Monday, August 18, 2008

Remembering the Ancestors 46

It was a very educational evening for me and I am thankful to Erica for helping me understand the deeper meaning of the things I encountered.
While there I paused to remember my ancestors as well. The events of the evening were a reminder that our lives come from them through the miracle of birth. For that we are truly thankful.

Remembering the Ancestors 45

While watching the dancing I was approached by people who gave me food, soft drinks and their warm smiles. Here I am with a group of boys who wanted to try out their English. They make the peace sign and encourage me to do the same. It was a wonderful way to be led by the children.

Remembering the Ancestors 44

Erica makes two new friends.

Remembering the Ancestors 43

Children are also invited to participate.

Remembering the Ancestors 42

Here Erica joins in the dancing!

Remembering the Ancestors 41

The bon-odori dance is an important part of these festivities where the spirits dance with the living. A circle is formed and the dancers walk and dance in line with the others.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Remember the Ancestors 40

Every year Japan celebrates the Festival of Obon. It is a tradition whose roots lie in Buddhist thought which emphasizes the importance of honoring the ancestors. It has grown into a family reunion where people return to their ancestral roots to be with their families and to honor the dead. This often involves cleaning the grave sites of their loved ones . It is a time when the spirits of the ancestors are called back home. It is a time for prayer of the souls of the ancestors. This holiday usually starts on the 13th and ends on the 16th of August. On the 16th the spirits are returned to their graves.

39 Deepak and Fujiko

Two of my dear college friends live in Sopporo. We were students together at Goshen College. I remember well when Deepak and Fujiko began dating. Deepak is from India and Fujiko is from here in Sopporo. They are married and are university English professors.
Here we are after attending the Sunday morning service at one of the Mennonite Fellowships in the city.
I am fortunate to have them here in Sopporo! It is a special gift to connect deeply with good friends from from the past.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kimiko Moriyama, sings for her deceased students 38

Nagasaki observed the 63rd anniversary of its atomic bomb on Saturday August 9th. 90 year old Kimiko Moriyama is an atomic bomb survivor and former music teacher.
When she saw and heard the B-29 bomber in the sky she ran for shelter to a soy sauce shop. She was however struck and impacted by the explosion.
She later learned that 1,400 teachers and students in her school died as a result of the bomb. 15 days after she was exposed to the radiation her hair began to fall out. She had a high fever and lost consciousness. Her doctor counseled her mother to make arrangements for her funeral. However, she did revive after New :Years Day in 1946
In 1948 she was able to return to her teaching. In 1992 she had a stroke which left her almost unable to speak. She then entered a Catholic nursing home and was baptized into the Catholic Church.
Even though she could barely talk she practiced singing every day for 15 minutes singing hymns. In time she was able to sing and speak. Nevertheless, the left side of her body remains paralyzed.
She signed up to sing in a peace choir for the 63rd anniversary ceremonies along with other survivors. She says she wanted to "tell my deceased students that I'm living not only my life but theirs too." She sang in the choir for herself and her students. She reports, "our songs surely reached heaven."
It is hard to comprehend why a second atomic bomb was dropped three days after devastating Hiroshima.
We are thankful for the life of Kimiko Moriyama and her continuing commitment to her students and to peace.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lunch 37

Sopporo has many organic restaurants. Eating Organic food is natural and healthy. It too is a great way to make a statement about our earth. Polluting the earth with harmful chemicals which then saturate our food and our bodies is a form of violence. In America we say "you are what you eat."
I am discovering that there is an organic food movement here in Sopporo and I am beginning to meet many of its members. Many of them are committed to"being peace" on a variety of levels. What we eat is connected to our care for ourselves and our earth.
Here you see my organic meal of salad, squash, brown rice and fish . The Japanese are a people who care deeply about quality. The meal was both healthy and delicious!!

Japanese traditronal dancers 36

While walking a bit further I found these ladies in their traditional clothing who were about to dance. Unfortunately I was not able to stay to see them dance but they did invite me to have my picture taken with them. You never know just what you might find in Sopporo on a warm summer day.

The beat of the traditional drum 35

While walking downtown I was surprised when I heard drumming in the distance. I walked over to have a look and found several drummers playing. The taiko drum is a percussion stick instrument often used at traditional Japanese festivals. The drum for me represents the beat of the heart of the earth and the movement of time. It is a vital primal instrument representing life itself. I find drums every where I go. I was delighted to hear them in Japan!

Downtown Sopporo shopping area 34

The colorful banners in this shopping area are related to the traditional festivals in the city during the summer.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hiroshima Remembers 33

11 year old Honoka Imai and 12 year old Soto Hondo, both six graders, read a peace pledge before those gathered.
"We will start with learning, knowing and thinking about what happened in Hiroshima. Then we will tell other people about it. "
It was a moving moment for me. This is not just a pledge for the children of Hiroshima. It is a pledge for us all.

