April 21, 2020
Our present situation has made some of us hypochondriacs or neurotics. Each time I sneeze, cough, feel tired or uneasy I wonder is it the virus? It is silly to worry and we should spend our time better. The world of truth for us means things just as they are. If we get sick, we get sick, if we survive this pandemic we will survive. Either way it is a life experience that teaches us about the self.
It is not a good use of our time to worry, but it is human nature to worry. This is especially true in the current situation we find ourselves in. We worry about our jobs, our health our relationships, our finances. We worry because we expect the world to operate in a way in which it will not cause us suffering or anxiety.
This is what the Buddha called dukkha, a world of suffering caused by our inability to see the world as it truly is. Our dilemma is not new; it is just magnified by the pandemic changing our world. Shinran called it the saha world or the mundane world we live in.
In those moments of anxiety and worry, just say namoamidabutsu and we are embraced in the infinite wisdom and compassion of Amida Buddha, just as we are.
Rev. Jay Shinseki
April 15, 2020
Scam Artists and Hoarders
In Buddhist mythology there are ten realms of existence which represent our human psychological states and potential states of being. Of particular interest for us and relevant to us are the lower six realms of existence. The lower six realms are: Jigoku or hell; Gaki or hungry ghosts; Chikusho or the animal realm; Ashura or the fighting spirits; Ningen or the human real; and Tenjin or the heavenly realm.
In our present situation we find people taking advantage of others creating scams to bilk money from the unsuspecting. We ourselves might be stockpiling toilet paper, paper towels, face masks or hand wipes. This also is to the detriment of others. This is the world of the gaki or the hungry ghosts. The gaki have an insatiable thirst to have what others have to think only of their own benefit, forgetting others. How often have we found ourselves existing in that realm?
This blog isn’t condemning but acknowledging this part of ourselves that is greedy and only thinking of self. “We create our own demons”
Fortunate for us, Amida established the most excellent vow that accepts us despite our foibles. How grateful I am.
Rev. Hosei Shinseki
 Tony Stark, Iron Man 3
April 14, 2020
Sound of Music
We find ourselves in a time and place where what is most important in the world is becoming clearer and clearer. It may be a result of us becoming more and more aware of the frailty of life. We come to realize what is truly important in life. Family, friends, art & music, laughter and sharing.
We see daily people thanking each other for their work and their contributions to the world. We see people practicing the simple art of sewing masks for others, sharing food where needed and singing songs together while still apart. It is these things that make us truly human. We do these things to share with other people that we care about and with other people in need. We have come to reevaluate what is most important in our lives.
Music, art and culture are an essential part of our lives. We are paying closer attention to them now and less attention to the selfish needs of our own. At least I hope so. Take time today to listen to a song and its message.
“The debt of gratitude I owe to Amida’s great Compassion, I will proclaim until my life disintegrates into dust. The debt of gratitude I owe my Dharma teachers, I will express until my bodily form is finally shattered.”
Rev. Hosei Shinseki
April 7, 2020
Half Asleep or Half Awake?
As we move into the second month of being sheltered in place, we find ourselves getting into a daily routine. I am usually in bed by 10:00 am and start to stir around 6:00 am. Sunrise is usually around 6:20 am. Even though I try to keep my eyes closed the light of morning comes into the room and I can “see” the light through my eyelids. No matter how I try the morning sun wins and I wake up.
I am reminded of Shinran’s words in his Kyogyoshinsho (Teaching, Practice, Faith & Attainment). “The unhindered light is the sun of wisdom dispersing the darkness of our ignorance”
Even my stubborn resistance to the light of wisdom and my refusal to open my eyes to the truth, the light of Amida’s compassion is unhindered and forces me awake. Even when I pull the covers over my head to escape the truth/reality that is Amida, the light has already snapped me out of my sleeping state. The truth has grasped me despite my efforts to stay asleep.
Our encounter with Amida Buddha and the Primal Vow arises like the morning sun jostling us from the doldrums of sleep, awakening us to the reality of life.
Rev. Hosei Shinseki
April 2, 2020
As each year goes by and we get older and older, we know more and more family and friends who have died. Sometimes it seems harder and harder to keep track of the meinichi or death day of people I have known.
Today happens to be the meinichi for my father John Masashi Shinseki who died in 1996. We have a tradition in our home to conduct a service for those family members on the day of their meinichi. For us it is important to remember those in our past, especially our family members.
Why is this important? It is important to me because no one exists in a vacuum. Not one of us exists as a result of our own doing, but we exist because of a myriad of causes and conditions. All of us are made up of the many people who have made our lives possible.
Genetically we have received the looks and physical characteristics of our birth parents. However, we are much more than that. We have developed ideas, thought patterns, attitudes from all the people whom we have encountered. Who we are is a complex mixture of physical, psychological and social influences.
By remembering our family members on their meinichi we are reminded of their profound influence on our lives. A reminder of our connection to many others. And a reminder to live each day in gratitude. Namoamidabutsu.
Rev. Hosei Shinseki
March 31, 2020
It is probably hard to be grateful at a time when we seem to be losing so much. The COVID-19 has taken away lives, freedoms, jobs and our economy. We don’t have to look far to find the many things that we can be grateful for. If we take a moment to look beyond ourselves, we can see that so much is being done for our welfare.
Doctors, firefighters, police and grocery clerks, nurses, and caregivers are all working so hard for our benefit. Let’s all take a moment to stop and thank them, even if it is just in our minds. Our minds can think about others for a minute, but our minds also wander about from subject to subject.
This is the dilemma of a human mind, we are reminded to be grateful, and then we begin to criticize others for their actions and lack of gratitude. I see people not practicing “social distancing” and criticize them. I see people taking advantage of the current crisis by trying to scam people and take their money. I think, “what is wrong with people?” Forgetting that I am constantly thinking of my own welfare.
We need to be careful not to deflect the truth of our small, foolish self by criticizing others. The primal Vow of Amida Buddha, is for beings like us. Transforming our evil into virtue and bringing us to enlightenment.
March 27, 2020
A short blog entry today. Sadly lost a good friend today. 2nd loss in the past month. Life is fragile.
March 26, 2020
A Drawer Full of Nenju
Like all or most of my colleagues, ministers probably have a drawer full of nenju. I have lost count of how many nenju I have. There are many in a drawer in our bedroom and more in the cabinet under our Obutsudan.
I always wear one on my wrist and only take it off when I shower. Over the past 12 months or so I have been wearing a simple black onyx wrist nenju. A few days ago I changed to the wrist nenju seen in the picture. The skull nenju is one of my favorite. I think I must have several wrist nenju with skulls, some are white bone, some are brown wood and some are black stone. I also have several regular size nenju with skulls made of different materials.
When I was in Japan a few years ago, I bought several skull nenju and presented them to our minister’s assistants as gifts. At first I was a bit reluctant to give them a nenju with skulls, but to my delight they all loved the nenjus.
Over the many years since I started carrying a skull nenju people will ask me why do I have a nenju with skulls? Personally, the nenju is a constant reminder to me of my attachments, especially my attachment to my own life. It is also a reminder to me of the frailty of life. Finally it is a reminder to me that despite my attachments and inability to let go, Amida Buddha accepts me just as I am. How grateful I am.
