"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fukushima: "Worse than Chernobyl"

     I'm going to research the latest information on the continuing nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan and its effects here in the States. In the meantime, please watch this easy-to-understand but sobering update by medical expert Dr. Helen Caldicott. She declares Fukushima to be "by many orders of magnitude, worse than Chernobyl--" the effects of which, over the past 25 years, have taken a million lives.
     You can read her credentials at wikipedia/Helen_Caldicott

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: more Japanese nostalgia

     I recognized survivors of both atomic bombs who came to the service. 

Mr. Sekiguchi, Nagasaki survivor 

Mr. Sekiguchi with his guide and Larry Sims.

     MR. SEKIGUCHI came all the way up by train from the island of Kyushu for the ceremony. He must be in his eighties now and he is blind, but he didn't let that stop him. He represented the hibakusha of Nagasaki and is a dear friend.

     MIYOKO MATSUBARA, who lives in Hiroshima, and HIRO HANABUSA, who came all the way from the island of Shikoku (the one shaped like a dog biscuit), both attended. They were the two chosen by the city fathers to represent Hiroshima in two Peace Pilgrimages around the world in the sixties, appealing to the nuclear powers for peace. (See Peace Pilgrimages and/or His Scribe, November 14, 15 and 16) Mum accompanied them.

Hiro Hanabusa, DDS
     Hiro looked so sad during the ceremony. I'm sure he missed Mum. I should have included him in my introduction of her sons. She was the only mother he ever had. 

He looked better at the reception. Here are the two Peace Pilgrims.

Miyoko Matsubara
Miyoko's face was as beautiful as I have ever seen it. I wondered what she would have looked like if it hadn't been disfigured by the atomic blast, whether someone might have married her.
     Within the last two years, Miyoko has had a stroke which left her unable to speak, although she has completely recovered, and Hiro had a heart attack. I was so grateful to have another chance to see them. 

I missed long-time friends who weren't there:
"Babara Bara (Rose)"

Dr. and Mrs. Tomin Harada
DR. TOMIN HARADA , who created a rose in Mum's honor. He brought bushes of them to the States and planted them along the walk at Mum's (now Tim's) apartment building in Long Beach, California. But a few years ago there rose up a gardener who knew not Barbara. He tore them all out and planted something else.

REV. KIYOSHI TANIMOTO - beloved Christian pastor and spiritual support to the hibakusha. His grandson attended.
ICHIRO KAWAMOTO and his wife, who, as a young married couple, vowed never to have children because of their exposure to the atomic bomb. While we were sailing around the world, a little girl named Sadako Sasaki, who was two at the time of the bomb and showed no symptoms of radiation disease until she was twelve, developed leukemia and died. Sadako was a bright light in the A-Bomb Hospital, visiting other patients and cheerfully making paper cranes with them and for them in what turned out to be a futile effort to survive her illness. The Kawamotos founded the Paper Crane Club that kept Sadako's memory alive until she became a worldwide symbol of hope. The Children's Monument which now stands in the Peace Park was built in her memory.

Kunio and Ki Yanagida's wedding
KUNIO YANAGIDA and his wife KI, a graduate of Hiroshima Women's College, who was one of Dad's three secretaries during his tenure there. (Dad married one of the three, Akie.) 
     The Yanagidas aren't hibakusha and they're apparently still very much alive. In fact, Hiro informed me that Kunio (who used to work for NHK in Hiroshima and is now based in Tokyo) is famous and is on TV every night. But they weren't present and I missed them. Ironically, despite Kunio's fame we have been unable to figure out how to contact them.

I also missed Dad's secretary Emiko (EMMY) HIGUCHI. Before I left Japan for Bible College, Emmy married and moved to Australia. I don't have her last name or address but she was the friend I was closest to as a teenager. I suspect Dad hurt Emmy in the same way he hurt me. I want to tell her if that is the case, I am so sorry.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: The 3 Ms (Part 3)

Niichi (Nick) Mikami's journals.
      Maybe the most bittersweet blessing of all was the discovery of our first mate Nick Mikami's journals. Just as I had, he kept a record of our four years aboard the Phoenix. He had taken pictures and had pictures taken of him and had recorded information meticulously (some in English) on the back of and below each one in multiple albums. He had included clippings written about himself and the other members of the crew. (More photos of these books at Reception after unveiling ceremony.)
     At the reception, when I was so busy greeting other people and answering questions Jerry had to bring me food or I would have had none, a man introduced himself as the grandson of someone Nick had known and spread all these albums out on a table. It took me awhile to realize their significance. Nick was an only child. He passed away soon after returning to Japan and his parents are long gone, too.
Toshinobu Omiya, who found the journals.
     Here were the works of Nick's hands, his memories, his thoughts, recorded to pass to posterity--and he had no posterity. I wanted to tell Mum--but she was gone. Skipper--gone. The man who had inherited them by default was a friend of the Mikami family who had discovered them only the day before!
     It brings tears to my eyes even now. This was a man's life. This man had used the clumsy canvas and thread and sewing machine with which he stitched sails together to make a carrying case for my own journal, for my birthday, knowing how much a part of me my journal was. (See PHOENIX: Childhood artifacts--Journal-carrying case). And here were his journals, spread out to be read, absorbed, enjoyed, pondered--with no time for anyone present to do more than leaf through a few pages and point at a picture here and there.

