Shore and Tango Peninsula of Kyoto shares the west end of a designated quasi-national park of Wakasa Bay, well known as a deeply indented rias coastline, clear water and white sands, embracing its Maizuru Bay and Miyazu Inlet Aso Sea. Maizuru, "dancing crane" in Japanese, is a graceful name. The name originated from two possible sources. There was a (Tanabe) castle built by Yusai Hosokawa during feudal times that is no longer there. The Tenshukaku (The Tanabe Castle Tower) of the castle was said to have looked like the dancing crane. The other is from how the bay is shaped like a wing span of a crane. I prefer the latter explanation.

Maizuru Port, bordering with Fukui Prefecture at Oura Peninsula, once thrived as a Japanese Imperial Naval Port and after the war, served as one of the main ports to disembark 70% of homecoming Japanese, particularly from Nakhodka, Russia. They were there for years, sent to hundreds of Russian Gulag Camps as war prisoners for forced labor and survivors of bleak diets and harsh conditions.

The Repatriation Support Bureau, together with citizen volunteers, received them with a hearty welcome at the pier and boarding quarters. Many emotional reunion scenes and episodes were recounted on multimedia by their kin. The pier was the haven where mothers awaited sons of war

Maizuru Port was the only port which continued to be opened for 13 years between 1945 and 1958, even after other repatriation ports closed, reflecting the long time detainees remained in Siberia. Maizuru Port has recorded 664,000 returnees and 16,000 departed souls who never made it back. It follows Hakata and Sasebo Ports of Kyushu, both of which recorded more than 1.4 million returnees from China (Huludao, Liaoning) and Korea.

Maizuru City and Port have been taking the lead to build the Repatriation Museum. The initial site was housed in the old redbrick quarters once owned by the former Navy until the end of 2014. It was later relocated to Taira Bay, consolidating all the facilities, pier, parks (62,000m2 or 15 acres), monuments, epitaph posts, and the newly refurbished museum (1000m2 or 11,000 sq.ft) into one area, close to where the boats actually anchored and returnees landed on barges in groups. Thus the reason the site was located far from downtown Maizuru.

The returnees have been contributing their mementos to the Maizuru Repatriation Museum as exhibits, including diaries, artwork and artifacts, which total 12,000. The Museum has submitted selected items for UNESCO memory heritage application. Now they are successfully registered “documents related to the internment and repatriation experiences of the Japanese 1945-1956” as of October 2015. About 1000 items are shown as permanent exhibits.

The highlight attraction is the diaries written on birch tree barks. The idea was very reminiscent of the narrow strips of wood used in the Nara Period (710-794) for message and other writings among court nobles. Necessity is indeed, the mother of invention.

I visited the Museum, extending my Kyoto visit in December. I was aware there are no buses from December to March to and from Maizuru Station. I bargained with a taxi driver to go to the museum. After first circling around the Naval brick building. I was at the museum a little after 9am, an hour earlier than when the museum opens.

However, I had plenty of time to go up the hill where I could view the modern bridge crossing Taira Bay and look down on the small wooden pier where the repatriates landed. The bridge across Taira Bay is called Maizuru Crane Bridge. On the top of the hill are a number of commemorative stone monuments. Also along the paved walkway on the slope are hundreds of epitaph posts, standardized in size and height, each representing groups they belonged to, such as battalions and gulags. One of the docents confided that each post cost 30,000 yen to erect.

Just before leaving the museum, I noticed a tall foreigner, alone by himself. I guessed he might be Russian. We were in a room with a large Russian Federation map depicted on the floor, which showed the various locations of gulags where the Japanese were imprisoned. I started a conversation with him to test my theory, while standing on the City of Almaty, Kazakhstan. I asked, “"Do you know where apples originated?” He said he didn’t know. I told him Almaty. When asked where he was from, he pointed in the direction of Europe. I wanted to talk some more but time was approaching for me to leave.

I had to catch a noon bus to return to JR Maizuru. I stood alone at the bus station and the volunteer docent I talked to saw me and offered me a free ride. He was on his way home. It was a lucky and unforgettable day.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

In completing my El Camino Real posts, I remembered the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, which I visited in the early 1970s, accompanied by a staff member of the Ataio Ingenieros, the Spanish sales agency of electronic instruments in Madrid. I believe I was told that El Escorial tells us more about Spain than any of the others. I think he was right.

El Escorial was built by King Philip II (1527-1598), who ruled one of the world’s largest empire, yet had to live in disgrace after the Spanish Armada lost the decisive fleet battle trying to invade England in 1588.

He was the champion of the Roman Catholic counter reformation backed by the Pope, and promoted the interests of Catholicism well beyond Spain’s borders, the Philippines (country named after him) and Espana Nueva. The King sent missionaries to all.

El Escorial is 30 miles (45km) northwest of Madrid, easily reachable by train. The UNESCO World Heritage designation came in 1984. Half a million people visited the Monastery in 2005. I found this colossal building description written by Carlos Fuentes, (1928-2012):

“Philip II built El Escorial as an imposing medieval, Renaissance, and neoclassical monument with a basic structure typical of medieval monasteries and hospitals. The edifice itself consists of a 101-by 261-meter granite rectangular building constructed in a shape of a grill, located 1,000 meters above sea level in the foothills of Guadarrama Mountains. The walls rise six stories on the exterior, with towers at each of the four corners reaching above these walls; the towers have spires bearing crosses at the top. A basilica near the center of the structure also towers high above the walls. The enormous dimensions and complexity of the building can be appreciated by taking into account its 2600 windows, 1200 doors, 459 towers, 88 fountains, 86 staircases, 16 patios, 15 cloisters and 9 towers.”

Please see the ground plan below. There is a King’s palace, pantheon, basilica, mausoleum, schools, libraries and courtyards. One of the most elegant pieces are the crypts of the kings. Their families are entombed separately. The monastery serves also as a great museum with 1600 paintings and 500 frescos.

Construction took about 20 years, while King Philip occupied a sparse apartment where he worked hard, and was nicknamed the Crowned Missionary. He had a penchant for detail. Almost every document of state passed through his hands, as he did not trust his subordinates with them; however he treated servants and nobles with equal courtesy. He was good at Latin, but seemed weak in English as evidenced in his early days in England married to Queen Mary I who died at the age of 42.

I might just add about an Englishman, William Adams (1564-1620), well-known in Japan as Anjin Miura, the blue-eyed Samurai, who landed in Kyushu on one of the shipwrecked Dutch East Indian boats which was among the Royal Navy of England that defeated the Spanish Armada. It is important to note that British-made canons salvaged from his boat were used by Tokugawas in the fight against Toyotomis in the decisive civil war of feudal Japan at Sekigahara. The British canons on 4-wheeled trestles worked far better than what the Spaniards used on clumsy 2-wheels. They were quicker and had more aim. Anjin helped Tokugawas in boat making as well as gunnery practice.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

El Camino Real Part 5

As I was finishing up my El Camino Real series, a TV news segment popped up. “One of the 450 hundred year old colonial missions surfaced from the Nezahualcoyotl Dam in the southernmost Mexican border town of Guatemala.” It’s all because of the summer drought of this year that caused a drop in water level, both in the dam and the River Grijalva, known as the Chiapas’ Grande River. I found another El Camino Real stretch, connecting the colonial cities of Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico with Antigua Guatemala.