March 25, 2020
This is a picture of my tea bowl. Whenever I am working and feeling a bit tired, I bring out my tea bowl and make a bowl of matcha. The tea perks me up and I am regenerated and am able to work on. I love matcha the tea that is typically served at a tea ceremony. Chanoyu or the art of tea is a very elaborate ceremony full of beauty and ritual. I understand that one purpose of the tea ceremony is to lose oneself in the highly ritualization of making tea.
I for one enjoy the flavor of the tea and I love my tea bowl. It is one of several that I own. I have taken part in tea ceremonies, but never have taken a lesson in chanoyu. One reason I love this tea bowl in particular is because it was a gift from a dear friend. I also love this tea bowl because of the color and form of the bowl. It is full of irregularities in form and color. Upon close examination, the lip of the bowl is not uniform, but is somewhat wavy. The color of the glaze is uneven around the rim. As I hold the tea bowl in both hands I can feel the uneven-ness, and I can feel the potter’s hands.
And yet, this bowl is so very beautiful and treasured by me. As I hold the bowl, I can imagine the artist carefully creating the bowl with his hands, glazing the finished bowl and then submitting it to the earthen kiln where nature takes over. For the artist, it is a moment of uncertainty. The fire of the kiln takes over and what it produces is unknown to the potter. Where nature takes over, is where the true beauty of the bowl manifests itself. It is like the Other Power of Amida entering our life of imperfection creating the beauty of namoamidabutsu.
“Let us look at a beautiful piece of pottery. Its provenance does not concern us. If the article is beautiful, we may say that it has achieved Buddhahood, for it is not man alone that may become a Buddha. A beautiful artifact may be defined as one that reposes peacefully where it aspires to be. A man who achieves Buddhahood has entered the realm that lies beyond that of duality; by the same token, beauty is that which has been liberated-or freed-from duality.” Soetsu Yanagi
March 24, 2020
Somethings Never Change
One of the central tenets of the Buddhist teaching is that all things are subject to change. All things are impermanent. We hear this all the time at our temples. Here we are close to 2,600 years after the Buddha and we find ourselves faced with a life fraught with dangers. From greed, anger and ignorance we face the same internal dangers that people faced when the Buddha was alive. The suffering of human beings is the same as in the Buddha’s time and Shinran’s time.
The Buddha had great insight into human nature and he knew that thousands of years later the things that afflicted human beings then would be true today. What has changed is that we are less willing to hear the Dharma, we are less willing to encounter the Buddha.
Our minds flutter from one thing to another and cannot concentrate on one thing. Our world is full of distractions so we don’t have to listen to the truths taught by the Buddha. The current situation with COVID – 19 might encourage us to listen like never before.
Each Sunday we read the “Threefold Refuge” together as a Sangha. It is a reminder to us all to develop in our own minds wisdom, purity and compassion. It is also a reminder of the Buddha’s vow that embraces us all despite the three poisons ravaging our thoughts, words and actions. Taking refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in his vow.
What hasn’t changed is the vow and Amida Buddha’s concern for us.
“I reflect within myself: The universal Vow difficult to fathom is indeed a great vessel bearing us across the ocean difficult to cross. The unhindered light is the sun of wisdom dispersing the darkness of our ignorance.” Shinran
Monday, March 23
Spoiler alert: This blog is about the movie “Farewell” starring Aquafina. She plays the part of a granddaughter who finds out her grandmother in China is dying. The family gathers for a wedding, but doesn’t tell the grandmother that she is dying. Billi played by Aquafina wants to tell her and can’t understand why they don’t tell her.
Her uncle says to her, you have grown up in America, “you think one’s life belongs to oneself. But that is the difference between East and West. In the East, a person’s life is part of a whole, family and society, you want to tell Nai Nai (grandmother) the truth, because you’re afraid to take responsibility for her. Because it’s too big of a burden. If you tell her then you don’t have to feel guilty. We are not telling Nai Nai because it’s our duty to carry this emotional burden for her.”
I like the character of Billi, because she is a young girl caught between two cultures. She is beginning to understand the truth of life and death. Her love for her grandmother and saving her the pain of truth conflicts with her sense of what is true and real. He uncle shares with her a truth that we are all part of a whole, but at the same time makes the assumption that his mother cannot handle the truth of impermanence.
It is true that we are all connected, we are a part of a family, a society. However, denying the truth of death is denying life itself. If we teach each other that life and death are like two sides of a coin, each complimenting the other, when we are confronted with death we will be more accepting. Our struggle like Billi in the film, is accepting that truth. The Dharma taught to us by the Buddha, teaches us that our suffering begins with a failure to see life as it truly is.
Sunday, March 22
A Different Sunday
For the first time in a long long time, I wasn’t at a temple and I didn’t get up early to go over my sermon. It felt very strange not to go to temple. I woke up at my normal time and Jane and I did service in front of our obutsudan (home shrine). In a small way, it help make it seem like a normal Sunday.
Nothing can replace being in the hondo (primary hall) of the temple with other people and chanting together, shaking hands, hugging and conversing with our temple family.
This social distancing has made me realize how much I need social closeness. I realize how much the Buddha Dharma has brought us all together. A shared faith in Amida Buddha that has brought us all together. When we think of and say namoamidabutsu we are not alone, we are all together.
“….When we do say the nembutsu, our trust in Amida becomes stronger and our gratitude to Tathagatha deepens as we approach the moment of supreme enlightenment.”
Although different this Sunday was the same in namoamidabutsu.
Friday, March 20
The Air Outside is Fine
I hope you are all well and staying healthy. At a time when being isolated in our homes it can be stressful for our minds and bodies. Each day I try to go out for a walk and get some fresh air. Although the governor has asked us to stay in our homes, we can go outside in our backyards and get some fresh air. It will do us good to breath in the air and feel the sun on our bodies.
Yesterday I went for a walk to the grocery store and noticed something very interesting. First there weren’t many people walking around or driving their cars. While I was walking, I did encounter a few people and each one of them kept their 6′ distance from me. But that wasn’t what was interesting. What was interesting is that every single person I ran into said, “Hello” or “Good Afternoon”. In my prior walks around the neighborhood, most people were walking and rarely would they say hello. Many were wearing headphones or earplugs listening to music.
Could this be a result of a shared experience? Could it be that people are sensing that we are all in this difficult situation together and understand what we are all going through? I like to think that difficult situations like this bring us closer together. Perhaps there is an understanding of the interrelationship of all things and sentient beings.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Thank you John Lennon. Sadly, sometimes it takes a dilemma or shared suffering to bring us together.
Please think of your neighbors and friends during this difficult time.
Wednesday, March 17,2020
Dear Sangha Members,
We are all facing an unprecedented event with the onslaught of COVID-19 virus. Over 2,500 years ago the Buddha also saw the devastating effects of illness in his country. The experience motivated him to find an answer to the suffering he saw around him. One of the hallmarks of his teaching is the truth of interdependency. All that we think, all that we say and all of our actions affect others in ways that we cannot comprehend. It is unfathomable how deeply we are connected to others and how we affect other lives.
