Dear Taimyo Brothers & Sisters:
The following is my Nanjing report in English. Very sorry, but I could not make it on time (by December 10) because it took a while to translate it….
In May of 2002, I began studying Wu style Tai Chi under the direction of Master Ma Chang-xun. Since then I have had the privilege of participating in five master-class workshops taught by Master Ma for Tai Chi instructors and organized by the Japan Tai Chi Association. In the summer of 2005 I began offering Tai Chi workshops across North America and Europe, and affiliated Tai Chi groups have begun offering regular practices in California, Washington, Quebec, and France.
Recently I realized that the Yin-Yang symbol used by Tai Chi also symbolizes my own life journey. It goes like this:
Yin-Yang: the “Yang” side
After coming to the United States from Japan in 1975, I invested 32 years of my life in sharing Shintaido as a martial art of love and peace that develops each individual’s hidden potential. My “selling points” included my own experience of growing up in Hiroshima immediately after Japan’s defeat in World War II, and surviving the poverty, suffering and physical and social destruction of the postwar years.
Yang becomes Yin
(This is covered in “Taimyo Insights,” written just before I left for Nanjing.)
Yin-Yang: the “Yin” side
Before the trip to the conference at Nanjing, I did some in-depth study of the atrocities by the Japanese Imperial armed forces in China during World War II, and the suffering of the Chinese people (both the survivors and their descendents). I thought I had a pretty good understanding of just how terrible it had been. And, knowing what Japanese people had done there in the past, I expected that the Japanese participants at the Nanjing Conference might have a cold reception. (But actually we were welcomed warmly by the Chinese participants.)
At the conference, I heard the stories of Chinese survivors and saw research by Chinese scholars, and I realized how superficial my understanding had been. The Japanese soldiers massacred Chinese soldiers who had surrendered. After the fighting was over, they killed unarmed civilians, raped and enslaved women and girls, and stole food, utensils, and clothing while the military authorities did nothing to intervene. I realized that these were despicable acts of cowardice.
I really feel that many Chinese people believe that Japanese today are still cowards who deny what happened in China. I think this is not a new coat of shame, but a new coat of cowardice. And while I was there, I realized that these feelings are shared under the surface even by those Chinese who are pro-Japanese.
During the conference I listened to a presentation by Dr. Kuniko Muramoto, a Japanese clinical psychologist and professor of social science research at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. She suggested that:
1) The Japanese troops coming back from mainland China and Southeast Asia after the defeat in World War II had all they could do to hold their own lives together and to protect the happiness of their families, so they threw themselves into rebuilding their country. They and their society failed to direct any time or energy into repenting what they had done during the war.
2) The Japanese politicians and military leaders who started World War II in the Pacific, and the industrialists who cooperated with them, were never tried or investigated. Instead, they were restored to their positions in order to rebuild Japan. (For example, the medical doctors attached to the Ishi Division simply slipped back into their roles as key players in the Japanese medical community, and were never held responsible for their actions.)
Dr. Muramoto suggests that many of the problems in Japanese society today, including the breakdown in sexual ethics, mood disorders in many Japanese boys, widespread anorexia among young women, crime by children and teenagers, and domestic violence may be current manifestations of Japan’s failure to accept, as an aggressor nation, its responsibilities for what happened during the war.
My mother was married twice. During the conference, I suddenly remembered her telling me as a child that my father had been a career soldier in the Marines. As the second son of a Hiroshima farm family during the Depression, the military must have seemed like a natural choice. On his marriage to my mom, he was adopted into her family to carry on the family name, a common practice in Japan at the time. When he came back from the war, I was three years old and my little brother was just a baby. He left us almost as soon as he got back. My mom used to say, “I did whatever it took to raise you kids, except for working on the street!” It was a very difficult time in Japan, even for families with two parents, so she suffered a lot for our sake. There is a verse in the Old Testament that talks about being “shaped in iniquity and conceived in sin,” and I truly believe you can see the effects of the sins of the Imperial Japanese war machine in our society today.
My second father was an alcoholic and fond of gambling. When he had been drinking he would reminisce about his youth as a foot soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army, transferred from place to place around China. After college, when I got involved with a group of martial artists and other artists called Rakutenkai, I began reading the Bible to try to keep up with some of the ideas I was hearing there, and my mom started reading the Bible because I told her about it. She ended up developing a deep Christian faith, which drove a wedge between her and my stepfather, and they were divorced when I was in my late 20s. Later I learned that there had been a lot of domestic violence in our house that I didn’t know about, after my brother and I graduated from high school and went to college. After the divorce, my stepfather lived by himself on his soldier’s pension, and he died alone and almost penniless in Hiroshima a number of years ago.
On November 23, the second day of the conference, all of the Japanese participants visited Yanziji, one of the massacre sites, for a memorial silence with flower offerings. When I looked down from the hill where the memorial monument was, I saw a decayed pier on the Yanze River. At the foot of the pier was a flat shady spot, from where a sandy beach extended. I guessed that this was where Japanese soldiers swung their swords and shot their machine guns. I walked down toward the beach, and my body shook from the sound of voices crying, as if the earth itself remembered: Hear us! Listen to us! Remember us! They felt like screams from hell. I took off my shoes and coat, knelt on the ground, and did one round of “Tenshin Goso” (a meditative Shintaido movement). That movement finishes with a formal bow, with hands and forehead down to the ground. When I got to that part of the movement, my body shook again, and I realized that the gesture of putting my forehead down mirrored the gesture of decapitation. I stayed there for a long time, experiencing the original sin of being Japanese.
Yin becomes Yang
After the flower offering, my spirits became lighter, as if I had seen something inside myself and repented of it. I felt light and full of energy, as if I truly had “walked through the valley of the shadow of death and shall fear no evil.” My life up to this point seems much like the piles of little river rocks that you see along some Japanese mountain paths – people add another rock, and another, but the pile keeps slipping down. But looking ahead, I am optimistic that the good I do from here on will make a positive difference.
On the last day I did not attend the morning events, but instead returned to Yanziji with Mayumi Oda (a Japanese artist living in Hawaii) and Masashi Minagawa to offer flowers again. This time we did not enter the memorial park, but took a side path that led directly to a small beach on the bay. There the three of us did seiza (Japanese formal kneeling meditation). Meditation, repentance, apology, prayer.
I stood up and did Taimyo while chanting the Heart sutra. Facing the farther shore, my heart reached out to the souls of the people who were sacrificed in the massacre and forced to stay on this side of the river. In the transition from the Taimyo posture of Saizan (“breaking through mountains”) into Yoshin (“nurturing the spirit”), I found myself repeating Jesus’ words, “And I will be with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” The posture Shosei (‘Light to the world”) has always impressed me as a “trademark” Christian pose. This time, though, it felt like the goddess Kannon, “I will stay with you, until the last soul of those who were forced to stay here is cured and released.” I ran Eiko Dai in my mind. It crossed from this shore to the other side, over and over again, building bridges of rainbows.