A man's life. . .
     The first Japanese man to sail around the world--in a wooden boat in the middle of the 20th century. They belong in a museum.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: The 3 Ms (Part 2)

Moto's daughter Riri (Lily) Fushima Mishima
Poring over the route of the Phoenix.
     One of Moto's daughters, Riri Mishima, came into our lives by mail a year or so ago, sending us the few photos she had of her father on the Phoenix and asking us lots of questions, as well as she could in the English at her command. He had passed away just a few years before and she was hungry for information about him.
     Jerry had just digitalized about 3,000 slides of our trip around the world so I was able to go through them and send her the ones with her father in them. Riri wrote back that seeing them was "as if I meet my father again."
     We reached Hiroshima on Friday. On Saturday, an excited Riri came to see us at WFC, bearing photo albums she had put together. She had pictures of us at her parents' wedding, of us with her as a baby. (I'm ashamed to say I didn't remember being at either occasion.) She had photos of Moto by a palm tree or against a thatched house or a sunset and wanted to know if I could identify where they were taken. (While we were talking, someone handed us the day's Chugoku Newspaper, with an article about Riri and me, saying we would be meeting each other at the unveiling ceremony the next day "for the first time in fifty years.")
     Riri struggled to tell us that her father had not talked about his trip with us, had not even hinted at it until she was ten. Until the day of his death, he had hardly told them anything about it. 
     I was stunned. Moto hadn't even told his family about traveling around the world for three years on a yacht? I thought about the night watches he would have reveled in, phosphorescent  foam hissing under the Phoenix's forefoot, the landfalls of South Sea Islands, the parties with the "Hiroshima Prefecture Clubs" in cities we visited. Had the whole experience been that bad for him, perhaps soured by the way it ended?
     But Riri put her finger on it. "He was shy," she said. I think she meant he was humble. He didn't want people to think he was bragging or felt special--or even different. I told her what a kind, considerate man he was, how fun-loving, how much we liked him. She drank my words in like rain water on parched soil.  
Our family with Riri's father, Moto Fushima, c. 1957.
     I had thought a lot about what gift I could take Riri. I wanted something from the circumnavigation, something personal, something, if possible, which had belonged to her father. I remembered this picture of Moto with our family, probably taken in New York, and thought of the inflatable globe we had toted with us around the world, marking the latest leg of our route in red each time we completed it. I could take her our globe. It was grubby and had a slow leak but it was part of the Phoenix. 
     As Riri and I sat looking through her scrapbooks of pictures and ours of newspaper clippings--with no time to read them--she was entranced with our route, fingering it and pointing out specific ports whenever we came to a map. She hadn't noticed the globe Jerry had inflated and set nearby. He picked it up and handed it to her without comment. She was amazed. Something actually from the Phoenix! Then we told her it was hers to keep. She was overjoyed, couldn't believe it, expressed her gratitude over and over. I had wondered if it would be enough, wished I could give her more. But it was a hole in one. She even had me autograph it.
Riri's husband, to right, came and paid for all of us.
     Then a bunch of us decided to go around the corner for lunch, for Hiroshima's signature dish, okonomiyaki (a kind of vegetable omelet), and we invited Riri to join us. She was thrilled. She asked if her husband could come and we said sure. I anticipated her scheme but not soon enough. When her husband reached the restaurant, we were just finishing up our meals--and he paid for them all! Very sneaky, Riri! Arigatou gozaimashita!
     The next day, the day Riri and I were to meet for the first time in 50 years (!), she brought her elder son, Yuuto, to the ceremony to show us he looks just like his grandpa Moto. Riri said her wish had come true to talk about her father.
Riri and her mother, Ikuko Fushima

     An extra blessing: although Riri's mother, who had been hospitalized some time ago with a heart condition, could not attend the ceremony, Riri told her all about it. A hibakusha, as I mentioned, her mother said she was very moved by statements I made and told Riri they gave her a lot of encouragement. PTL.
January 10, 1960
     At my request, Riri mailed me photos of her parents' wedding and of her father late in life. I have added them below.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: The 3 Ms (Part 1)