The church was related to Dominican Friar Bartolome de Las Casas (1474-1566), whose name is seen in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Fr. Las Casas was named Bishop of Chiapas in Guatemala to enforce the “New Laws” of Emperor Charles V, which prohibited slavery and limited ownership of Indians to a single generation. The settlers objected to anything limited, and many clergy would not follow the new bishop’s lead. After the King rescinded the prohibition on inheritance, Fr. Las Casas resigned from his office in 1547 and returned to Spain.

I found the Las Casas name in many locations; Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Peru. While he was young, perhaps he followed his father and uncle who voyaged with Columbus representing Spain. Then he entered the priesthood and tried to advocate and correct misdeeds as Christians (Catholics).

I wrote to my San Diego friend Mary Lu Brandwein who was my Spanish teacher and lived in San Cristobal for a long time. She wrote back that I would have to cross the River Grijalva to get to the lush highlands because the dam is close to the Chiapas/Veracruz State border.

Per Mary Lu, the early Camino Real followed the ancient Mayan trade route south along the banks of the Grijalva River, through the Central Depression of Chiapas from Chiapa de Corzo to Guatemala. In later years, with the establishment of the Spanish colonial city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, a secondary road was added which follows the present route of the Pan American Highway through the highlands from San Cristobal south to Comitan, then heads back down into Tierra Caliente to join the original route.

Aside from the big city missions, numerous missions were founded by the Dominicans, including the one submerged in the dam at strategic points, but most of them were abandoned because of depopulation.

Monday, December 7, 2015

El Camino Real Part 4: Seven Missions on National Landmarks

"The missionaries had brought many new varieties of plants with them. Seeds of barley and oats began replacing native grasses that were being grazed by cattle and sheep. These hitch-hikers are responsible for our “golden California."
- from Cerritos Library Archives

Back in the 1960s, I had a business privilege to frequent southern California from New York, though on red-eye flights. San Juan Capistrano is just about midway between LAX and San Diego to stop for a coffee break. The Mission is right off the highway ramp. That was my first visit to a historical mission, nicknamed “mission of swallows”, and I was overwhelmed. It was the only remaining chapel Padre Serra held mass in, and there were some adobes surviving earthquake country. Then I moved with my family to San Diego and lived there for over 20 years after the mid 70s. I often brought visitors there from Japan when going to and from LAX.

There are no questions all 21 missions are on the list of California Historical Landmarks; Seven of the 21 are specifically on the list of National Landmarks. Let me introduce the seven missions, together with their respective nicknames.

1. San Diego, Mother of the Missions
The present church was constructed in early 1800 is the fourth one with renovations continuing thereafter. The site was chosen by Fr. Serra because of a reliable source of water, fertile land and its proximity to indigenous Kumeyaay Indians. Incredible was the uprising story of the Indians that brought loss of the original mission and Martyr Luis Jayme. The dazzlingly white wall shines with colorful bougainvillea like butterflies under a blue sky. It is always nice to return to the park with visitors.

2. San Luis Rey, King of the Missions
This is home to California’s first pepper tree and my most favorite mission as it is fairly close to San Diego where we lived. Named for Louis IX, crusading King of France, the cross-shaped mission is the most graceful one, built by architecturally oriented Fr. Fermin Lasuen. The grounds are huge and gorgeous and well kept, picture perfect everywhere you look. Time stands still for just a bit when you are here. No wonder it still belongs to the Franciscans.

3. Santa Barbara, Queen of the Missions
My wife and I became routine commuters to Santa Barbara when my daughter’s family had an apartment at the UC Santa Barbara graduates campus complex. The hospital where my granddaughter was born was close to the Mission. Eventually this granddaughter graduated from UCSB. We are unable to think of their family affairs without picturing the mission on the hill. We immediately visualize the Greco-Roman styled front, the unique two matching bell towers, the fountain and the lavadero. It was the most successful mission which had rapprochement (a place of harmonious meetings; detente) with the indigenous Chumash Indians.

4. Carmel, Father of the Missions
Basilica Carmel is literally the crown jewel of all California missions, the most beautiful and the most favorite of its founder Fr. Serra. Impressive and unique are the asymmetrical bell tower, star-shaped window, and Gothic arch ceiling. The recent $5.5 million restoration won the prestigious award endowed to religious/cultural endeavors. In his austere cell, Fr. Serra kept a modest desk and chair, and a pitiful wooden sheet bed.

5. Santa Ines, Mission of the Passes
This mission is smaller than the other missions and has bucolic scenes with the long stretch of hills in the background. The mission experienced hard times and overcame Indian rebellions and upheavals. The Danish town of Solvang was built up around the Santa Ines Mission in the early 1900s.

6. La Purisima (no nick name)
This is the biggest mission of all and is located about 2 miles northeast of Lompoc. La Purísima Mission State Historic Park is considered the most completely restored mission in California, with ten of the original buildings fully restored and furnished, including the church, shops, living quarters, and blacksmith shop. The mission gardens and livestock represent what would have been found at the mission during the 1820's. Special living history events are scheduled throughout the year.

7. San Juan Batista, Mission of the Music
This mission is closer to Hollister, California and adjacent to the San Andreas Fault. I haven’t visited this famous mission, where Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Vertigo” was shot on location in 1958. It was built by Fr. Estevan Tapis, with a special talent for music, who taught singing to Indians. The Mission had been rescued by the Hearst Foundation.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

El Camino Real Part 3

The historic Washington DC Holy Mass by Pope Francis canonized Friar Junipero Serra (1713-1784) 230 years after his death. Fr. Serra, the name dominated in California as the founder of 21 missions, especially the very first “Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala” and the inspiration for today’s MLB baseball team, “San Diego Padres” - the Swinging Friars.

What would my San Diego friend, late historian and newspaper writer Art Ribbel and his wife Virginia Ribbel say? Perhaps, “It’s been a long time coming.” He wrote, “The San Diego River is hard by El Camino Real, the Highway of the King, one of the oldest traveled roads in America”. Virginia Ribbel sent me a special collection of Art's San Diego Union articles and I found her sketch in it of Fr. Serra. At one time, we were both residents of Carlsbad.

I remember there were two stories, maybe called “Junipero miracles.” One was Fr. Serra’s 250 mile piety trek from Veracruz to Mexico City through mountain trails. That was one of his hardest trips, which not only injured his leg permanently, but his party lost their way and found themselves starving. They found a distant light to which they were drawn. The couple they met treated them to dinner and lodging. The following day they were told there were no such good Samaritans in the vicinity. The other story told of how Fr. Serra was originally going to San Antonio Mission before he elected to head for California. San Antonio was attacked by Apaches and he would have been there. These were his life saving miracles.

Having resided in California for more than 20 years and visited almost all the missions, it is quicker to name the missions not visited. They are Mission San Antonio Padua, and Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad. I hope I can finally visit them on my next visit. I was lucky that my daughter’s family was in Santa Barbara. As I visited them, I was able to visit missions close by on the way.