We are learning today that a simple sneeze or the touch of our hand, or coming into contact with a surface we can pass on to others a part of ourselves. We can also be on the receiving end and receive from others. We have been doing this all our lives, only now the consequences are far more devastating. Before we were not aware of the things that were coming out of our mouths and how it affected others. Only now are we more conscious of it.
Perhaps now we will take a moment to not just think of the potential virus that comes out of us and affects others, but think about all of our thoughts, words and actions that affect those around us. We can never fully comprehend the effects we have on others, but because of the COVID-19 in our lives now we have a little better idea.
“Only with the diamondlike shinjin, can we, living in the evil world of the five defilements, completely abandon birth-and-death forever and reach the Pure Land of naturalness.”
Many times Shinran pointed to the 18th vow as the only means of entering the Pure Land of naturalness. How grateful I am.
Tuesday, March 16, 2020
Dear Sangha Members,
It is my sincere desire that each of you are doing well and taking good care of yourselves and your family members. We find ourselves in difficult times with the COVID-19 epidemic. It affects our health, our economy and our peace of mind.
One of the issues of concern is that we are not able to see each other face to face, here in Sunnyvale we have been given the “Shelter in Place” order. This means little or no contact with others. This in itself can be distressing. For many of you that means not seeing grandchildren which is so very sad.
This is why I will be posting each day to reach out to you just to say hello and hope that you are being well both physically and spiritually. If you are reading this post you can comment, vent and share with me your feelings.
I know that for me our Obutsudan with the words Namoamidabutsu is very comforting. It reminds me that amidst the chaos of the world I am comforted in knowing that Amida embraces me at all times.
Please take care and know that I am thinking of all of you. Namoamidabutsu
Monday, November 4, 2019
Today was a very special day. Not only did the weather cooperate but we were treated to some once in a lifetime sites. We rode the Metro and visited the Vatican Museum. The museum is the former home for the Popes and next to the Louve in Paris the largest museum in the world.
Aside from the many beautiful and ancient paintings and statues we visited the Sistine Chapel and the famous ceiling painted by Michaelangelo. Also saw paintings by Botticelli and Rafael.
We then made our way to Saint Marks Cathedral where all the past Pope’s are entombed.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Rome and then we return home. Looking forward to seeing you all.
Sunday, November 3, 2019
Today we left Florence by bus for Rome our last stop on this incredible journey. We made a stop in the Tuscany area known for their wine and olive oil. The family owned winery is located high in the hills. Marco and his wife have been here for 30 years making wine and olive oil. We learned a lot about olive trees and oil. His olive oil is rated very highly. We had a wonderful wine tasting accompanied by great food provided by his wife.
On to Rome, we arrived at our hotel and were met with rain. A walk through town was met with families on vacation (All Saints Day) and intermittent rain. We saw the fountain of the 3 rivers, the Parthenon and then hurried to our dinner in the midst of a thunderstorm. Many of us were soaked to the bone.
The small restraunt was nice and dry and warm. We settled into the basement which is next to the very spot where Ceaser was assassinated by Brutus and Cassius. We were serenaded with Italian classics during dinner. Wonderful!
Friday, November 1, 2019
Happy November Everyone,
Today we were treated to a walking tour of the backstreets of Florence. We visited the Musei del Bargello a 12th Century home in a very old neighborhood. The 5 story building’s facade is made of three arched entryways. In the old days these arches were open and led into a courtyard. Today there are doors. You can see the rings on the outside where horses were tied up and other metal holders where torches were set up at night. Each floor showed us the what life was like in 12th Century Florence.
We then traveled over to St. Trinity Church built in the 12th Century. From the outside it is very non-descript church but once inside we see a beautiful example of the Catholic faith. Inside there is a sculpture donated from Michaelangelo to the church. He created Jesus on the cross at age 17 and gave it to the church in gratitude. Michelangelo had studied anatomy and dissected corpses at the church (Illegal at the time) and from those studies he was able to make wonderful sculptures.
We then went and had a wonderful cooking class at In Tavola. We cooked tomato bruschette, fresh egg pasta with mushroom sauce, farmers chicken and tiramisu. Great fun and a delicious lunch. Can’t wait to try it at home.
We had free time, so Jane and I walked over to the Pitti Palace home of the Medici. The 16th and 17th Century art collection is one of the best. Even more impressive is the apartments or living quarters of the Pitti rulers.
Since it is All Saints week, the streets are full of people. We spent time after having a gelato and watched the people stroll by.
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Happy Halloween Everyone,
Here in Italy it is All Saints Day a three to four day holiday much like our Obon where families return to their homes, visit the graves of their loved ones and attend church services.
We drove by bus to Florence and upon our arrival we had a walking tour of the city’s historic Renaissance center. We learned about Brunelleschis’ magnificent cathedral dome. A massive structure. It is another example of the power of faith and what can be done in the name of God. Much like the huge Buddha in Nara. Nearby we saw the Ghilberti’s Baptistery doors of gold.
We walked a short distance to Santa Croce Church. The 14th Century Franscian chuch houses the tomb of Galileo Galilei. I admire Galileo who defied the church by stating that the earth moved around the sun. He was put under house arrest and wasn’t allowed to be buried in the church until hundreds of years after his death. Also buried here is Michelangelo and Machiavelli.
After visiting this beautiful church with its rich history we settled into a restraunt for a Tuscan dinner of a hearty vegetable soup, beef stew, wine, panna cotta and lemon chello.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Today is our last full day in Venice. We are spending the morning in the museum Galleries dell’Academia home to some of the most famous and outstanding Italian paintings including “The Tempest”. Most of the paintings subjects are St. Mark, The Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus. It is an amazing collection of paintings.
After the museum we boarded a bus to visit the islands of Burano and Torecello. Burano is famous for its colorful buildings and lace. We had a wonderful lunch at a small Resturaunt famous for its fish. From there we went to Burano the first settlement of Venetians and the oldest church and mosaic work in Italy.
Coming back to Venice we were treated to a gondola ride with music by an accordion player and a singer with a great voice. Dinner was at Vinci de Pinto. Great soup and a delicious lasagna with wine and lemoncello to end the dinner.
Tomorrow we travel to Florence.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Venice is amazing with all its tiny narrow streets, shops, plazas and churches. It’s history dates back to the 6th century when refugees from the invasion of the Huns drove people into the swamps to avoid them. Eventually making it their home. It is amazing how they have built the city on wooden timbers driven into the water where they become petrified because of the lack of oxygen and then building are put up on top of them. Today it rained and the tide went up so St. Marks square was under water. This is not unusual and they are prepared for it. After visiting the magnificent St. Marks Cathedral (which by the way didn’t start as a church, but a city leaders center) we visited a glass blower. The Venetian glass is beautiful as you can imagine.
Dinner last night was at a very nice place where I had the squid with black ink spaghetti. Jane had affagato, coffee and ice cream.
It is futile to try to explain the deep history and beauty of Venice. I will add pictures as usual in the hopes that it will give readers a sense of the city.
Monday, October 28, 2019
We arrived safely on our flight from Paris to Marco Polo Airport. We took a boat from the airport to Venice. I made the mistake of opening the front window to the boat to get some fresh air and got soaked from a wave hitting our boat. Welcome to Venice!