Posing for the media; Moto at the tiller in the background.
      Two bittersweet blessings that came from our trip back for Mum's ceremony require some back story: Nick Mikami, Moto Fushima, Mickey Suemitsu* were the three Japanese crewmen on the Phoenix. Dad (Skipper) called them "the 3 Ms." They were all members of the Hiroshima Yacht Club and had helped with the building of our boat. (*Niichi Mikami, Motosada Fushima, and Mitsugi Suemitsu.)
     Nick, our first mate, was a stolid man, reliable. He was in his thirties and knew English pretty well.
     The other two were in their twenties. Moto was gentle, quiet, and kept himself in the background. When the Honolulu Star-Bulletin wanted a picture of the Phoenix under sail off Diamond Head, the rest of us lined up along the rails for the photographer on a boat pacing us. Moto (I notice now) stayed in the cockpit steering. That was so typical of him.
     Mickey was different. He spent our whole shakedown cruise from Japan in his bunk seasick (well, it was a rough and scary trip and his bunk--and Moto's--were in the fo'c'sle, which has the roughest ride). When pressed, he finally had Nick tell us he thought it would help if he could have "a little rice gruel like my mother used to make." So Mum, who already made three meals a day--meals for all seven of us with Japanese rice and miso soup for the three Japanese men--set to work to make Mickey rice gruel the way his mother used to make it..
     Mickey didn't like to work (he prided himself on growing his little fingernails out about an inch like Japanese "gentlemen" so he couldn't do much work anyway) although he didn't mind taking credit for it, and he didn't like taking orders. Despite repeated instructions, he'd let other ships approach too close in the middle of the night before waking the skipper to inform him there was a ship in sight.
     Whatever real offenses he may have committed, Mickey became our scapegoat for everything. When our black cat Manuia turned up with a stripe of white paint down her back, I blamed Mickey. (I should have known it was more in the line of my father's type of humor.)
Moto, Mickey, Nick
     The men had arranged with their families to be away three years. The three years were up in 1957 when we were in the Caribbean, with the Panama Canal and the whole Pacific (Galapagos, Marquesas, Hawaii) to go before we'd be back in Japan. But Dad's patience with Mickey was up, too. There was an event off Jamaica, a defiance of authority that amounted to mutiny (Dad never demanded obedience for its own sake but for the safety of the ship and crew) and after a family consultation and a confrontation with Mickey in the presence of the other two, Dad told him we were shipping him home.
     Nick staunchly chose to stay with us. For some reason, Moto chose to be sent home with Mickey. We liked Moto. We liked his cheerful personality and his hard work. Setting sails or mending them, he'd quietly do what needed to be done whether assigned the job or not. We had no issues with Moto and were sad that he chose to leave. We weren't sure whether it was out of loyalty to Mickey, issues with Skipper's authoritarianism, or homesickness.
     Three years later when we reached Japan, Nick became a celebrity, the first Japanese to sail around the world. Toward the end of our trip Nick had taken to wearing a wide wool cummerbund. I wonder now whether he wore it to ease pain because soon after our return to Hiroshima he went in for surgery for stomach cancer and died on the operating table.
     Meanwhile, Moto had settled back into Japanese life and had met the woman he wanted to marry--a hibakusha (nuclear bomb survivor). Most Japanese discriminated against hibakusha and would not consider marrying someone (or arranging a marriage for their grown child with someone) carrying potential mutations that might affect future generations.
     We've never heard what happened to Mickey after he left the Phoenix.

(To be continued)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: Old friends

Masako Fujisaki, 95, and grandson Ken.
     We reconnected with old friends, too, friends from my childhood (ages 7-10), friends from my teens, friends from our years of sailing (ages 10-14) and our years of peace activities (14-18)--people from very different eras of my life, intermingled.
      In Tokyo we had lunch with Masako Fujisaki, 95, who was a close friend of my mother's back in the fifties when we were living in "Rainbow Village," the American-Australian Army base near Hiroshima. 
     She had three young daughters and an even younger son back then. Her daughter Noriko and I were nine. (Noriko died when her own children were young.) My mother's book Emily San is based on the Fujisaki family and the fun we had learning each other's languages. 
     Mrs. Fujisaki's grandson Kenichi (Noriko's nephew) brought her to the Friends Center in an SUV from her home an hour's drive away and she spent our time together, as she always does, wiping away tears and saying in English, "Oh, if only Noriko were still alive!" "Oh, if only your mother were here!" and "You look just like her." She is the sweetest lady and I probably won't see her again until heaven. (She and her grandson are Christians, the only ones in their family.) 
     Her daughter Noriko, all dressed up, stood with us in family pictures at the launching of the Phoenix. She was much cuter than this depiction of her. I'm trying to find the pictures. (Photo goes here.)
Friends Center, where we stayed in Tokyo.