Later they moved to Thousand Oaks and there we visited together and strolled the beautiful 4.5 acre Garden of the World across the Civic Arts Center. It has an Italian fountain, English Rose Garden, Japanese Koi pond, and what they call a California Mission Courtyard. You can go around the Courtyard to see the fabulous paintings of 21 California Missions on the walls.

Regarding the controversy of Fr. Serra, I wish to follow Pope Francis’ “rejoice” homily that Fr. Serra left his native land and its way of life. “He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life.” Pope Francis continued “Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.” As the first Latino pope, the act of canonizing Fr. Serra is an international statement about Francis’ own identity and his role as a leader in the new world and for a new church.

Monday, November 9, 2015

El Camino Real Part 2

It was amazing that missionaries, perhaps two or three at first, followed the Spanish conquistadors, whether they were Jesuits or Franciscans, after the demise of the Aztec Empire in 1521. That number amassed to more than one thousand. The main path was the El Camino Real Corridor (1400km), from Mexico City up north to Santa Fe, via silver mines* such as Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, though tapering off north after El Paso. The El Camino Mesilla Corridor ran sideways from El Paso to Yuma, the El Camino Sonoran Corridor south down to Hermosillo. There is one more route – the El Camino de los Tejax, from San Antonio down south to Espada, Texas along the San Antonio River.

The name Father Eusebio Kino (1645-1711) rose as explorer/ geographer in El Camino Sonoran and Mesilla, along with Father Juan Maria Salvarierra. He proved that Baja California was not an island, by leading a land exposition. He introduced horses, cattle, and new crops such as wheat to the native Indians. He established 24 missions and vistas. The ruins of one of his missions was found close to Nogales, now known as the Tumacacori National Monument. I think I drove by the Monument when I visited Rancho Santa Cruz to say goodbye to my ex-boss who relocated there from San Diego after retirement. The city of San Antonio hosted the 2002 Toastmasters International Convention and I spent more than a week there, attending the Conference and traveling to five missions along the San Antonio River. In the 18th century, the Spanish Crown secured its northern frontier empire by creating 50 military presidios and self-sufficient mission communities in Texas.

Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) was founded in 1718. By the 1730s there were several church-centered settlements along the San Antonio River. Settling into mission life, the simple hunter-gatherers of South Texas, called Coahuitecans, learned the Catholic faith from Franciscan monks and practiced agriculture.

Between 1731 and 1775, the missionaries and Indians built seven long canals, called acequias, five dams, and an aqueduct to irrigate 3,500 acres of land. By the 1770s, when the mission system began to decline, San Jose was a prosperous social and cultural center with 300 inhabitants who produced cattle and agricultural surplus. Mission Indians were the original Texas cowboys and they also defended their fortified settlements against marauding Apaches and Comanches. In 1824, the Texas missions were entirely secularized and the mission Indians, who continued to live and work in the villages along the San Antonio River, became the first Tejanos. The Alamo Mission was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for the Battle of the Alamo of 1836.

For previous posts on trekking the Mexican Silver Route, please see:
* Trekking Mexico's Silver Route
* Mexico Memoirs
* Mexico Memoirs Part 2
* Dios da a Borda, Borda da a Dios

Monday, October 26, 2015

El Camino Real - Part 1

Starting in the mid-16th Century, European Colonialism and Christian Mission work had taken over exploring the New World consisting of the Americas and the Orient, including Japan. Missionaries, whether they were Franciscans, Dominicans, or Jesuits (the late-comers of all), were combative rather than sanctimonious in their proselytizing activities of Christianity.

I traveled extensively in Mexico after my retirement. Wherever I traveled, even in the remote fishing village of Baja California, I found a mission. I was impressed with the dedicated spiritual work of missionaries who learned the indigenous languages, fought atrocities and plagues, often met death before accomplishing their goals. I hear, on the other hand, negative reports of many priests. Seems they didn't fall under the same ink? Let's examine.

It was Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552) who traveled to Japan in 1549 via Africa and India, accompanied by Anjiro, his guide and interpreter, later known as Paulo de Santa Fe. Disappointed, however, as there was no headway gained after two years because of the dissensions throughout the country then. A priest sought China next, but died on his way. Xavier, who had baptized an estimated 30,000, was beautified in 1619 and canonized in 1622, respectively by Pope Paul V and Pope Gregory XV. He became a patron saint of the missionaries (see Rioslogger post).

Juan Maria de Salvatierra (1648-1717), another Jesuit born in Italy, was deeply involved in the success of Sonora and Sinaloa Missions. He lived in Chihuahua for 10 years, the land of the Tarahumaras. He was appointed 'visitor ambassador' of Sonora y Sinaloa Provinces. After being informed that all military expeditions to Baja California had been without success, he began a “spiritual conquest.” It's said that he landed in 1697 at Bahia Conception in a small boat with a handful of crew and soldiers and laid the foundation for Mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the first and what became the base of Baja California Missions.

As he did in Chihuahua, he mastered the indigenous language and in 7 years established 6 other missions along the coast. Close to 20 Missions were built by Jesuits after Salvatierra, but King Carlos III expelled all Jesuits from Espana Nueva. There was a couple of reasons quoted – first, "some missionaries amassed fortunes" and the other, Jesuits attempted to unseat the new king citing an illegitimate birthright. King Carlos III newly appointed Franciscan Father Junipero Serra instead to go to San Diego with Captain Portola, and later in 1772, sent Dominicans to replace Jesuits in Baja California.

Traveling myself to Loreto, I found out that Franciscan Padre Junipero Serra departed there for San Diego via a sea route (according to his diary March to July 1769)) but Salvatierra was seldom mentioned. Salvatierra died in 1717, (well before the Jesuit expel order was issued) while traveling and compiling the History of Espana Nueva at the request of King Felipe V. I personally feel that he deserves to share the honorable title "apostle of California" with Father Junipero Serra.

A Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero (1731-1787), expelled in 1767 by King Charles III, relocated to Italy and became a scholar and historian. He wrote "Historia Antigua de Mexico", in which he praised works of Juan Maria Salvaierra, Eusebio Francisco Kino and other Jesuit missionaries.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Monterey and San Diego: A Comparison

What are the commonalities between San Diego and Monterey? Both are popular California destinations today. Monterey has 'Del Monte’s' Pebble Beach, the 17 mile drive, and Carmel by the Sea. San Diego has the famous Torrey Pines, La Jolla Shores, Hotel Del Coronado and La Costa. Both had thrived once as fishing capitals: Monterey - Cannery Row and sardines; San Diego - tuna. Respective attractions for children are Monterey Bay Aquarium versus Sea World, Balboa Park and the world renowned San Diego Zoo.

Back in the 18th century, both attracted Spanish explorers, conquistadors and missionaries as ideal ports of calls. They enjoyed the scenic beauty, abundant wealth of sea life, and, in my humble view, “pine” and cypress trees, though the Spaniards, the voyagers, could not tell the difference.