Our hotel in the Rialto area of Venice is very quaint. 700 years old, but full of all the amenities except a TV. We can live without one for a few days, good for us. In the afternoon we met with the rest of our group and had an orientation. We then had a walk around the city and stopped at a Graspodeua Restaurant Lounge for a great dinner of shrimp pasta, salad, calamari and of course wine. Dessert was a tiramisu and limoncello. Delicious.
Sunday, October 27, 2019
I hope everyone is doing well. Today was a leisurely day of visiting some of Paris’ most famous sites. There is so much history here and so much to see that we decided to travel on the site seeing bus around the city. We were able to get a good view and hear a audio history of Paris along the way.
We jumped off near the Louve and took some pictures then walked over to the Obelisk where once stood the guillotine that saw over 2,000 heads roll into baskets including Emperor Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Next to the Obelisk we visited a small museum with the works of Monet and Serac. We boarded the bus again and saw the “entertainment” part of town including the Moulin Rouge.
After a quiet dinner near the Louve we headed back to our hotel. Tomorrow we head to Italy.
Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 26-27, 2019
I am sorry that I didn’t post a blog for the past couple of days. We have been on the move and taking in a lot and coming back to our hotel late at night.
Friday, we spent the morning at the Palace of Versailles. A remarkable palace built by King Louie the XIV. It is so very opulent. Louie XIV lived in the late 15th century and consolidated the nation in much the same way the Shogun and Emperors did in Japan. The palace is so huge that it is impossible to see it all in one day. It was very crowded in parts of the palace but we were able to see some of the most important rooms. King Louie the XV took over the crown and lead in much the same way as his predecessor. King Louis the XVI with Marie Antoinette isolated themselves in the palace while France rebelled. They hid out until they were overthrown and killled.
We then traveled to the lLouve where we saw the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo.
Saturday, October 27
We spent the day doing some shopping along the Champ de Ellllise. Including a stop at the Baccarat store. In the early evening we made our way to the Eiffel Tower where we took the elevator up to the top. I don’t have any good pictures because I was not looking out or down at all during the time up there. After our trip up I had a scotch.
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019
Today we have left our town of hotel in Reims and are heading to the Champagne region of France. We are on the final full day of the tour commemorating the 100th/442nd RCT 75th Anniversary. My blogs from this day forward will most likely be a bit shorter.
We have learned that the soil in the Reims area is very chalky and below the surface of the earth there are hundreds of miles of tunnels used to store and age the champagne. The gentle slopping hills of the region create for a short growing season and more sugar in the fruit which attributes for the bubbles. Like scotch, to be called champagne it must be produced in this area of France. Dom Perignon a Benedictine monk is credited as the first to make champagne in the 17th Century.
As we enter Mercier we can see the many small and large producers of champagne. We have arrived at the Mercier champagne producer where we will tour the caves and taste the champagne. The tour is on a small train that takes through the underground caves and gives us a history and educational presentation into the process of making champagne. After the train ride we were treated to a tasting. First a 2 year old brut. Brute champagne has been aged and then a small amount of sugar is added to each bottle. We then had a 4 year old brut followed with a pink champagne.
We then traveled back to Reims and visited the museum where the surrender of Germany took place on May 7, 1945. The building had housed a university before the Germans occupied Reims. After the liberation the 101st Airborne used it as their headquarters and eventually gave it to the Allied command for their headquarters. After the war a ceremony was held where they returned the keys to the mayor of Reims.
Inside the museum today are artifacts of the war and it’s participants. Most remarkable is the room where the Germans signed their surrender and the actual document of surrender.
We left Reims now knowing it’s important place in history. Returning to Paris in the late afternoon, Larry, Anne Jane and I took the train to the Arc de Triomphe. It was Napoleon who had the Arch of Triumph built to the glory of the Great Army. It is an imposing monument sitting at the end of the Champs-Elysees’ opposite the Palais des Tuileries the residence of the Emperor. The arc was under construction from 1806 to 1836.
Jane and I climbed the spiral staircase to the top, stopping frequently to catch our breath. The climb takes us 50 meters up about 170 feet. From the top we had a sweeping view of the city and the many roads that lead to the huge roundabout surrounding the Arc.
Returning below we saw the many markers honoring the soliders who fought for France over the years including those during WWII. In January 1920 a ceremony was held burying the body of an unknown solider. An eternal flame was lit on November 11, 1923.
After taking pictures we walked down the Champs-Elyses a wide street with many familiar stores like Luis Vuitton where a line to get in had formed. We stopped at Charles V diner on the avenue and had a very nice dinner.
Today we woke up to a cold and foggy morning. We have loaded our luggage onto our bus. We are first heading back to Bruyères for a final farewell to the city and the 100/442nd monuments. From there we will travel to the American Cemetery in Lorraine to pay our respects and conduct a memorial service.
As we say goodbye to Geredemeyer a beautiful white stork flys by our window and over the lake. As we approach Bruyères for the last time the sun is shining and we see more blue sky than clouds. Once again off in the distance we can see Hills B and C.
In 1945 the JACL offered a plaque to the city of Bruyères commemorating the 100th/44nd. They were able to erect that monument. However as you can imagine the town had just come from a devastating war and had little money or resources so the marker on Hill 555 was a simple wooden marker. In 2011 Carl Williams visited the site and saw that it needed repair. He contacted the mayor (who is the current mayor) who was happy to work with Carl on restoring the site. Together they decided to add elements to the site, and began collecting donations and eventually built a new monument that we see today.
We arrived at Hill 555 and were greeted by Mayor & Mrs. Yves Bonjean and daughter Anne. The hill is much quieter today which allows us time to quietly visit and contemplate. I had time to visit the small sculpture nearby by famed artist Shinkichi Tajiril. Tajiri was born in the Watts area of Los Angeles. He was interned in Poston from where he volunteered and joined the 100th/442nd with his brother Vincent. Wounded here in Bruyères he returned to the US and attended the Chicago Art Institute. Racism and prejudice drove Tajiri to the Netherlands to live. He became a world famous artist, sculptor and film maker. The “Knot” is here on hill 555 in memory of the 100th/44nd.
After a beautiful and moving rendition of Amazing Grace by Anne Bonjean and her mother we departed hill 555 and said goodbye to Bruyères and began the 2.5 hour drive to Lorraine.
We arrive in the American Cemetery in Lorraine and are met with an imposing site of the monument and surrounding headstones. Lorraine is the largest American Cemetery covering 1135 acres. There lies here 10,482 soldiers killed in WWII. Most died while driving the Germans from Metz toward the Rhine River. The cemetery was dedicated in 1960. There are 444 names on the wall of those missing in action, 4 Medal of Honor winners, 151 unknown soldiers, 11 women, and 30 sets of brothers.
Included in the brothers are the Akimoto brothers, Victor and John of Idaho. Victor was the older brother who was in the army when the war broke out. He had attained the rank of Staff Sargent when his brother enlisted from camp. Victor requested that he be allowed to serve with his younger brother, but was told that as a Staff Sargent that was not possible. Victor then volunteered to lower his rank to private so he could be with his brother. They died here in France and now are buried side by side.