     Other friends I didn't remember so clearly.     Also at the Friends Center we connected with Mitsuo Otsu, whom I'd known as a teenager when I taught English. He has been a loyal friend over the years, not corresponding much but remembering everything about me and how we met, while I am hazy about much of it.

Mitsuo Otsu, next to "Friends Center"sign he painted.

     He has taught at the Friends School next door to the Friends Center for years and is now an administrator there. 
     I didn't know he is also an award-winning calligrapher. He brought us a scroll he had lettered, a Chinese poem about how, in our eagerness for spring to come, we break off plum branches that aren't budding yet. (Photo goes here.) When we got to Hiroshima, I showed it to Dr. Morishita, the calligrapher for Mum's monument and I could tell he recognized its value.

I think one of these may be Mitsuo Otsu (c. 1963)
     I re-connected with two other English students I didn't know I'd had as a teenager when we got to Hiroshima. The morning of the ceremony, we had been sitting around the table at WFC which I showed you yesterday and for the first time since I taught the class, I described teaching English conversation to the employees of the Toyo Pulp Company when I was 17. It was a cushy job, not a job at all, really. I just sat at the head of a long table in a big meeting room and chatted in English with Japanese "salary-men" and women. They loved American colloquialisms and had lots of questions. It was fun for all of us. At the end of each week I got a big check and turned it over to my dad, since I was living on the Phoenix and had virtually no expenses.
     That very day an elderly man approached me, among all the people who approached me, with a confident smile and "Remember me?" I wouldn't have if Michiko hadn't prepped me that Mr. Sera from Toyo Pulp would be there but I was able to smile, hold out a hand and say, "Mr. Sera!" Whew. Thanks, Michiko!
     That night the ceremony was covered on NHK TV. The next day Jerry, Tony, and I came home from shopping on the Hondori and a woman I didn't recognize was at WFC waiting for me with obvious anticipation. I didn't recognize her even after she handed me her business card reading "Tokuko Kikkawa." She said she had been one of my students at Toyo Pulp.
     We sat in the room with Mum on the god shelf while she told me in halting English that she had seen us on TV last night and had persevered until she found her way to the WFC where we were staying. She unwrapped her furoshiki, a square of cloth which forms, when the opposite corners are tied, a convenient container for bundles of any size and shape--I commented on it, not having seen one for years--and brought out, holding one at a time in both hands as if they were sacred, a letter I had written her 40 years ago after Ben was born and a card announcing Becky's birth three years later. I didn't even remember writing them.
Maybe this is the Toyo Pulp English conversation class.
     I was sorry I had forgotten her. She was so apologetic that she had not brought me a gift. I said it didn't matter, that she was the gift. I borrowed her pen to write down something she told me and she urged me to keep it. I told her a pen was a perfect gift for a writer!
     But an hour or two after she had left she returned with two gifts wrapped in paper from a famous department store. One of them was a furoshiki.
     I was just a kid enjoying being a big shot. I didn't deserve such faithful friends. On the other hand, I knew a lot of Japanese people and I was probably the only American many of them knew. I console myself with that thought. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: New friends

New friends: JoAnn and Larry Sims (blue scarf, purple shirt), Drew Tanabe


     Before we left for Japan, one friend wrote us, "We pray that your presence there will be wonderfully used by the Lord in ways more than you could ever imagine.
     Another wrote, "May your trip there and your words be blessed in unexpected ways."
     It was and they were. For instance, we made new friends:  

JOANN AND LARRY SIMS -  The new directors of the World Friendship Center (for the next two years) are JoAnn and Larry Sims from the state of Washington. JoAnn's father was a trucker and Larry worked for a trucking company for awhile so Tony the Trucker (who has his own 18-wheeler) had a lot in common with them and they discussed things like--well, uh, axles?

ANDREW (DREW) TANABE is a student from the east coast doing an internship at WFC. (From January until the day we arrived he had been doing an internship at the Memorial Peace Museum under Steve Leeper.) Drew's great-grandfather was Japanese and came to the United States at the turn of the 19th century. The six of us had lots of fun over breakfasts at the center, swapping anecdotes about things like brushes with wild animals (including yellow-jackets).

KEIKO MIYAMOTO is the translator of Memories of Sadako, a little book I am offering to those who prayed for us while we were in Japan. I hadn't met her before but your prayers went before me and touched her heart.
     At the reception, Keiko took my hands and said earnestly, "Your talk gave me courage." She came to the WFC later to take my hands again, put her face close to mine, and tell me, "Your talk gave me hope" in a personal situation she was facing.
     She pulled out a tiny box, opened it carefully and showed me five of the world's tiniest paper cranes, calling them "my treasure." She let me choose one for myself (I chose the red one), giving me an even tinier box to keep it in, cautioning, "Don't sneeze!"
"Don't sneeze!"
     "Now it's my treasure, too." I told her.
     Later, up in our room, I handed the box to Jerry, who was sitting on the floor, his back against a wall--the only furniture in a Japanese bedroom is a thin mattress and quilt on the floor--told him what was in it and warned him to open it carefully.
     Jerry opened the box, peered in and said, "There's nothing in here." I leaped back across the room to him with an anguished: "NO-O-O!" We searched all the folds in his shirt until we found the little morsel and restored it to its container. Whew! I couldn't lose Keiko's "treasure" in the first half hour of being entrusted with it!