They named the bay after their sponsor, the Count de Monte Rey and the point at the southern end of the bay, Point Pinos (la Punta de los Pinos). Monterey served as capital for Alta California under the Spanish and Mexican rule and was the only port allowed to trade on the west coast.

Portola, the Spanish captain, built the Presidio, the fort to guard a possible Russian attack from the north, while Father Junipero Serra celebrated Thanksgiving Mass. Father Serra built a small mission, but relocated it later to Carmel after Portola was replaced by Fage. Father Serra and his mission will be dealt with in a future blog.

A few words on Monterey Pines - I found their cones are “serotinous”, i.e. they remain closed until opened by the heat of a forest fire when the abundant seeds are then discharged to regenerate the burnt forest. The cones also burst open in extremely hot weather. I quote Frank Perry, Research Associate at Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, “On very hot days (a rarity where I lived) the trees emitted an eerie cracking sound as some of the cones opened." (Click here for more information). Besides Monterey, Monterey Pines grow in San Mateo, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Guadalupe and Cedros Islands down south.

A few words also on the Presidio, taken over by the U.S. after the Mexican war - The Presidio remained a fort and as a U.S. infantry military facility. When World Ware II broke out and Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Army established an Intelligence School to teach the Japanese language to Nisei American soldiers, but in 1942 it was moved to Minnesota and renamed the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS). The school produced 6000 wartime graduates.

Japanese imperial military codes were deciphered by the graduates. Today, the school moved back to Monterey and is renamed the Defense Language Institute West Coast branch under Washington DC Headquarters.

Speaking of language studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies (formerly known as Monterey Institute of International Studies) is famous. My ex-employer used to hire MIIS graduates.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Torrey Pines State Park & Its Trails - Part 2

Poor, lonely tree.
A birth in barren soil
Where rocks protrude and ledges gape.
A growth where elements contend.
‘neath genial sun when dulcet zephyrs list;
Where biting, salty winds assail;
And tempest mutilates fragile limb;
Yet to posterity are seeds bequeathed.
- Clifford Stout (1922)

San Diegans are proud of their rare and unique Torrey Pines, once the beacon that served the coastal pilot.

Torrey Pines was discovered by a young physician-naturalist Charles Parry (1823-1890) on his U.S.-Mexican boundary survey and sent samples for verification to his mentor, John Torrey (1796-1873), an eminent American botanist at Columbia University. The tree was named 'Torrey', in his honor, around 1850. It was fortunate that the founder Charles Parry strongly advised the fledgling San Diego Society of Natural History that trees deserved protection. Despite San Diego’s growing awareness, however, degradation of trees continued. Woodcutting remained a permanent threat.

By the turn of the century, steps were taken to strengthen preservation efforts. San Diegans should recognize a few familiar names who aided this endeavor, such as George Martson (1850-1946), Ellen Scripps (1836-1932), Guy Fleming (1884-1960), Ralph Cornell (1890-1972) and others.

George Martson, known as the first citizen of San Diego, was instrumental in establishing San Diego’s park systems, including the famous Balboa Park and Torrey Pines State Park. (San Diego City Public Library was also one of his projects.) Ellen Scripps, a philanthropist, endowed Torrey Pines State Park to the citizens. Guy Fleming, botanist and a fellow with the San Diego Society of Natural History, dedicated his life to make Torrey Pines Park a State Park. Ralph Cornell, landscape architect, left Torrey Pines Park management guidelines to Guy Fleming. Ralph’s point was that the picturesque slopes should not be concealed by excessive planting and to keep the reforestation as modest as possible. The Guy Fleming Trail is about a mile long and leads you to fantastic sea bluffs.

Then came a surprising find when Torrey Pines were discovered growing on Santa Rosa Island, 175 miles northwest of San Diego. Apparently Guy Fleming and Ralph Cornell visited the island and found they were not exactly the same kind of trees. They are named Pinus Torreyana Insularis, with slight genetic differences from Torrey Pine.

About 10 years ago, I visited my daughter in Santa Barbara. She took me to see the largest Torrey Pine in the world located in Carpenteria. This tree was brought from Santa Rosa as a seedling and planted in 1988 by Judge Thomas Ward. Local legend says that in the 1880’s there was a polite but heated competition between the residents of the city, to see who could grow the most unique plants, and when Judge Ward received his tree as a gift from his friend Townshend Stith Brandegee, he proudly planted it directly in front of his home. The tree now measures approximately 126 feet (38 meters) tall, its circumference 20 feet 5 inches (6.25 meters) and its branches span 130 feet.

When Florence Ward inherited the property she dutifully continued caring for the tree and saw that it received professional maintenance. It was Florence who proposed the tree should become an official landmark and be protected. In 1968 the tree was recognized as the city’s first official landmark as well as a state historic landmark. There was a celebration in 1988 for the tree’s 100th year anniversary.

The following is a comparison between Torrey and Monterey pines.

Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana): Torrey Pine is unique in that it is the only hard pine with 5 needles per bundle. The egg-shaped cones can be as large as 5 inches long. The tree grows to 40 feet in height. Natural occurrence is now limited to two dry, sandy coastal regions of southern California (coastal San Diego County and Santa Rosa Island off the coast).

Monterey pine (Pinus radiata): The needles are in bundles of 3 (rarely in bundles of 2) and are flexible, bright blue-green or grass-green. The cones are oval, 3-7" long, with light-brown rounded scales. The branches retain cones in many whorls or circles. Closed, but open and close frequently with changes in humidity. The bark is brown to grey-black. This tree grows to 100 feet in height with a 3 foot diameter and dense crown. It is found in three small California mainland locations and two off-shore islands; but widely planted in New Zealand, Australia, and Chile. It prefers humid and foggy coastal areas, from sea level to 1000 feet above sea level in the Santa Lucia Range. It has been found to grow in areas up to 2100 feet above sea level on Cedros Island.

Combining the cities of San Diego, Del Mar, Santa Rosa, Capenteria, and Santa Barbara, the total number of the surviving Torrey Pines is about 10,000.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Torrey Pines - Part 1

Torrey Pines’ 36 holes are listed as a “must-play” course in the U.S. for golfers - professionals or amateurs alike. It’s an icon and a challenge to San Diegans, having many of the holes atop the bluffs facing the wind. Floating amidst the spectacular views overlooking coastal lines and the La Jolla Seashore, are silent hang gliders. Too classic, I’m afraid. I proudly wear a Torrey Pines golf cap on my daily outings in Kitakyushu, although no Japanese ever voiced recognition of the tree emblem.

While I was living in New York, experiencing harsh winters with heavy snow, I marveled at the lush greens and sunny California sky, beginning with the New Year’s Rose Parade in Pasadena, and the first Golf Tournament at Bing Crosby Pebble Beach and Andy Williams Open in San Diego, California. Then, upon my relocation to San Diego in the 1970s, I fully enjoyed the amenities. I used to leave my home on weekends before 5 am and mingle among the early birds who thronged outside the starters’ gate still in the dark. There was no price difference between the North or South course then. Today I’m shocked at the green fee schedules I found on the Internet. Boy oh boy! South Course and North Course have very different green fees now. If you play 18 holes on weekdays in the South, you pay $61 (seniors $43) with an annual $25 resident membership. Visitors must pay $183 per person. On weekends in the South, residents pay $76 while visitors pay $229 per person. For the North Course on weekdays, the price is $40 for residents (seniors $28), $100 for visitors and on weekends, $50 for residents and $125 for visitors. The membership fee has increased 5 fold compared to the days when I played. I remember paying a little over $100 at Pebble Beach as a visitor.