Here is my talk to our group today:
“At my temples I conduct memorial services each month called Shotsuki Hoyo or monthly memorials. At these memorials we read the names of all who have died in that particular month. I am insistent that we read each and every name. When we hear the names they come to life. In Epinal and here we say the names of those fallen soldiers and they come to life, their hope dreams and their deeds. We then see that their lives were real just like ours.
Names have a power and a function. When I say the word Mom, Dad, brother it conjures up memories and feelings for each of you. You can see the face of your mom, you can hear her voice. These young men most of them in their 20s called out to their mothers and they found comfort, warmth and security. They knew they were embraced and accepted just as they were. Although thousands of miles away at that moment of calling out the distance disappeared and they were one. All sense of time and space were erased.
That is the power and function of a word like mom. That is why we read the names of these soldiers because it reminds us of their life, their hopes and dreams. In our tradition we say Namoamidabutsu. It is just a word, but it has a power and a function. It connects us to all beings past and present. It affirms that we are all accepted just as we are. They who lie here are never alone, never forsaken even when we are thousands of miles away. So today we call out their names and become one with them.”
After leaving Lorraine we drove into the town of Reims. We had time to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral of Reims. A 13th century church where the kings and queens of France were crowned. It is both beautiful and imposing. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. While visiting we saw devotees visiting making it clear that it is not just a beautiful and historical building, but a living and breathing church with parishioners.
At 7:30 pm we had our farewell dinner at the hotel. It was nice to have an opportunity to thank Carl and June Williams for all their hard work in putting together this trip. Tomorrow we return to Paris.
Today was a leisurely day of site seeing in the Vosges area. We made our way to Colmar though a thick fog. As we climbed in altitude and rose above the fog we were treated to some spectacular views from high above the fog. We passed though the forest Communale de Soultzeren. There are ski lifts near the summit. Parts of this road that we are on is where the Tour de France is held.
As we descend closer to the German boarder we are entering the town of Munster famous for their cheese. As we enter the city of Colmar is is bigger than what I imagined. But the area that we are interested in is ancient.
We boarded a small tour train upon our arrival. The 40 minute ride gave us a very good introduction to the city. After the ride we made our way to the Old Market Hall for lunch. The old market is next to Petite Venice a small canal running through town with beautiful old buildings. Colmar was an economic powerhouse in the 15th and 16th centuries and was one of ten imperial cities ruled directly by the Roman Emperor.
One outstanding feature of the town is the Half-Timbered Houses. The exposed timbers of the homes make for a beautiful and charming look to the area. As we strolled around we saw several works of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi the sculptor of our Statue of Liberty. The Church St. Martin built in 1235 was especially impressive.
We walked by the House of Heads or Maison des Tetes. Built in 1609 the front is decorated with 100 faces and masks.
We then boarded our bus and headed for the town of Riquewihr on the Alasac Wine route in Eastern France. This town a half hour away has preserved its ancient look and was fascinating just to stroll around. The Dolder Tower built in 1291 is impressive. We visited the Tour des Voleures a former prison with torture instruments.
The day is quickly coming to an end and with it our last night in our hotel in Gérardmer.
Monday, Oct. 21, 2019
Today we boarded our bus at 9:00 am and traveled to Epinal. Epinal is located about 1.5 hour drive from Strasbourg (141 Km) in the NE. On this day in history, the small town of Les Baraques was taken and the 100th/442nd was ordered to Biffontaine where they would save the Lost battalion.
From our vantage point as we arrive in Bruyères we can see hill B and come to realize how very daunting a task it must have been to climb the steep terrain in the cold, rain and while be bombarded with artillery fire and small arms fire.
But today are stop is in Epinal. It was here that the Allied troops began their offensive into Germany. In late September 1944 the forces of the 7th Army left Epinal and marched across the Moselle River on their way to Germany. At the same time the French First Army approached the Black Forests of Germany from the South. This was the beginning of a brutal and difficult campaign to take Germany. It would be 8 months later on May 8, 1945 that the US and its Allies would declare victory in Europe.
As we drive into the town we were greeted with a double rainbow.
In the town of Epinal there is the “Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial. As we arrive the cemetery is located on the outskirts of town on a hill. There is a beautiful manicured entry way that leads into the 5 acre site. At the cemetery there is a visitors building and the memorial structure that leads to the cemetery itself. On either side of the memorial are the Walls of the Missing 424 names of soldiers killed in action whose bodies were never found. Some of the names have next to them a rosette signifying that their remains have been found and buried. Also here are 69 soldiers whose identity is unknown. There are grave markers scattered around the cemetery with the words, “HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY A COMRADE IN ARMS KNOWN BUT TO GOD.” There are 14 sets of brothers buried here. The cemetery was dedicated on July 29, 1956.
As we arrived we conducted a memorial service at the top of steps overlooking the cemetery. Sanbujo, Juseige. Below is my talk:
“The gravestones here of young American soldiers among them members of the 100th/44nd represent a truth of life, of suffering and tears, like the flowers in full bloom subject to wither, like the full moon in the sky that wanes at dawn, they represent the fragile nature of human existence. The freedom that they fought so gallantly for is also subject to that truth, therefore it is important that we remain vigilant in the fight for freedom, so that they did not die in vain.
Throughout this week we have been experiencing moments of rain, a small inconvenience for us when we think of the struggles of these young men. When rain falls, our air becomes clear. There is a freshness in the air, and all the colors of the earth and sky seem to stand out even brighter. All of our senses come alive. And in Buddhism we believe that through our 6 senses we perceive and determine our entire existence. And that is why we symbolically burn incense at all our services, to awaken our senses. To become fully aware of what we have received from these brave men.
When our senses come alive, we are better able to know and experience all that exists around us. When the air is clear, when the colors of the earth and sky vibrate with their own individual colors, when our sense of sight, smell, taste touch, thought and hearing come alive, all that we have taken for granted or never noticed before comes alive.
And so on this day when we remember the young men who gave their lives here, the rain that gives us our crops and the rain that gives us our very lives, it also helps fill the emptiness that we feel in our hearts. At that moment, the memories feelings and emotions that we shared with those who lie here become even more deeply rooted in our hearts and minds.
There will be moments of sadness in life, but there will also be moments of joy, however both are evidence of the life of these beloved young men at this very moment. Proof that their lives continue to influence ours.
Just as the rain only removes the dust and reveals what has always been there and gives life, it is within our life also that the true heart and mind of these soldiers shall always take effect upon our lives and reveal the truth of life to us.
To know and experience this fact of our lives, this is the world of Namoamidabutsu. It is to truly experience those causes for this existence and those conditions that sustain this existence until we die. These young men paid the highest price for our freedom, let us not for a moment take for granted that precious gift of freedom.
In gratitude, Namoamidabutsu “
Following the service we visited the 13 gravesites of the 100/442nd Regiment members.
Sgt. George Suyama of Montana – MIA
PFC Bob T. Kameoka of Arkansas
Capt. Joseph L. Byrne of New York
PFC Yoshio Tengwan of Hawaii
PFC Edward Ogawa of Idaho
TSgt Mitsulu E. Miyoko of California
SSgt Tomosu Hirahara of Hawaii
PFC Terusaki Fujioka of Wyoming
PFC Minoru M. Yoshida of California
PFC Hachiro Mukai of California
TSgt Uetaro Sanmonji of California
1Lt. Ben Rogers Jr. of Arkansas
Pvt Hideo Yasui of Washington
Flowers and leis were laid at each site by representatives from our group, and the mayor of Honolulu and Bruyères.