Kotaro and Junko Tanimoto and family
KOTARO AND JUNKO TANIMOTO - Kotaro    and his wife Junko live in Hiroshima. Kotaro got his degree in dentistry in San Francisco and we have mutual friends there who told us to look them up.
     I wrote the Tanimotos ahead of our coming to invite them to the ceremony "at 10 AM June 12 in the south-east corner of the Peace Park," and before we even arrived, Junko had dropped in at the World Friendship Center, met the Sims and signed up for an English conversation class!
     We had a chance to visit with them at the reception and this is what Junko emailed me afterward:
[mepapa.jpg]CONNIE AND MASAAKI NAKAMURA - Connie has just moved with her Japanese husband Masaaki from Saipan to Nogata, Japan. We have been following each other's blogs. Hers is Japan--Living the (Not So) Simple Life and unfortunately her life was not simple enough for her to come to Hiroshima for the ceremony. We really wanted to meet!
     But she commented on my post afterward: "I'm just beginning to realize what an awesome woman your mother was. She seems to embody what I want for my own life and feel like I have failed to achieve....I want to stand for something, to make a difference, to have a strong purpose."
     Then she wrote a post on her own blog about "Someone I want you to meet. . .Jessica Renshaw" in which she said, "The more I read about her mother the more amazed I am. Her mother was AWESOME. She embodies everything I want to be. To stand for something with strength, unwavering commitment and purpose."
     A really neat discovery we made in the course of our correspondence since we got home: WE MAY BE COUSINS! Connie's maiden name is Schon (with an umlaut). My maiden name would have been Schon, too, if my father, who was born Earl Schon, hadn't been adopted by his stepfather Louis Reynolds! My great-grandfather was August Schon, her grandfather was Emil August Theodor Schon. So there may be a connection there. She confirmed what we had been told before, that "Schon" is a German Jewish name.
     Her ancestors come from Suhl, Germany, so my Danish nephew Allan, who has wanted to go look up our ancestors in Germany, may have a place to start digging (not literally!)
     Who would have expected two descendants of a family of German Jews to find each other while blogging about Japan?

DEBI YOSHIMURA - Just before we left for Japan, our daughter Julie put us in touch with her friend Debi Yoshimura in Tokyo. She lives very close to the university I attended as a teenager. We didn't meet Debi while we were there but we have connected on Facebook:
Thank you, Julie!

Jessica, I actually live a 5 minute bicycle ride from ICU. We'll it's 5 minutes from ICU going down the hill toward Nogawa Park, going up the hill it's probably more like 10... I've lived here for the past 10 years. This has truly been a very difficult few months in Japan! But we have seen the Lord open the hearts of the Japanese people to the gospel of Christ in ways that couldn't have been foreseen before March 11th. Tokyo Baptist Chruch, where I am a memeber, even baptized a man in Ishinomaki, Miyagi-ken, last month! He was given the choice of coming to Tokyo or being baptized there and he wanted to be baptized on the spot he was saved! So that's what was arranged with about 100 people watching:-)

Please continue to pray for Japan, there is a very long road ahead.

In Him,

(NOTE: At the moment, we have an embarrassment of riches--thousands of photos--which we're trying to edit down to post on Facebook.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

HIROSHIMA: What it took (2)

The monument was Mr. Morishita's "rock."

     It also took DR. HIROMU MORISHITA and the Monument Committee, a sub-group of the World Friendship Center, to get my talk off the ground.
     As I mentioned, they made corrections and clarifications in my talk and made the language as a whole much more formal and "honorable" for the sake of the dignitaries present. They chose the speakers and the order of the speeches, making mine, they told me through Michiko, the main event.
     The committee designed the wording of the monument. We had had months of correspondence over that, too. Several Americans who weren't involved in the decision-making objected to wording that they thought awkward or "not what Barbara would say." Finally the committee decided to scrap everything but, "Hibakusha are the inspiration for all my peace efforts. My heart is always with Hiroshima."
     There was a ripple of laughter at the ceremony when Dr. Morishita was introduced and the monument was referred to as "Morishita's rock." It was his rock ("ishi") because he wrote the calligraphy for Mum's statement in Japanese, "I, too, am a hibakusha."And it was his rock because it was his strong will ("ishi") that persisted until his purpose was realized. Now that the monument is a reality, he is retiring from the committee.