I stopped playing golf after returning to Japan. I found the golf courses in Japan too far to travel to since they are located in remote mountainous countryside. I switched from golf to swimming. My wife gave away my golf clubs to a buyer for a local department store. I’m wondering how the courses are faring with the recent 4-year California drought. “Brown is the new green” started a new joke. I’m sure Torrey Pines uses recycled water and a computer programmed watering system. I just found out that 81,400 rounds were played on both South and North courses during the 7 months ending on January 31, 2015, which culminated in a marginal profit. The paper says Vista in the north was hit hard by drought. The Eucalyptus trees were drying out. I will cover Torrey Pine trees next, one of the rarest trees, now on the IUCN red list of endangered species.

Monday, August 17, 2015

California Drought - Part 2

On July 17, I heard about the brush fire that set 20 plus cars ablaze on the California highway I-15. I mistakenly thought it was in El Cajon. Oh, no! I thought of El Cajon, San Diego but I heard it wrong. It was Cajon (meaning ravine in Spanish) Pass in San Bernardino. Checking on where Cajon Pass is, I found it close to the junction of Route 138 east to Lake Arrowhead. That is where I stopped the car to see the Mormon Rocks on my way to Victorville and maybe to Las Vegas via Barstow. In the late 1800s, Mormons from Utah, trudging their covered wagons, named those gigantic rocks and followed the arrow sign "to go down south the mountain road" and ended up settling in San Bernardino.

As an ex-San Diegan, I opened my dusty San Diego Roadmap to review San Diego water reservoirs I knew. My understanding is that San Diego is 20% dependent on the northern State Bay-Delta water, 65% on Colorado River, 15% on local surface/ground water, conservation (reservoir) and recycled water. Please kindly correct these figures if I’m wrong.

Two major San Diego Rivers (both about 50 miles) originate in the Cuyamaca Mountains. First, the San Diego River, from the northwest of Julian, a historic landmark for goldmines and today known for its apple-pies, flows southwest until it reaches the El Captain Reservoir, the largest reservoir in San Diego. Then it flows down through Santee and Old Mission Dam Historic Site before going by Fashion Valley through the floodway to Mission Bay. The other, called Sweetwater, runs down Alpine through Cleveland National Forest into Harbison Canyon (after John Harbison who built his honey kingdom there but was destroyed by fires - in 2003. President G. W. Bush inspected the site accompanied by both Governor Gray Davis and Governor Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger) and discharges into the San Diego Bay. Other reservoirs listed on the map include Sutherland, Cuyamaca, San Vicente, Dixon, Miramar, Morena, Loveland, Otay, Sweetwater and lakes include Henshaw, Barret, Hodge, Mohlford, San Marcos, and Del Cerro.

I have followed various attempts at desalination in California over the years, starting with efforts by Point Loma Naval Unit (taken to Guantanamo, Cuba), General Atomic testing and then SDG&E Carlsbad plant. Last year, it was reported that there was a breakthrough after decades of studies conducted and financed by Poseidon Water at the Agua Hedionda (stinking water in Spanish) desalination plant in Carlsbad. It utilizes the most advanced reverse osmosis technology in collaboration with the nearby Encina Power Plant (now owned by NRG Power). Poseidon Water is advertising a public plant tour on September 4.

I assume the plant completion is imminent. Once production starts, 50 million gallons (190,000 cubic meters) of water per day will be delivered to San Diego residents. I co-owned a house in Carlsbad with my son, so I felt pleased and proud of the achievement. The plant will be the largest in the western hemisphere and by 2020, the plant is expected to supply up to 7% of San Diego County water demand.

I compared Carlsbad’s 190,000 cubic meters of desalinated water with the Kumamoto’s water sprung daily at Ezu Lake. Ezu lately reported declining water levels but the Lake produces 50,000 cubic meters per day. The figures are just for comparison.

Note: Photo of Carlsbad beach wtih Encina Power Plant in distance was taken by my friend Haruo Toda (Hachioji, Japan)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

California Drought and San Diego Avocados

My first visit to San Diego was in spring during mid-50s. I was charmed with the climate and Balboa Park. It was “love at first sight”. When I heard about a job opening a decade later, my mind was set and I was ready to face my destiny. “Maquiladoras” (an operation in a free trade zone) was just happening right over the Mexican border. I like Mexican dishes. My favorite avocados are mass produced. I took my family and other to Old Town, Coronado, La Jolla, El Cajon, Escondido and even to Tijuana on weekends, all in pursuit of Mexican cuisine. Our Sunday lunches were from “Salazar’s”, at the Clairemont shopping center around the corner from where we lived and we all loved their burritos and Chimichangas.

I often took newly arrived expatriates to introduce them to Mexican tacos and quesadillas. Their first reactions were wry and unfavorable. But I thought they would thank me after awhile as their taste developed. My conviction was firm. However, very few thanked me.

Coming back to Japan, I miss everything Mexican. Big cities like Tokyo and Osaka have a Mexican restaurant or two. I frequented El Torito in Roppongi when I was in Tokyo. The nearest city where I live now is Fukuoka.

A good thing is that we can buy avocados throughout the year at our local Price Club. The zooming Japanese import of avocados, mostly “Hass” (pronounced hoss) are from Michoacan in Mexico (95%). I visited Uruapan, the avocado capital of the Michoacan State. The import price is between 300 yen and 400 yen each.

Recently I read the sad news that the California drought may reduce avocado production and my favorite San Diego 'Chipotle' predicts suspension of serving guacamole at its restaurants. I’m praying that Mexican avocado groves will escape the drought so that we Japanese can continue to enjoy this delicious fruit with no inflationary price.

Planting of avocados in San Diego dates back to 1892 according to the California Avocado Association. The oldest avocado tree in San Diego County was a Mexican seedling in Escondido, which came from the Department of Agriculture, Washington. Avocado is as old as rice in human history, Incas being the first to harvest as early as 500 BC. I found a tale of savage revenge from the South American country of Guiana. Ancient Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures believed that avocados nourished the body externally as well as internally. Mayan folklore tells how the famous Indian, Seriokai, was able to trace his unfaithful wife to the end of the world. The lovers adored avocados and ate them wherever they went. Seriokai followed the young trees, which sprang from the discarded seeds. The three, the lovers and their pursuer, are now in an endless race up in the sky, Serioki as Orion, his wife Pleiades, and her lover, the wicked tapir as Hyades.

In Mexico, the avocado has long been considered an aphrodisiac. An old Aztec legend describes how young and beautiful maidens were kept in their rooms for protection during the height of the avocado season.