Following the cemetery visit in Epinal we traveled back to Bruyères where our guide showed us the four hills surrounding Bruyères.
From there we visited a remote area of town to the NW where on a lonely farm road stands a unique and remarkable monument. A young soldier from Sumner, Washington volunteered with his 6 brothers into the army. Yohei Sagami and his oldest brother Joe ended up side by side in the 442nd fighting in Bruyères.
Yohei was part of E Company who was ordered to take Bruyères. As they came down the hill toward Bruyeres a mortar shell struck nearby mortally wounding Yohei. He died on October 15, 1944. His older brother was knocked down by the blast, ran to his brother and held him in his arms until he died.
Yohei’s mother never recovered from her son’s death, wearing his dog tags for the rest of her life. She rubbed the tags constantly until smooth.
On our trip with us are members of Yohei Sagami’s family. Nephew Lindsey told us the story of how his cousin came to see the sight where her father had died. She found that the villagers had marked the spot with a wooden marker. She thanked them and said she would be back again some day. Well, she returned years later, carrying with her the last letter Yohei had sent home. She had it laminated and asked if she could put the letter into the new wooden marker. To her surprise the villagers decided to put up a marble marker and insert the letter in the marker.
We were able to meet the Pierrat family who has for the past 75 years taken care of the site with flowers. Mr. Peirrat age 86 clearly remembers the soldiers coming through to liberate their small town. It was very touching and moving experience. I was able to do Omairi for the family at the site.
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019
Today we stepped outside to a cool and crisp Fall morning. We were greeted with a double rainbow over Lake Geradmer outside our hotel, a good omen for us. This morning our bus is taking us to the town of Bruyères where we join others in the small town with the many activities commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of the town.
This anniversary is significant to the Nisei soldiers who fought here and the residents of Bruyères. The town of Bruyères is where many Nisei saw their first battles in France. The town on Bruyères sits in a valley surrounded by four dome shaped hills. Those four hills surrounding Bruyères make up four corners surrounding the town. The Germans not only held the town, but the four hills designated A, B, C and D. Without taking the hills the liberation of Bruyères would be impossible. Hill A lay to the NW, B to the SW, C to the NE and D to the SE.
The 100th Battalion was charged with taking Hill A to the NW of town. In vicious battles up steep terrain the Nisei advanced 500 yards in one full day of assaults on the hill. As we viewed the hills from a distance we could see pine trees reaching high into the sky. We could imagine the cold, the fog and these trees giving excellent cover for the German forces. Having higher ground and being dug in with artillery support made the assault in the rain and cold miserable for the 100th.
The 100th also had the support of the 522nd artillery group. For three days the infantry fought off attacks and mounted assaults on the hills. While the 100th attacked Hill A, other units were attacking the other 3 hills. The 442nd was attacking hills C and D
On October 20, 1944 while extracting a wounded solider the stretcher bound solider was shot and killed. This incensed the Nisei soldiers whose sense of honor would never imagine shooting a wounded solider who was literally out of the fight. They charged up the hill enraged and took the hills C & D. It was here that a Nisei soldier shot and killed a German officer and he was able to secure battle plans that allowed F and L company to infiltrate in the cover of darkness and attack the Germans from behind their lines.
On this day Sargent Robert Toshio Kuroda single handedly attacked and took two German machine gun encampments. Leading a charge up the steep hills he came within 10 yards of the first encampment and with continuing fire took the machine gun nest. See a second he advanced forward constantly shooting until he took the second nest. As the rest of his company advanced forward Kuroda was killed by a sniper. For his actions on this day 75 years ago today, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The 100th/442nd was then ordered to move to take the town of Biffontaine. Without rest they left Bruyères.
As we arrived in the town of Bruyères we can clearly see the hills. They are daunting steep and filled with trees. We gathered together at a sign honoring the first killed in Bruyères, Sargent Tomosu Hirahara of the 100th/442nd. Across the street was the local Catholic Church still showing the marks of bullet holes from 75 years ago.
We attended the morning Mass that was attended by many dignitaries including, mayors of local towns, Mayor of Honolulu, Counsel General and Congressmen. It is a beautiful church with stained glass depicting the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Following the Mass we gathered together for a small parade (we took part in the parade) into the center of town. Jane and I handed out candy to the children along the way. The parade ended in the city center where there is a large monument honoring those who died in the war including civilians, French resistance fighters and French soldiers from Bruyères who fought throughout Europe. We heard the National Anthem of France and US with speeches and floral offerings at the site.
We then boarded our bus to Hill 555 the site of the 100th/442nd monuments. I had the honor with others of laying down a floral offering from our group. Mayor Yves Bonjean of Bruyères, Mayor Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu and Hawaii 1st District Congressman Ed Case planted a Japanese Maple tree.
I then chanted the Sanbujo and Juseige and shared these thoughts:
“Shariputra if a good man hears Amida Buddha preach and firmly holds the Name wholeheartedly and single mindedly, be it for one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six or seven days. Amida Buddha, together with all the holy multitudes will appear before that person as the end of life draws near. When death arrives, that person with mind undisturbed, at once gains rebirth in Amida’s Land of utmost happiness” Amidakyo.
“As we gather it is our turn to listen, and receive the message from the young men who died here. It is our turn to live each moment in gratitude for this life, for our family and friends. It is our turn to live with compassion and wisdom for all beings.
Today those young men who gave their lives here bring us together, they posses a power in our lives live never before, they make us remember, they make us contemplate life, they make us cry, they make us mature and they make us all hear the Dharma, the truth of life in a deeper way that we never heard before.
They teach us all the truth of impermanence and guide us all toward seeing the truth of our lives and our deep connection with each and every one of them.
They will continue to influence our lives and guide us to grow and mature in ways that we cannot comprehend today. Therefore, we honor them and call them Buddhas and we put our hands together in Gassho and recite the Nembutsu in gratitude to them. At that moment we become one with them. Namoamidabutsu”
Everyone was then invited to come up and Oshoko.
From Hill 555 we traveled back into town. On our way we stopped to see the sign designating the street named after the 442nd. Rue De 442nd Regiment American Infantry Liberators of Bruyères October 1944.
At the town center more speeches before lunch. Near the town center there was a photo display of the liberation of Bruyères along with artifacts. The town clearly honors those Nisei who liberated Bruyères. Around town photos were hung on street corners and we could see that after 75 years the town had not changed that much. Buildings still stand as they did 75 years ago, some showing the marks of war.
Lunch was held at the city sports center. Allison Hue Miss Hawaii 2016 was present and danced and sang for all of us. Lunch was late and by the time we finished and returned to our hotel is was past 5:00 pm, so we returned to our rooms and rested.
All in all a very moving day. Jane and I were so happy to be able to be part of a memorable and moving experience.
Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019
Today was a full day of visits to sites. It was an emotional and poignant day. And as promised, tears fell as we remembered the men of the100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team. We traveled from our hotel to Biffontaine about a half an hour drive from our hotel. As we traveled up the hill. We followed the Vologne River and the town of Les Evelines. Passing through small town one after the other, we could see the landscape change along with the weather.