TOSHIO NAGAI - Back to Setsu for a minute. Jerry and I often host Japanese pastors and students coming to Southern California for JCFN conferences. In fact, Setsu has a key so she can let people stay in our house even when we are out of town.
     One of the men she arranged to have stay with us last month, Toshio Nagai, was new to us but he ended up playing a key role in what went from being my "remarks" to my "talk" to my "speech."
     Toshio describes himself as a coordinator /networker: "I am not a pastor, though some people call me so. My joy is to see people connected and rejoice together. I am a teacher at a school run by a church. I go there every Friday." A liaison at CRASH Japan, the rescue and support organization. An adviser at Tokyo JCFN (Japanese Christian Fellowship Network), a church which is open to Japanese returning from living overseas. A vice chair at ANRC( All Nations Returnees Connection), a committee member of Japan Lausanne, an associate member of the JEA (Japan Evangelical Association) .
     He asked me "How do you call me?" I said, "You are part Paul, part Andrew--and some Barnabas for encouragement." I have decided to call him Pandabas.
     How was he a Paul and Barnabas to me? First of all, he listened. We had just found out about the ceremony and he listened while I shared at length with him about the history of our family as it was interwoven with Hiroshima. His English is excellent and he made rare, insightful comments. In the guest room we gave him are all our family publications. Before he knew Jessica Renshaw and Jessica Reynolds, the author of the Japanese edition of To Russia with Love, were the same person, he pulled the book off the shelf, intrigued that the translator was a man famous for translating American classic authors like Hemingway (which I hadn't known!).
     Toshio lives near Tokyo and was back home by the time we got there. He drove an hour each way to return TRWL which he had borrowed and while he was at the Friends Center with us he let me read my talk aloud, following it in the kanji hard copy. He listened with his head bowed so I could see his thinning hair and he listened intently. Every now and then he'd say something like, "Very moving," or "This is the most formal Japanese, very difficult, very polite." And he'd correct my pronunciation or emphasis--
     "MaTTADAnaka," he'd say without lifting his head.
     "MaTTA danaka."
     "MaTTADAnaka." It had to flow.
     He would nod and then wait and I'd read on. To this day I don't know what "mattadanaka" or "shiriatte ikunitsure" or "satsuriku shitsuzukemasu" (that was a tongue-twister!) mean but I know when I read those phrases at the ceremony, they sounded right.
     He did more than listen. He read my talk back to me so I could hear the phrasing.  He told me my talk was divinely-timed, as I too believed it was. He said only half-jokingly that it was my "Japanese oral recitation exam." When we were through he told me, "Read it slowly. The vocabulary and concepts are difficult. Take half an hour if you have to. The audience will wait. It's important." He promised to pray for me.
     We had not planned--or at least had not discussed ahead of time--his critiquing my talk and afterward I had no gift to offer in return but a small net bag of See's chocolate coins I had intended for his children, not recalling his telling us they are grown and all but one no longer live at home. He laughed when I paid him in chocolate.
     Now that the talk is over, Toshio is being an Andrew, networking by submitting copies of the talk to the heads of Japanese Christian organizations for possible reprint--Christian Shimbun is one which will be printing it--as well as attempting to get To Russia with Love republished in its Japanese translation. As it turns out a free-lance writer who interviewed me while we were over there is also a publisher and hopes to do just that.

The Dragon Lady
MASAKO KIDO. Her business card reads Professor of Ikebana Flower Arranging. I don't think Kido-san would mind knowing that we called her "the Dragon Lady." She came to the World Friendship Center the night before the ceremony. We were in the kitchen, watching a two-hour taped interview with Barbara which Tony had never seen, where Mum shares her growing awareness of and involvement in Hiroshima. It helped put me in a place emotionally to represent her heart the next day.
     Kido-san interrupted us to tell me, "I want to hear your speech!"
Mum on the "god shelf"
     She led me into the next room, where a picture of my mother, some calligraphy and a vase of flowers graced one of the two "god-shelves" usually reserved for deity.
     "I'm the Time-Keeper for the ceremony," she said, and I heard the capitals. "How long is your speech?"
     "Jerry timed it at about 14 minutes."
     "Read it." Ms Kido sank gracefully to her knees at the low table and looked up at me expectantly. I stood before her, holding my typed speech, which covered two full pages single-spaced, back to back with cardboard between them, slipped into a plastic sleeve.
     It was my dress rehearsal. I took a confident breath--after all, Toshio had me camera-ready--and opened my mouth to speak. The moment I did, she said, "Bow!"
     "Bow?" Oh, of course. I was grateful for the reminder. I bowed and started again. She, like Toshio, listened alertly but with few interruptions. She caught places where I needed to pause, words I needed to enunciate better. At the end, she repeated, "Bow!"
     "As I'm saying thank you or after I finish speaking?"
     "Finish speaking. Then bow."
     I practiced.
     "Good," she said, getting to her feet. "Cut it to 12 minutes." And she swept out of the room. Even though she was the Time-Keeper, I ignored the time limit. To do it right I had to do it the way I'd been drilled. And Toshio had said, Read it slowly. Never mind the time limit. Take half an hour if you need to. They'll listen.
     Under load, it ran ten minutes, smoothly and with more passion than it had in practice, even though I only understood the gist of what I was saying, not the specific words.