Avocado production in San Diego was strong in the 1900s, occupying the third position in the top agricultural produce along with tomatoes, celery, strawberries, artichokes, etc. which were harvested perhaps with the great contributions by Japanese-American and Mexican-American farm workers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


My son, who lives in New York, took the trouble to airfreight me Richard Reeves’ Infamy, a 340 page book newly published by Henry Holt & Co. The subtitle reads “The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II.” This is the first book Joanne Oppenheim’s Dear Miss Breed is quoted extensively. I was happy to find Clara Breed’s photo in the book. She was the children’s librarian at the San Diego Public Library, who met hundreds of young Japanese-Americans and during the internment years, she sent them letters, books, and gifts. I saw names and letters of many 'Breed’s children' - Louise Ogawa, Katherine Tasaki, Margaret Ishino, Fusa and Yukio Tsumagari, Ted Hirasaki, Hisako Watanabe. Now all these names will be remembered as unjustly incarcerated internees who endured and lived with grace despite the harsh circumstances during a sad period in American history.

I myself befriended Clara Breed when she served as volunteer secretary for the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden Planning Board (SDJFPB) without knowing her background at all. I was so shocked to see her obituary and found out who she was upon my return to Japan.

Sitting with me at the SDJFPB were Joe and Elizabeth Yamada, members of the 'Breed children' whom I contacted asking about some of the children’s letters that were sent to and saved by Clara Breed from Poston, Arizona. As per Elizabeth Yamada, they had been entrusted with the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles. I visited JANM from Japan and copied some handwritten letters. Elizabeth Yamada then introduced me to Ted Hirasaki and Ben Segawa in San Diego. At JANM, I met Babe Karasawa who was serving as a volunteer docent. Soon I heard from my San Diego friends that Joanne Oppenheim had started interviewing the 'Breed children' with the intent of writing a book, suggesting that I wait for her book.

Oppenheim's book was well worth waiting for and inspired me to translate it into Japanese. One of my motivations for the translation was to make Japanese children aware of historical events. Oppenheim added court testimonies so that voices of internists from cities other than San Diego could be included. She toiled to try to cover over 10 relocation camps by quoting 1) Mrs. Roosevelt's diaries and 2) nationwide court testimonies. I’m glad that today, most of the Japanese municipal libraries and junior and senior high school libraries carry my Dear Miss Breed translation as I so aimed.

As a professional historian, Richard Reeves documented numerous narrative stories from ten relocation centers, making this book a very comprehensive compilation to date for all camp sites in seven States – California, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado and Arkansas.

The following two stories from Infamy were particularly memorable to me.

The 1942 valedictorian of the University of California, Berkeley, Harvey Itano, was in the Sacramento Assembly Center on his graduation day. "Harvey cannot be with us today," said university president Robert Gordon Sproul. He continued, "His country has called him elsewhere," which was behind barbed wire (Page 81). I became acquainted with Dr. Itano, a La Jolla resident, with whom I played golf often. He was a great golfer.

By mid-summer Isamu Noguchi realized he was having a lot of trouble adjusting to life in the camp. He set up an Arts and Handcraft Center in Poston but no one came. He had a lot of trouble communicating with his fellow residents. "I am extremely despondent for lack of companionship," he wrote to John Collier in Washington, "The Nisei here are not of my own age and are of an entirely different background and interest." Noguchi's name is mentioned in Dear Miss Breed. Noguchi left Poston when the army allowed him leave. Isamu Noguchi was in Poston for 184 days. He wrote to his half sister Ailes "Please let my friends know that I am on my way. I feel like Rip Van Winkle" (Page 129).

As the author wrote, the Japanese Americans in Hawaii were mostly exempt from being sent to internment camps except hundreds of them were closely watched by the FBI. Sand Island, a 5-acre island of coral in Honolulu, used to quarantine ships believed to carry contagious passengers in the nineteenth century, served as a location for a camp but the detainees were later sent to the 160-acre Honouliuli Camp in Oahu to join other German, Italian and Korean detainees. The Honouliuli Camp was designated earlier this year by President Obama as a National Park. It seems that each island had similar facilities of its own. The Big Island camp was at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC), which was located in the volcano area, according to my friend Ron Takata who lives there.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Chester Beatty's Collections

Genius can assert itself at an early age. As a teen boy, Chester Beatty (1875 - 1968) liked to collect colorful stones and minerals. One day his father took him to a big auction held on Broadway in New York. Sitting in the front row they saw a fragment of mineral calcite with a shade of pink overlaid with crystals of apatite, a perfect formation sparkled in what little light infiltrated the smoky atmosphere. In response to the auctioneer’s request for a bid, the boy raised his ‘ten cents’ bid. The boyish tense voice reverberated and froze the room for a moment. Despite the eccentric price, no other bid was offered when they found the boy was serious. The auctioneer hammered his gavel, announcing, “The boy beat us all.” It was the first treasure Chester won in his life.

He continued his hobby when he enrolled at Columbia University School of Mines. He started out as a $2 a day mucker and rose to be the King of Copper in Colorado, and was a millionaire by his mid-30s. He was later inducted in the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colorado. While keeping his interests in mining, he left the U.S. with his family and became a naturalized British citizen in 1933, traveling to Africa often, partly to ease his respiratory spells from his younger days laboring in the mines.

Beatty’s propensity for collecting minerals, stamps, Chinese Snuff Bottles, etc. expanded greatly with his added passion for books and manuscripts. Along with the finding of his northern Rhodesian copper belts, he sought Egyptian Papyrus Texts, Biblical and Qur’an Archives, Oriental arts and artifacts, ending up holding one of the foremost personal collections of Ancient Art, Culture and Literature in World History.

Though Beatty received knighthood after WWII for his significant contributions to the Allied War Effort for supplying strategic raw materials, he was disillusioned with the Labour Party’s bureaucratic policies and relocated to Dublin and decided to donate his treasures to Ireland. In 1957 Beatty became Ireland’s first honorary citizen and upon his death in 1968 was accorded a State Funeral.

In celebration of his 125th birthday, Chester Beatty’s Library opened in 2000 on the grounds of Dublin Castle.

Prominently included in this Ireland Library is the “Eternal Love” picture story of Yang Guihei, by Japanese artist Sansetsu Kano (1589-1651), inspired by Bai Juyi, Chinese poet of 9th Century. Oh, what treasures he preserved for mankind!

Article from Irish Arts Review - "An Edo Masterwork Restored: The Chogonka Scrolls in The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin"

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Song of Eternal Love

"You and I have often visited this temple
When I once resided near this summit
Pond showed its bottom only when water got cleared
Tunnel gate opened when white clouds got broken
We kindled fire raking fallen maple leaves to warm Sake (*)
We mulled over poems scraping mossed stones.(*)
And you leave me at this best chrysanthemum flowering season!"

So sang Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi (772-846), in sending his friend away. Unlike his contemporaries Li Bai, Du Fu and others, Bai Juyi is known for his direct, easy to understand and good-hearted poems and for this reason he has had many ardent followers in Japan, including myself. The above (*) marked lines were my favorite quotes from his poem. I saw his 120 lines, each line seven-worded “Song of Eternal Love” written on a monument when I traveled to Xi’an, China. There, at the foot of suburban Lishan, stood Emperor Xuanzong’s (685-762) Huaqing Detached Palace, where his beloved Yang Guifei (719-756) resided. Bai Juyi sang the poem in 809, about 50 years after Yang Guifei was strangled by her confidant Gao Lisjhi, an eunuch official serving the Emperor. It was when Bai Juyi and his friends were promoted to Tang palace officials that they traveled together to the site of the tragedy. He was mandated to write a poem to immortalize Yang Guifei and he wholeheartedly responded with passion. The poem found its way to Japan and is said to be the inspiration for the 12th Century “Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu.