We crossed over the River Neune’ on Rue de la Marie into the hamlet of Les Poulieres. We are now seeing the many hills where the 100th/442nd fought and died. At 9:15 we arrived in Biffontaine. Near the village church we had a few minutes to visit. Jane handed out See’s suckers to the many children present. They were all smiles and some gave to her origami blue birds with “merci” written on it & their names. Very sweet. Also present were members of the 100th from Hawaii and young men dressed as WWII American soldiers complete with weapons and jeeps.
After a few minutes we boarded the bus and an long entourage of cars, vans and our bus to the site of the “Lost Battalion”. There was a memorial ceremony with speeches by the local dignitaries and floral presentations by representatives of the villages. Our group was represented by Carl Williams. Children of the nearby villages presented 1,000 cranes with Mayor Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu.
Following the ceremony many of us walked up the nearby hills where there still exists the foxholes dug out by the 100th/44nd and some by the “Lost Battalion”. I came across Elizabeth Brownly-Blonder granddaughter of Lt. Erwin Blonder. She was crouched in a foxhole. We both commented how hard it must have been for all the men here on this hill and how hard it is to imagine what they went through.
We boarded the bus and made a quick stop to see the monument dedicated to Medal of Honor winner Barney Hajiro who fought in these woods 75 years ago.
As we moved on toward Biffontaine a steady rain fell, almost as if the tears shed by those soldiers 75 years ago bid us farewell.
Back at Biffontaine a ceremony was held to dedicate a plaque to George Washington Suyama the only MIA of the Biffontaine Campaigns. We did a memorial service at this site. Sanbujo, Juseige followed by Nembutsu:
“I can imagine many young men like George Suyama attended Sunday School at the Buddhist temple in their youth. They learned of the fragile nature of life, and as young men here in Biffontaine they lived that truth. I can imagine they saw the start of Autumn and watched the leaves flutter to the ground, reminding them of this truth of life. Then they witness their comrades falling to the ground. No greater truth than the fragility of life. They embraced each moment and each other and saw each moment of life as precious.
They also learned as youth the truth the interdependent nature of all things. They learned that we are all connected, that we are all one, and that all our thoughts words and actions have lasting and profound effects. They knew this an fought for us here today.
You and I are able to see that truth here in the lives of the people in these small towns and in their families. The family of Erwin Blonde a survivor of the “Lost Battalion” is a stark example of this truth. They remind us that their lives would not be here if not for the sacrifices of the 100th/442nd.
The lives of these brave men of the 100th/442nd truly touch our lives today. Their sacrifice of 75 years ago make this world more peaceful and our lives more fulfilled. May we gathered here today continue to honor them by fulfilling their hopes and dreams for a peaceful world and a love for one another. Namoamidabutsu”
After returning from the hotel, we rested up a bit and then met for dinner with mayor of Biffontaine. The Sakato family from Denver was introduced. Father Joe Sakato was a Medal of Honor recipient. His daughter Leslie is on our tour
George Taro Sakato
Mayor Deni Enrei’ spoke to us in French and then Tom Graves spoke to us on the history of the 442nd. Before dinner I gave the following words:
“Today, we gathered together on hallowed ground where the feats of the young men of the 100th/442 became true and real to us. We were reminded of our past and the deep connection to the present. Our job now is to carry on their story, their lives live on in us. As we partake of this meal placed before us, in a spirit of gratitude to all the conditions, past and present that have allowed us to gather together and nourish our minds and bodies through the Wisdom and Compassion of the Buddha Dharma. May we through the Buddha Dharma enhance our realization of the interdependency of all existences and accept our role, as those soldiers did 75 years ago, with a sense of integrity, respect, courage, compassion, honesty, loyalty and gratitude. Dans la plus grande nous recevons ce repar. With gratitude I accept this food. Namoamidabutsu, Itadakimasu.
After dinner, the family of Lt. Erwin Blonder spoke to us. The wife of Lt. Blonder sent her regrets that she couldn’t be with us, but her health wouldn’t allow her to travel. Their daughter Leslie spoke for the family. Lt. Blonder was part of the 141st Texas battalion sent up to the hills of Biffontaine and became know as the “Alamo Battalion”. On October 24, 1944 they found themselves surrounded by the Germans and then became known as the “Lost Battalion”. Lt. Blonder manned the only radio and was the only line of communication to the Allies. Hitler heard of their predicament and ordered the German to assault and capture or kill them all. Hunkered down in foxholes, Lt. Blonder reported on October 16th that they were out of water and food and low on ammunition. 36 men were sent out to try to find a way out and only 5 returned. A day later 53 volunteered to find a way out and 5 returned. On October 28, 1944 General Dalquist ordered the 442nd in. On October 30th Lt. Blonder last communique was “the 442nd has arrived, we are saved, tell them we love them”
Lt. Erwin Blonder
Lt. Blonder returned to the US raised a family and a successful business man, never forgetting his life after the war was possible because of the heroics of the 442nd. Through those days of fighting the 200 man battalion came down the hill with the Texas Battalion and 8 men and many more killed and wounded.
The children and grandchildren repeatedly said their lives are a direct result of the sacrifices, bravery and dedication of the 442nd battalion.
Friday, Oct. 18, 2019
Today we left Paris by bus and traveled toward the German boarder. Along the way we were treated to vistas of the beautiful French countryside. Rolling hills of Soviet Laila & Fontuannes. The farmlands were beautifully manicured and occasionally interrupted with groves of luscious green trees. Fall is definitely arriving here in France. We can see the green hills accented by the changing yellow, red and orange leaves of the trees, reminding us of ephemeral nature of all things. Occasionally the sun tries to peak through the clouds treating us to light and a French rainbow. (Looks just like US rainbows).
As we move through the countryside I can imagine the soldiers who fought here 75 years ago walking though the open fields and finding comfort and cover in the dense forests of Fontvannes. I can imagine the young men who grew up going to temples and heard the Buddha Dharma and truly understanding the frailty of life. They watched the falling leaves like their fallen comrades fluttering to the ground and becoming one with the earth.
As we turn south toward Lainey’s-aux Bols and Saint-Lerer PRs Troyes we stopped at a nearby rest stop for lunch. Jane and I shared a ratatouille and soup for lunch. A very clean and well kept rest stop.
After lunch the weather turned and we drove through a pretty good rain. We were distracted from the rain with a presentation from Tom Graves, photographer and author who shared the history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The unit was created in March 1943 and trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. In May 1944 they were shipped to Italy and eventually joined the 100th RCT. They took part in Operation Drangoon on the Gothic Line as well as the campaign in France near our destination in Bruyères.
The rain let up as we approached Gerarchner and our hotel Beau Rivage. After checking in Jane, Larry, Anne and I explored the small ski town.
Dinner was at 7:30 pm in the hotel. Mayor Yves Bonjean from Bruyères spoke followed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell. I then led the words before the meal in English and French: “ Throughout the next few days we will hear the word “sacrifice”. There is no greater sacrifice than to lay down ones life for the sake of others. Because of the sacrifices of the 100th/442nd battalion we here today find in each other, love, trust and a common bond of gratitude. Because of that we find a oneness and harmony with our hosts, guests and friends. May we all sharing in their gathering cherish the highest aspiration. May this dinner we partake of nourish us physically and spiritually so that the mists of error and the foolish vanity of self be dispelled. Namoamidabutsu, Itadakimasu.”
