Hiroshima & Shinjuku 2001

Gabriel and I are spending the night in Nagoya Japan on our way to Manila Philippines this weekend.  Last time I was here was in Fall 2001 with Portland Taiko Ensemble after which I spent a week with Pamela Phan of AFSC in Tokyo area.  Here is a letter I wrote after spending time by myself in Hiroshima (and post Taiko tour of Osaka and Kyoto).Boyhome01

From Shinjuku, near Tokyo Japan

November 2001

Hey Whats up –

Thanks friends for indulging me in a second mass email from Japan, I
fly home tommorow and will enjoy writing back to you.

I am in another nook of Tokyo, a place near Shiba. Again my day has
been an amazing array of walking, visiting and taking in pieces of
Japan, her people and her culture. My trip here has been something
of a whirlwind paced carefully among 7 days. I have been my normal
self, pretty relaxed and appreciative of life and the opportunities I
have had.

Hiroshima as I wrote earlier was very powerful. I promised myself to
just stand in a place in Peace Park looking at various points of
interest but honestly it was hard. The longer I stood and let
reflection take grip the more I felt an overwhelming urge to cry
out. And in my head the question of why I was allowed to be here
rang out, but perhaps to tell the story of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and
the awful nature of the atomic bomb to my friends and family is
enough for now. The Peace Museum brought back memories of my visit
to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Thank god for people who
are willing to remember and never forget history…another reason why
our anti-racism work is so important to me…there is much to
reconcile and work through, and many ways in which people, myself
included need to deal with our ways that stray from goodness, justice
and affirmation of one another.

In my Unitarian Universalist faith we have a principle, to respect
the inherent worth and dignity of each person. Powerful, however my
good friend Robette Dias entreated me to consider adding *and their
culture* to the end of that principle, to deepen and broaden the
meaning. I agree and appreciate the use, as often even here in Japan
I find myself commenting in my head about the place I visit…and I
do not want to just be tolerant, but to be affirming, it is hard
though for me.

So much I have seen here in Japan, and this in spite of the fact that
I speak barely a word of Japanese. Today was rich in a visit to the
Rissho Kosei Kai Buddist Organization, 2nd largest in Japan. They
are close sister organization of my Unitarian Universalist
Association and they received me, somewhat to my dismay, as a very
official visitor. I was quite anxious in the beginning. We talked
long of theology for reconcillation between peoples, teaching
spirituality, and working with young people. I sat with people of
much higher organizational rank than I expected, greeting heads of
the major divisions and the general chairman Rev Sakai. They were
all very friendly though, I exchanged chocolate and tea with them. I
know little about buddism, but took some good notes about spiritual
practice and justice making. They have some amazing programs which
connect their youth with youth in countries where Japan has been
oppressor – Phillipines, China, Thailand, Korea. It was intense to
hear about the work they are doing to create reconcillation and most
of all peace between their people. This is something that many of my
American friends still find hard to do, to repent for the injustices
of the past – although repent is probably not the right word ^ and to
work towards authentic and right relationship. Rissho Kosei Kai
experienced much rejection in their attempts to build these
relationships for years, but now have a 30 year history of building
community with these peoples. I wonder if our UUA would ever be able
to do the same over a generation? That is my hope.

I have stayed in all sorts of places, walked along many streets,
subway stations and seen the flows of asian people moving throughout
the world of Japan. I love their hair, not really black among my
generation but a cool copper. They have neat cel phones, are fast
walkers, and are very busy people. But still they find moments in
their days to clap, speak out and meditate before temples and shrines
that dot the cityscape. There is a high level of affirmation of
different religions here, something I never knew.

My trip has been a blessing on me, something that I almost did not
follow through on as work and life in the states has so much of my
love and tears. Going away for only a week has been great, and I may
not again have the opportunity to be in Japan. Many people have made
this trip awesome for me, most of all Naoko from Portland Taiko, my
Mom and Dad (happy birthday mom nov 11), and friends of Rissho Kosei
Kai and Pamela Pham who joined me from Portland (who is also doing
her own networking for her work at American Friends Service

Thank god it is okay for men to cry here in Japan, even encouraged
Naoko and her friend Ayaka said. Although I have not openly wept I
have felt a confirmation that I hope to go to China one day soon, and
to be closer with my asian american roots. I will renew my efforts
to reach my birthparents even if only to have a connection with my
siblings and larger extended family. I have come to a better
understanding of the role I feel called to play as a biracial
american…a hapa…one who is generally insulated from racism
because of my light skin color…that is to continue the work of anti-
oppression and to use my priviledge and insulation to build a deeper
justice centered radically inclusive world.

If you are interested I can send you some pictures from Japan, but
for now I will leave you to this long email that I have written from
a basement cafe in the middle of huge Tokyo. I go back to Shinjuku
for a last night of sleep and then fly home to my beautiful home in
Portland OR. Let me know if you want pictures, I will send them
directly to you. Happy day of thanks to you coming up…I am off
next to Atlanta Georgia for the School of the Americas activities,
where I get to cook, not be in charge and perhaps continue a bit of
my personal reflection time.

Take Care, be well,

Love Joseph (yes I have changed to Joseph after all these years,


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