“The Emperor neglected the world from that moment,
Lavished his time on her in endless enjoyment.
She was his springtime mistress, and his midnight tyrant.
Though there were three thousand ladies, all of great beauty,
All his gifts were devoted to one person.”

"Li Palace rose high in the clouds.
The winds carried soft music notes,
Songs and graceful dances, string and pipe music.
He could never stop himself from gazing at her.”

“But the Earth reels, war drums fill East Pass,
drowning out the Feathered Coat and Rainbow Skirt,
Great Swallow Pagoda and Hall of Light
are bathed in dust - the army fleeing southwards,
Out there Imperial banners, wavering, pausing
until the river forty miles from West Gate,
the army suddenly stopped. No one would go forward,
until horses hooves trampled willow eyebrows.
Flower on a hairpin. No one to save it.
Gold and jade phoenix. No one to retrieve it.
Covering his face, the Emperor rode on.
Turned to look back at that place of tears,
Hidden by (a) yellow dust whirl (in) a cold wind.”

A rebellion took place and An Lushan invaded Xi’an. The Emperor had to flee, protected by his guards, but soldiers sabotaged demanding life of Yang Guifei , a ruinous beauty. The Emperor had no choice but to hand her over. Oddly enough, An Lushan was close to both the Emperor and Yang Guifei, allying himself to become an adopted son of Yang, acquiesced by the Emperor. As the Commander of Hebei, Henan and Hedong, General Lushan had ambitions for the Chancellor post, but the position was snatched by Yang Guozhong, cousin of Yang Guifei, with whom Lushan developed hostilities. Guozhong spread word of Lushan’s treason and he was eventually trapped. Lushan, a Persian-Turkish mix, was reported to be a chubby and jolly man, played jester, and danced well whirling a pole for the Emperor. Yang Guifei and Lushan both played the Ney flute. The Emperor returned to Xi’an after the rebellion was subdued. Back at the palace, however, his heart was still full of grief and attachment, and he sent Tao priest to the nether world. The Tao priest brought back her love message to him:

“Of vows which had been known only to their two hearts:
On the 7th day of the 7th month, in the Palace of Long Life,
We told each other secretly in the quiet midnight world
‘In the heavens we shall be
as twin birds flying side by side;
on earth, trees with their branches intertwined.’
Heaven is everlasting and the earth endures,
while the grief shall be ever abiding.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Captain Armour

Chigusaso, Nakacho 2-27
I didn’t believe what my friend said:
“The dormitory is still there and in use.
Take a walk in the morning and a good look.”
I roved the area over an hour.
I searched.
There remained no vestiges of my 40 year old memories.
When I met my friend, I told him I found nothing.
“I’ll take you there” he replied.
He led the way without waiting for my response.
There! There stood the two-story dorm, aged but gallant,
monstrous - ugly, under the dim pole light.
I visualized without stepping inside:
ten identical six-mat rooms facing each other across the corridor,
the communal wash stand and neighboring stall entrance.
The dorm, a home for 80 boys, two sharing each room,
fresh out of school, away from home from their homelands and families.
Gathering to work for the same company and destiny.
I heard the hollers and laughter from the hallways,
the loud yawns, coughs, and pounding, dragging slipper sounds,
the noisy off-work weekends when some prepared joint meals
(so-called caterers), others busy with laundry.
Where are they now after 40 years?
What happened to the camraderie
they thought they had established?
What happened to the ambitions they avowed and burned?

from Magee Park Poets Anthology 1998, Carlsbad, California
Poem by Rio Imamura

My first job was with a medium sized but well-reputed manufacturer of high-tech electric/electronic instruments in Musashino, in suburban Tokyo. It was 10 years after the end of World War II and Japan was about to enter into the budding postwar industrial miracle but we were not quite there yet. Newly hired in that year were just 10 graduates, including me. Luckily I was paired into a dorm flat with the famous Keio Rugger (rugby player). This dorm was located a few blocks away from the plant. The occupants in the dorm used the company dining cafeteria from morning to evening. All we had to care for were ourselves during the weekends, either dependent on delivery service in the neighborhood or cook ourselves in ‘buddy’ groups, or go out to some fancy restaurants in Shinjuku once a month or so.

Toda-san was a dorm-mate at the above Chigusa-so. One day, he brought Captain Armour to work where we established the English Speaking Club where we met on the off-work hours. Toda-san was an excellent photographer and acquainted with the captain during his picture taking field trip. The club had about 20 members who met and shared an interest in speaking English. The captain was with the Far East Air Material Command Station (FEAMCOM) at Tachikawa Air Base (decommissioned in the late 1980s and currently a multi-purpose recreational Showa Park, which includes an authentic Japanese garden). He was a dandy-looking chap and a pious Christian who enjoyed photography as a hobby, sharing a common interest with Toda-san. Captain Armour took time out of his busy schedule to join us often and brought his family once year to celebrate Christmas.

In the late 1950s, I started going on overseas business trips, including the U.S., and had several occasions to meet with the Captain and his family, who were reassigned back to Los Angeles. When I wrote my Latin American travelog, I dedicated it to the Armours who agreed to provide his foreword to the travelog. His foreword read as follows:

"Most people are destined to spend a lifetime within the borders of their own country and it is only through the eyes of others that they may see far away lands. Rio Imamura shares his recent South American travels with us in this booklet. Each page is an adventure into new and interesting places, where we learn of people who are living lives so different from ours. In our short time on this earth, many changes have been wrought among men and nations. Let us hope that the people of South America may someday share the abundance and freedom, which you and I now enjoy."

After his retirement, the Armours relocated to Grand Pass, Oregon. Although we had kept in touch while I was in the U.S., I had not seen them for 30 years. I missed them so much that I visited them before I retired and left San Diego for Japan. I was told Toda-san had visited him on his business trips to the U.S.

After entering the 2000s, I heard Captain Armour was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and was under intensive family care. In 2011, a sad note came from Mrs. Armour that he passed away. For his funeral service, five children assembled - two sons were from overseas where they spent over 25 years, Steve from Brazil and Kris from the UK. The eldest, Phil, worked and retired from the U.S. Forest Service and had two daughters, Lynn and Leslie. Both were happily married and raised their families locally. The Armours are blessed with 12 grandchildren.

Captain Armour embodied our admiration of the U.S. and the promise of tomorrow for young Japanese men. He showed us by leading a radiant life. May he rest in peace.

Both Toda-san and Captain Armour appeared in a previous entry.