Hiroshima remembers 32

I watched the ceremony marking the 63rd anniversary of Hiroshima's atomic bombing. About 45,000 people were present along with representatives from 55 countries. China for the first time sent a representative. That is indeed good news.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Singing at the summit 31

I was honored to sing at the summit. They responded well to my music. When I told them that my great grand father was a Cherokee Indian they applauded. There were Cherokee peoples there from the States and we connected afterward. I had a wonderful time at this event. I know something about discrimination as a result of the African experience in America. These people too have their own stories of injustice. I emphasized the need for connection and the sharing of our stories with each other. I will long remember this evening and the new friends I made. Experiences like this are life giving.

The Ainu traditional home 30

Here you see a traditional house of the Ainu.

I'm dressed in traditional Ainu clothing 29

After posing for the first photo with the Ainu elder, he took off his coat and hat and motioned to me to wear it. It was a symbol of the solidarity we felt and of the inclusive nature of these people.

The Indigenous Peoples Summit 28

The Ainu people are the indigenous people of Hokkaido. They were driven off of their land by the Japanese in the 19th century. Today they number about 150,000. Here I pose with a traditionally dressed Ainu elder.

Indigenous Peoples Summitt 27

They came from such places as New Zealand, Australia, The United States, Canada, Japan, Central and South America and Norway.

2008 Indigenous Peoples Summit 26

On July the 3rd I had the honor of singing at the International Indigenous Peoples Summit held just outside of Sopporo. There I met many indigenous peoples from all over the world. It was exciting to meet them and to hear them talk about their common concerns. Here representatives from the various countries share the stage and comment on their solidarity as indigenous people.

Parking Lot for Bikes 25

I am not the only one riding a bike. Here you see a parking lot for bikes. Riding a bike is a way of life here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A great place to bike! 24

Sopporo is very eco friendly with many bike paths. I bike each weekday to Hokusei University where I am a visiting researcher. It takes me 25 minutes each way. Biking has become my main means of transportation. I will show you the bike paths on a later blog. It is a great way to stay in good physical shape and to have a slower, closer look at the various forms of life along the way. I have become increasingly aware of our great mother earth as I ride my bike. She needs our care and attention more now than ever before.

Sapporo at Night 23

sapporo 22

On June 20, I arrived in Sopporo. It is the largest city in the North most part of Japan and is the 5th largest with a population of 1.6 million. It is the major city on the northern island of Hokkaido. The island was annexed by the Japanese in 1855 and official government offices were completed in 1871. In Japanese terms it is a new city. It is the most western in architecture of the major Japanese cities. This is the city where I will stay until early December when I will return to the States.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Buddhist temple 21

A wonderful setting for a temple in old Kyoto. Many of these temples are used for funerals and are often visited on religious holidays. Many are still used as monasteries.
Most Japanese municipalities have at least one temple. Kyoto however has thousands of them due to the fact that it was the old capital and Emperors encouraged the spread of Buddhism and Shintoism.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sacred nature 20

Sacred nature 19

The ropes which drape this tree indicate the tree is a god.

Inside the alter of a Buddhist temple 18

The coming together of Shintoism and Buddhism 17

A picture frame view into the Japanese garden.

The coming together of Shintoism and Buddhism 16

Stopping to reflect.

The coming together of Shintoism and Buddhism 15

This photo was taken inside the Hosen-in Buddhist temple. Here one can experience the beauty of nature while being in the temple.

Kyoto 14

On the 18th and 19th of June I spent time in Kyoto. My goal was to visit the ancient sites of the region. Kyoto is often referred to as the "old Japan." This ancient capital has a population of 1.5 million and has over 1000 historic Zen Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Temples and shrines were often together emphasizing the sacredness of nature and being. Japanese people are more likely to be Buddhist and Shintoist,bringing together these two religions without conflict or controversy.
While I did not visit modern Kyoto, it is the major industry for manufacturing kimonos and is the headquarters for Nintendo and Kyocera. It was refreshing to be in the non western parts of Kyoto to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Informative link about the Shinto shrine 13

Itsukushima 12

Here is the outside view of the Shinto shrine. I was not able to take any photos in the inside.
The following is a very informative link regarding Shinto shrines.

Stopped by a deer 11

On our way into the shrine we were met by many lovely deer who were hoping to get a bite to eat from those passing by. Erica and her sister Kaori meet this young deer and stop for this picture.

Miyajima 10

Miyajima is the island off of the city of Hiroshima that has a famous and ancient shrine called Itsukushima. I went to this shrine and also hiked in the mountains that surround it. Miyajima is considered to be a holy place in Japan and one of the top three views in the country. Here you will see the gate leading to the shrine.

Hiroshima 9

Here I am with my new Japanese friend.

Hiroshima 8

I watched her carefully to see how she served me the tea. After she served me, I served her.

Hiroshima 7

My time here thus far has been wonderful. The Japanese people have been gracious and kind to me. One morning a young girl who I had met earlier in the week, came to my apartment with her tea supplies to introduce me to the Japanese traditional tea ceremony. She was kind and I was moved by her generosity. I now want to read more about this ceremony so I can understand the meaning of it more fully.