This will be published as I am in flight back to the States. Japan Standard Time is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. One of the oddities of traveling from Japan to the East coast of the States is that I’m leaving Japan at 4 PM on June 14 and arriving in Washington DC at 3:37 PM June 14. In other words I’ll be landing 23 minutes before I takeoff. It’s wonderful when one has access to the TARDIS (if you don’t know, don’t ask).
I’m a sad leaving Tamonin. For Shumon and I Tamonin has a special place in our hearts. To us the buildings and the atmosphere itself seems sentient. Thus, it is like leaving an old friend, but one that always welcomes us when we return. I’m also excited to be returning to the States. There’s much new work to be done, gyo starting in a week, and the summer stretching out ahead.
The Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster hung over our time here like a shadow that was always present. Whatever I had felt before coming to Japan for this trip I did not anticipate being so profoundly changed by the events of three months ago. I had mentioned that it felt surreal to be going on with everyday life in Chiba and Tokyo while less than 40 or 50 miles away life has been irrevocably altered.
While in Japan we were able to do what we intended.
Perhaps one of the most important tasks was to personally hand over a donation from all who contributed to the Japanese disaster fund established by Tendai Buddhist Institute to the Jigyodan (Tendai Oversees Charitable Foundation) which will be used by Ichigu-o Terasu Kai (a Tendai charitable foundation of which Tendai Buddhist Institute is a member) for relief in the devastated areas. Some of the money will go to immediate aid, while some will go to the children who lost their parents in order to help them prepare for the future.
A recent article in the Daily Yomiuri reported that only about half of the money donated to the Red Cross and other organizations in Japan has actually been used on site. Large chunks of donations have been used for administration, while other portions of the donations have just not been able to be turned over to those people who’ve lost everything. I’m glad to be able to report that virtually all of the money we donated will go directly to those affected by the disasters. The government is turning many functions over to NGO’s because they are better at meeting the needs of the people.
What did we accomplish while we were here? We had a very productive meeting with the Jigyodan regarding the Tendai Buddhist Institute. Ichishima-sensei and I had completed a great deal of the translation we intended. I was able to reconnect with friends such as Sen-san, our friend who is next in line to be Master of the Mushakoji Senke Kankyuan (one of the three schools of tea ceremony in Japan) and Dr. Mizoguchi Yuji, the Head Curator of Anthropology at the Japanese National Science Museum. A real perk was to be able to go to several onsen (hot springs) while here, including a magnificent trip with Rev. Sono to a Ryokan onsen (traditional Japanese hot springs inn) near his temple.
What will I miss when I return to the states? I will certainly miss spending time with Ichishima-sensei and living at Tamonin. I will miss my good friends like Dr. Mizoguchi, my brother and sister-in-law Mari and Tateyuki. I will miss certain Japanese food, such as really good sushi, soba, Yakitori, and eating in izakaya (a particular type of Japanese casual restaurant). Not being able to go to an onsen or even having an ofuro (Japanese bath) in the house.
What will I not miss when I return to the States? I won’t miss hitting my head on the shoji doorways about 10 times a day. Shoji doorways in traditional Japanese buildings are 180 cm high (5’9”), I’m 5’10 ½ “ tall. I won’t miss not having Internet service or even dependable cell phone service at Tamonin. I will not miss rainy season.
What am I really looking forward to as I return to the States? I have not had a bagel in five weeks, to say nothing of Tamami’s good cooking. Most of all I miss living and sharing my life in Canaan amongst all our friends and Sangha members.
The blog will continue, though the subjects will not be centered on Japan. I will respond to some comments. I look forward to continue to share my thoughts and questions with you.
Gassho . . . Monshin