Monday, June 15, 2015

“Vedi Fujisan e poi muori!” (“See Fujisan and Die”)

The former Prime Minister Nakasone was said to have confided to his aide that he would not leave this world until he saw Mt. Fuji inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Center. Nakasone was presiding over the “National Congress” that was petitioning the campaign. It was in 2013 that Mt. Fuji finally got its cultural heritage designation, relieving Nakasone’s anxieties. The naturally majestic Fujisan does not really need it. Fujisan has been overly abused to date and I’m afraid the UNESCO designation might attract more climbers from overseas to aggravate the situation.

There is a legend, supported by the records of ancient Chinese “Shi-Chi” about a Chinese explorer named Xu Fu who journeyed twice to the eastern seas to look for the elixir of life between 219 BC and 210 BC on behalf of Qin Shi Huang. On each trip, Xu Fu was accompanied by thousands of crew, craftsmen of various fields, boys and girls. However, he did not return from his second journey and it is believed that he perished in Yamato (Japan), after traveling near Mt. Fuji. Xu Fu is enshrined at the foot of the mountain and around the nearby lakes.

I’ll give a quick overview of Fujisan’s cultural heritage:

When I’m walking along the Tago Coast
I can see the snow falling on the lofty peak of Mt. Fuji.

- from the most ancient Anthology of Japanese poems (8th Century)
So sung the poet Akahito Yamanobe. He is enshrined in the East Omi, near Biwa Lake, in Western Japan.

Lady Sarashina, born in Soshu Province, now a part of Chiba, in the early 1000s traveled to Kyoto with her father, Takasue Sugawara, governor of the province. The Mt. Fuji she saw from Soshu looked more dignified and awesome as she approached. She wrote in her diary that the smoke near the top which glowed after dark and the thick cover of unmelted snow gave the impression that it wore a white jacket over a dress of deep violet. The Tale of Genji, the first novel in the history of world literature, written by the Court Lady Purple, was her favorite book while in Kyoto.


Mt. Fuji became the ground of mountaineering asceticism during the Ashikaga period (1300-1500). In the middle of the Edo period (after 1600), people began making pilgrimage ascents of Mt. Fuji. Shintoists consider the peak sacred to the goddess Sakuya, while the Buddhists believe the mountain is the gateway to a different world. Their wishes included recovery from illness, good harvest, easy childbirth, stability of heart, etc. Reverence and admiration for the mountain was soon depicted in many ‘Ukiyo-e’ woodblock prints by Hiroshige and Hokusai, both completing their respective “36 views of Fujisan” since Mt. Fuji could be then seen from everywhere in Edo. Hokusai’s “Red Fuji” and the “Great Wave at Kanagawa” influenced many western artists.


In the Meiji era (after 1868), Taikan Yokoyama worked almost exclusively on Mt. Fuji. His “Mr. Fuji and soaring crane” is now printed on the back of the Japanese 1,000 yen note. Contemporary Nihonga artist Tamako Kataoka (1905-2008) left many Fujisan works. She wrote: When I stood in front of Fujisan and looked, it seemed to be saying ‘you’re not depicting me, you are not looking at me, you haven’t captured the height nor the mass. What are you looking at? Be sure that you portray me properly”. I found Tamako’s conversation with Mt. Fuji intriguing, as I associated it with “100 views of Mt. Fuji”, a novel written by Osamu Dazai (1909-1949). The writer cooped up for three months in 1938 at Misaka Pass directly facing Mt. Fuji every day and night. His lines on Mt. Fuji began with harsh slanders against the Hiroshige and Hokusai’s artistic distortions, but turned gradually to marvelous expressions of attachment. He left after regaining his strength to live, thoroughly charmed by the glamorous Diva Fuji.

The photographic medium brought totally new artistic dimensions, especially with the accelerated development of hi-tech cameras. Fuji Albums of Koyo Okada (1895-1972) dominated works by professionals as well as amateurs. On each and every New Year, hundreds of climbers / photographers compete to take better shots. My old photographer friend Todasan returns to Mt. Fuji whenever he finds time, so I consider him a Fuji specialist and I hereby wish to salute him for the photos of Mt. Fuji he gave to me as gifts, which I wish to share with you, with his permission. They are all superb shots and I’m really very proud of him.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cuba Part 7: Finca Vigia Museo

Courage is grace under pressure
(Le courage est la grâce malgré la pression)
by Ernest Hemingway

My last post on Cuban is about the hilltop “Finca Vigia”, currently “Museo Hemingway”, along with the featured furnishing of ‘Pilar’, a 12 meter long fishing boat, operated by the Cuban Finca Vigia Foundation. The venue is 8 miles east of Havana.

Hemingway’s first visit to Cuba was in 1928. It may have happened as a layover to Spain, as an exploratory trip to Key West by way of Cuba, or as the result of his second wife Pauline’s family connections. However it happened, it was his enthusiasm for sports fishing there that drew him to Cuba again in 1932 and 1933. When his “Esquire” voyage articles with Carlos Guiterrez became a hit, he purchased the Finca Vigia in 1941 and resided there until 1960, when the communist party nationalized the properties belonging to all Americans.

It was at this Finca Vigia that “An Old Man and the Sea” was written, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes respectively in 1952 and 1954. The well known story is about a lonely old fisherman’s struggle to catch a big fish and bring it back to shore through shark-infested waters. It was praised as the most powerful, style forming mastery of the art of modern narration.

However, Hemingway was unable to attend the Nobel Awards Ceremony in Stockholm because he was suffering from severe injuries sustained in two successive plane accidents in Africa. He read a short acceptance speech over Cuban radio, and said in closing “a writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”

While he recuperated, he paid homage to El Cobre Sanctuary near Santiago de Cuba. Here is what he told Cubans after the visit:

"I dedicated my Nobel Prize Medal to the fishermen of Cojimar. Although I had told this story of an old man and his fish to the whole world, it is their story and they should share this medal. A medal is worn close to the heart and my heart is in Cuba. The good people of Cuba have taken me into their hearts and caused me to live here longer than I have lived anywhere else.

This is my true home. I traveled, with the medal, to Santiago de Cuba and entered the church. I knelt at the feet of the Patron Saint of Cuba and deposited the medal. Silently, I prayed for the protection, the peace and the prosperity of the warm, friendly, generous people of Cuba. In Cuba, the people accepted me unconditionally. I could breathe and be happy. It is my clear, well lighted place."

(The medal was displayed on the altar, but was stolen in the 1980s. It was safely recovered with Castro’s appeal, but had not been on public display since then.)

During the Cuban Revolution, President Kennedy made an exception and allowed Hemingway’s fourth wife Mary to return to Finca Vigia. The Cuban government approached Mary to gift the house to them, to be used as a monument to Hemingway. She negotiated Hemingway’s manuscripts from the house in exchange for the donation.

Shipment of the manuscripts was delayed because Cuba and U.S. teams (with special visas) had to collaborate on microfilming key manuscripts and the final shipping destination had not been determined. Upon her return to the U.S., Mary asked Jacqueline Onassis to store them at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and the ‘Hemingway Archive’ was established. It was in the mid 1970’s that the Cuban documents were finally unpacked in Boston. Today Boston Library boasts 100,000 pages of writing and 10,000 photos, all digitized, for Hemingway scholars and researchers.