Judge Margaret Masunaga of Hilo, Hawaii ended the night with a personal story of the 100th where her uncle died and her interviews with others who fought with the 100th. It was moving and poignant.
Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019
Today was a very leisurely day. We started out in the lobby of our hotel at 8:30 am where we met many of our fellow travelers who had arrived the day before. We have people from Denver, Los Angeles, Oregon, New York and Hawaii. We boarded our bus and started a historical tour of Paris.
We were able to see many of the sights familiar to many including the Arc de Triumph, the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Much of our tour was on the bus, so photography was limited. It was sad to see Notre Dame under renovation after the devastating fire earlier this year.
We stopped briefly to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower and again at the Luxor Obelisk. The Obelisk was originally located at the Luxor Temple in Egypt and moved to Paris in 1833 in a gift exchange with Egypt. It is estimated to be 3,000 years old.
Following our bus tour we traveled to the restaurant La Coupole a Michelin Star Resturaunt opened in 1927. It is designated as an historical heritage site. I took a minute to explain to everyone the meaning of “Itadakimasu”. Rather than the words “Let’s eat” as subtitled in many Japanese films, Itadakimasu literally means to raise above our heads, symbolically honoring the food and all that goes into it’s preparation. I asked everyone to join me in Gassho and then thanked all the efforts, causes and conditions for the meal we have received. Namoamidabutsu. Our wonderful lunch consisted of Chicken Supreme with mushrooms and rice. Dessert was a beautiful Creme Brûlée.
After lunch, Larry, Anne, Jane and I walked a few blocks over to the bakery Maison M’Sedd. The bakery is the winner of the 2018 best baguette in Paris. Of course we bought a baguette which we enjoyed later in the evening with cheese, salami and good company.
Tomorrow we will board the bus for Bruyeres.
Rev. Hosei Shinseki
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019
Today was a full day of art, culture and food of Paris. Jane and I spent the morning traveling to the Atlier des Lumineres at the Centre d’art numerique. There was a special show of Van Gogh that is an immersive art display of his artwork. It was visually stunning. I was reminded of the genius of Van Gogh and his use of color. Seeing his work in such a format we were able to see the genius of Van Gogh and his brush strokes that brought out not only colors and hues, but how he spoke to generations with his beautiful work. One of my favorite Van Gogh works is Starry Night painted in 1889 in France. Accompanied with beautiful music, we were able to see his work in all its wonder.
Following the Van Gogh works, we were treated to a art work from Japan with the same stunning presentation with music accompaniment from taiko to Keiko Matsuki. We were fortunate to experience this wonderful show that is only in Paris and Tokyo.
Later in the day we were met with our good friends Larry and Anne Oda of Monterey. They arrived with many others whom we met who are here for the 100th/442nd Anniversary tour. Larry, Anne Jane and I all traveled together in the later afternoon to a dinner cruise on the Seine. We were able to see the Eiffel Tower glittering in the night and from our river cruise we saw sights and views unique from a river boat. We saw sights such as the Le Musee D’Orsay, the burned out La Cathedrale Notre-Dame, theLuvere and Le Grand Palais as well as La Statue de la Liberte’.
Our dinner was on the cruise was memorable. I had snails cooked with fregola sarda. Bigarade Duckling in orange sauce and baked Alaska. Of course with champagne and wine. Jane had crab in cream of grapefruit, fillet of sea bass, and mango, coconut and passion fruit for dessert. No wine for Jane, I drank her share.
All in all it was a wonderful day. Tomorrow we meet all the persons on the tour at a welcome luncheon. Looking forward to the next phase of our trip.
Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019
We have safely arrived in Paris without any problems. We arrived at SFO a bit early and had time to sit in the Air France lounge. Had a nice snack washed down with a Bloody Mary. Our flight was about 10 hours traveling over the upper NE part of the United States. We flew over Nova Scotia on our to France. We skirted the south of England and came into France from the North. We landed with a thump and a skid that scared us but we landed just fine. Namoamidabutsu. Something about air flight that reminds me the Other Power and giving up our powerless selves.
We arrived on Tuesday at 11:30 am and took the train into Paris to our hotel. We settled Into our room and them took an afternoon food tour. We got a bit lost on our way to the tour, but eventually met up with our tour guide Dina. We started our tour in the Northern part of Paris at the Rue de Bretagne market where we picked up dates, tomatoes and grapes. We then traveled nearby to Maison Verot to pick up salami.
As we traversed the area we saw wonderful old neighborhoods. Dina pointed out that many of the older buildings will have lanterns hanging outside and some buildings will have street names carved into the buildings.
Our next stop was Jacques Genin Chocolate shop one of the best in Paris. I have to say it was very very good. With sugar pouring through our veins we had renewed energy to walk over to the Place de la Republique. This large statue celebrates the founding of the French Republic. It’s large statue on the top is Marianne the manifistation of the French Republic. Surrounding her is three statues representing Liberty, Equality and Faternity. Something we dearly need in the world today.
Nearby we stopped at a small and wonderful cheese shop were we tasted 10 different cheeses with wine and our fruits, salami and veggies bought earlier. Our last stop was Boularngerie Des Pain. Great pistachio pastry. I had the apple. Yummy.
That ended our first day in Paris. Loving the city and the people.
World Buddhist Women’s Conference
On August 30, 31 and September 1, twelve members of the Watsonville Buddhist Temple attended the World Buddhist Women’s Conference in San Francisco. Attendees came from Europe, South America, Hawaii, Canada and Japan. The current Gomonshu his Eminence Monshu Kojun the 25th generation descendant of Shinran Shonin to head the Hongwanji was also in attendance.
Everyone who attended were very pleased with the two keynote speakers Dr. Tono of Japan and Rev. Yukiko Motoyoshi of the Stockton Buddhist Temple. Most of the workshops were fun, educational and interesting for the attendees.
On Sunday after the conference many of the 1700 attendees participated in Bon Odori at the Yerba Buena Park near the hotel.
Thank you to all who attended from Watsonville.
On November 23, 2018, His Eminence Monshu Kojun Ohtani delivered a dharma message at the Hongwanji’s annual Perpetual Memorial and Autumn Service.
In his message, Gomonshu-sama summarized his thoughts in a four verse piece titled OUR PLEDGE.
It is Gomonshu-sama’s hope that these verses will be read and shared at various services and gatherings, especially among young and new members, so that we may bring religion closer to our everyday lives.
On August 2 and 3, 2019, the Temple held its annual Rummage Sale which is always well attended.
Breaking out of my shell
I will share a warm smile and speak gentle words
Just like the kind Buddha.
Not becoming lost in my greed, anger, and ignorance
I shall think and act with an open-mind
Just like the calm and peaceful Buddha
Not putting myself first
I will share in the joy and sadness of others
Just like the compassionate Buddha
Realizing the gift of life I have received
I shall strive to live each day to its fullest
Like the Buddha who tirelessly works to liberate all.