Always the handsomest man in the room.
JERRY - My husband undergirded all our personal logistics, freeing me to stay focused. He dragged our luggage around Tokyo, three hefty carry-ons and a lap-top buckled together so he looked like the man in the movie The Mission. He packed and unpacked and packed again, laid out our clothes for the day (maintaining our personal "color of the day"), handled mental gyrations like money conversion and train schedules and when I needed to take which pills according to California time.
     When I was having interviews before and after my talk, he brought me things when I needed them and often, anticipating, before I needed them. He served refreshments or handed out gifts we'd brought for guests.
      He heard my 14 minutes of incomprehensible verbosity three or four times a day. He told me, "These are not your words. They're God's. And if you stumble, He will hold you up." The next morning during the ceremony I did stumble only once, over the Japanized pronunciation of "Chernobyl"--"CHE-ru-no-BU-i-ri," and I stumbled so badly the whole audience tried to help me out. Then I burst out laughing, which eased the tension.
     And always, Jerry gave me moral support, told me I sounded great and looked beautiful.
     I had no qualms the next morning. (I saved all my anxiety on our flights.) It was pouring neko and inu. Jerry and I had to dash the five blocks to the Peace Park in puddles that filled our shoes and splashed up to soak Jerry's pants and my nylons nearly to our knees. (Tony had gone on ahead to help set up.) When we arrived, name badges and big red rose ribbons were pinned to our chests. (Tony wanted to save his but they were rented and were re-collected immediately after the ceremony.)
     I'd been assigned an interpreter, an Australian named Jim. (Oh, if only I'd thought to hang onto him when everything was over and the media closed in for interviews!) He pointed out at one point that everyone was saying the same thing, praising my mother. I thought, Wait until he hears me. I'll be saying the same thing, too.
     One by one the other speakers rose and spoke and I watched the damp program in Jim's hand as we mentally checked off each one. I was number 11. When I could glance around the moving shapes of photographers and glimpse the other speakers, I studied how they bowed. I had never thought about how to bow before. Did one tilt only the head, or the head and body in a straight line or the body at one angle and the head at a lower one?
    I remembered the president of the Japanese Electric Company bowing to the public when the nuclear disaster was first announced, sitting at a table to explain the situation to the press. Weeks later he would stand and bow almost to his knees. And finally, visiting a shelter, he was face down on the floor before the evacuees to apologize. Then he was hospitalized for stress and resigned. Bowing is a science as well as an art form. Mine would be an "honoring the audience" bow, not an "apologizing" bow. How low should I go?

     Someone who had just finished speaking bowed twice, first to the distinguished guests: mayor, hibakusha, then to the World Friendship Center members, friends and family. I decided to do that, too.
     Nine of us were called forward to unveil the monument. We sat down again and a few minutes later I heard my name being announced: "Barbara-san no musume, Jeshika-san--"
     I stood up, stepped over the wet cables, walked to the center microphone and bowed. As Japanese came out of my mouth, I heard a dear Japanese friend's audible gasp.

Monday, June 20, 2011

HIROSHIMA - What it took

Setsu Kuroda Shimizu
     From the day we knew the monument to my mother was going to be a reality, I felt destined not only to be present at the ceremony in Hiroshima but to speak there.
     This generation, the generation of those who actually survived the first atomic bomb, will soon be gone. I knew that their gratitude for and close ties to Barbara deserved acknowledgment and validation, that it was important to do this for them because of what they were doing for her.
     I knew I was the one to give the talk and I knew I wanted to do it in Japanese. Speaking their own language would make my comments more intimate, would comfort and provide closure for them as they remembered my mother.
     I also knew a foreigner giving a speech in Japanese would get the attention of the media. I knew the timing was amazing, that I had the opportunity to link Hiroshima and Fukushima and that would give reporters their lead.
     When I was 19, I had found myself finishing up a grueling 30-unit study of Japanese, in order to take classes at International Christian University, a bilingual college in Tokyo. But I was asking myself, "Why am I doing this? Why do I even want to take classes in Japanese? What will I do with them?" (Then I got saved and switched to Bible school.) Now, forty-something years later, it was as if I finally understood why God had me perfect the pronunciation of a language I would hardly ever need to speak. It was preparation for this coming moment in my life, this talk.
     Being born one year into the nuclear age, growing up in Hiroshima, my father's extensive research on the effects of radiation, our family's acts of protest based on that research, my familiarity with the Japanese language and culture, as well as the fact of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan just three months before--it was all coming together.
     It was my destiny and I asked God to keep blinders on me so I could focus on this talk, this moment in time, these seeds I would be sowing: Seeds of love and appreciation to the hibakusha, seeds of promise that when their generation dies out, the message of their desire to spare all humankind what they suffered will be broadcast by the next one. (That is why Tony's presence was so meaningful.) Seeds of warning that nuclear radiation, not just nuclear bombs, is an enemy and seeds of resistance to that enemy.
     I felt I had been born for this, to be their voice, as Mum had been for years, but to be that voice for one point in time, just long enough to send out new ripples, to revive and continue the momentum of the movement toward freedom from nuclear power.
     I trained for this like an Olympian and I knew I could and would stick this talk. I had an occasional picture in my head of tripping over cords on my way to the microphone or getting there only to find I had lost my voice but mostly I saw myself speaking with confidence, authority, and passion. When Tony told me afterward, "You knocked it out of the park," I knew I had and that I had expected to.
     I'd like to share what--and more than that, WHOM--it took to reach that point.

YOU and your prayers were paramount. I needed every one of you and them and I felt the support your prayers gave me. 

SETSU KURODA, now Setsu Shimizu (SEE ABOVE), of Long Beach, who heads up JCFN, an international network of Japanese Christians. Setsu arranged for a friend of hers up in Orinda, California, to translate my talk into Japanese. Then, in what she and we thought was an unrelated move, she provided housing with us for a man we didn't know, Pastor Toshio Nagai, coming from Tokyo to Long Beach to lead a workshop.
     All the time Setsu was taking care of these details for us she was also taking care of the details for her own wedding to Mao Shimizu, another friend of ours, on June 4 on Waikiki. (We wanted very much to stop and attend their wedding on our way to Japan, but it was just too expensive.) I hope she is now free to enjoy her honeymoon!

HIROKO SHUBUYA of Orinda, California, translated my remarks into Japanese and e-mailed me a version with kana in parentheses after each Chinese character, so I had a cheat sheet for the characters I didn't know, which was most of them.  The Monument Committee had assigned me 15 minutes including translation. Since I didn't need translation, I figured it wouldn't hurt to expand into the alloted 15 minutes.

MICHIKO YAMANE, our liaison in Hiroshima, interfaced between the Monument Committee and me. She wrote me tactfully worded e-mails asking for changes in the wording "to make it easier for the audience to understand or to suit the Japanese custom." I hope she and the committee won't mind my quoting a sample of what was involved in getting this talk right.
     In our exchange of some 80 internal memos, Michiko wrote, "Today we had a committee meeting and they came up with another big issue!  About 'No more genpatsu=nuclear energy!'
     "Although we are all anti-nuclear energy, among invited guests there may be some dignitaries who support nuclear power plants.  For instance, the new Mayor of Hiroshima City and the President of the Municipal Assembly are all pro-business, conservative politicians.
     "It is a sensitive issue and many of our committee members don’t want to offend them by provocative remarks.  So after 'No more Hiroshima!', could you say 'No more hibakusha!' instead of 'No more genpatsu!'?
     I wrote back, "Maybe I should say "No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki! and no more Fukushima!'
     "I don't know what to do. I realize some people have business interests and investments in nuclear energy, just as others have investments in the military and in nuclear weapons. If we try to please those who are important in this world, I wonder if we are disobeying Jesus' words to please God rather than men. So I am struggling with this and praying about it. Maybe I could say, 'I myself personally wish for "no more genpatsu."'
     "It's difficult. I am praying about it. I want to honor the desires of the committee but I also want to listen to that 'still, small voice.'"
     She responded,"We are very sorry we caused you a headache. . . I talked to the committee including Larry [at WFC] about your struggle trying to live up to our desire. We think that 'No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki and no more Fukushima' is perfect. If you want to say ' I myself personally wish for “no more genpatsu”, please add this after '………..no more Fukushima'” Then we think there is no problem.
     "We are very sorry to have caused you uneasiness. . .   
    "Very sorry we are meddling too much!"
     Michiko also arranged the details of the ceremony itself, such as seating ( for instance, the current and past mayor would both be there and their seating assignments were a delicate matter). She handled transporting city dignitaries and foreign visitors (us, mainly) to the Peace Park and finding housing for some of them. And she did it with a light heart and humor.
     I also appreciate her husband Shige for letting this event monopolize his wife's time and for driving us back to the Hiroshima Airport (and for Mr. Tanaka who drove us in from the airport), which we had not realized was an hour away from the city!

(To be continued)