Interview with Hoitsu Suzuki actually,
in this case, a summary of and comments on a few days of discussion.
The following are remarks by Fred Harriman on a few conversations held between him and Hoitsu Suzuki on and around December 11, 1995. Fred is an expert translator who helped me a great deal in this project. It's not an interview--just Fred's memories and impressions of their talks. Some of the background info referred to here is in other interviews with Hoitsu and Fred didn't repeat it.--DC
The conversation was held in order to get some more background on Suzuki Roshi and his family and what sort of life and society he was raised in so we concentrated particularly on those younger years and everything we talked about was conjecture but I think it was helpful.--FH
First of all it's important to understand that in the 1860's and 1870's, Japan went through a major political and social upheaval whereupon the old order of the Edo era was thrown out and Japan remade itself to accept Western technology and also to compete in a world political stage and economy. This was a big shock for Japan and one of the methods that the new Meiji government had for dealing with its task of trying to form a modern nation state out of a medieval society that had stayed in mothballs for so many years was establish a new state religion that was not Christian or Buddhist but was only Japanese. They did this by taking the native animist Shinto beliefs and turning them into a state religion. It's important to understand that this was a completely new religion although it was based on well known myths and legends. It was in no way what the Japanese had considered to be Shinto before the Meiji era. Especially important to this new religion was that the Emperor was to become deified. The Emperor had always been Buddhist as long as anybody could remember, however there was a line of thinking that he was a descendent of the Sun Goddess. This during the Edo era and before hadn't been important because the Emperor had no power, but the idea was to make the Emperor deified and make him the center of Japanese life so it became very important to establish this new idea and this new state Shinto so as to not only achieve political gains but also to reform Japanese society as the old structure was destroyed. There was no guarantee that this new structure was going to succeed and at that time it was a brave new experiment. There were a lot of problems. Destroying the class structure and proclaiming that everybody was equal caused revolts in different areas of the country, particularly in the Western area, not so much in Tohoku area of Japan, the northern part of the main island of Honshu, but in the older and more traditional areas of Japan such as Shikoku, Kyushu an the Western area of Honshu where there was much discontent centered not on the fact that really didn't change with the new government that much, it was really just Edo era all over and at the same time it seemed that people were losing their special status that they had which a form of social welfare. There were certain classes that were allowed to do certain types of work and other classes were not allowed to encroach upon those classes jobs. For better or for worse the country was in some kind of social balance so that when this new religion, state Shinto was established, it was understood that society would somehow have something to focus on and it was decided that Shinto would be this.
The religion was carefully crafted but not necessarily legitimate and one of the things that it threw off of balance was the religious life of the country. For more than a thousand years, Buddhism and the animist beliefs had coexisted without any trouble. There were animist shrines on the grounds of temples and vice versa. They were both part of the daily life of Japanese. In the Edo era however, the Buddhist temples took over a political role. They had by no means extended themselves over the entire country and under the rule of the samurai and the shogunate, the Buddhist temples took on the role of census takers as they established temples in different areas of Japan.
Having taken on this role of census takers partly because the shogunates didn't want any other religion to encroach upon Buddhism, they didn't want people to remain Christians and forced them to recant and one of the ways to prevent Christianity from spreading underground in any way was to make sure that everybody had a Buddhist funeral when they were buried so that the temples as they were established and spread out through different area went hand in hand with the samurai in census taking of the different villages. Even today you can go to a Buddhist temple and look up records and find out what class the danka were from. If you want to find out who from that particular region for example was of the untouchable class, you can do that and there are complaints even today that some Buddhist temples give that information to companies that are trying to research people who have applied for jobs. So the Buddhist temples were seen as an active hand of the samurai government and they also of perhaps compromising their principles and perpetuating the class system that the shogunate depended upon. So it was natural that when the new Meiji government was trying to foment zeal for the new Shinto religion and the new society it was natural that Buddhist temples have been seen as a reactionary influence and Hoitsu says that during the early Meiji era and later on there was active support of certain people in the Japanese government for thugs and other types who would go out and actually burn temples down and kill priests.
It was true that during the Edo era there were plenty of priests who were not priestly, who were simply enjoying their special status in the government but with the change of religion it became easy to focus discontent on Buddhist temples. In trying to portray the new religion and government as the savior of the people, the new modernizing influence that was going to make everybody equal and also save Japan, it was easy to focus on so-called enemies such as Buddhism and it was also very handy to be able to have such available enemies. So this not coordinated but intentional activity was called the Haibutsu Kishaku. Haibutsu means throw the Buddha out and kishaku means breaking Shakyamuni, Buddha's given name. There might not be written documents to prove this policy but it might be compared to the tacit understanding that the Indians in the West should be eliminated or moved from their lands.
Keeping the Haibutsu Kishaku in the back of our minds we try to take a look at Suzuki Roshi's family. We know about his father, Sogaku, that he is known to come from a house that made shinshi which are the stretchers for cloth used in the dying or batiquing process. I wonder if it was not some specialized work and I wondered why Shogaku who would have been the first son would not have taken over this work. Hoitsu's opinion was that making something like shinshi was a very minor craft. If it had been essential to the family such as in a craftsman's family like a swordmaker, then it would have been an issue whether the first son would take over the craft or not. But Sogaku's family was farmers, their class was not a craftsman's class. Farmers in those days rarely held their own land. There were specific traditions and pecking orders within the farmer's towns and they would have specific rights and obligations according to who's family was the oldest etc. Not that farmers didn't own land but the average farmer did not and was working on somebody else's land.
One might compare it to the situation in Central Europe at the end of communism where a person had a job but didn't necessarily make money at it. Farmers did what they had to do to pay their ningu, rice taxes, or whatever taxes were levied upon them, but they didn't farm unless they had to. They had a lot of time on their hands and in order to get some extra money they were involved in different crafts that were allowed to their class. In this case, shinshi were made out of bamboo. They were not so difficult to make and the house didn't have to necessarily continue this tradition. They could if they choose make something else. Perhaps Sogaku was a young boy with a lot of brains. Perhaps the family had enough money to send him to a few classes at the local temple, because temples did have small schools which they let the local people come study at. Some of these schools were for high class people, some were for lower class. Some of them were a source of income for the temples, some of them were little salons where people could get together and talk about their problems. Perhaps Sogaku as a boy attended some calligraphy classes in a local temple and perhaps he thought he wanted to be a priest and had the brains to be so. We know that his family was from Misaka in Kakogawa and we also know that he eventually went to become the jushoku of Zoun-in in Mori. Mori is not that far from Kakogawa. Even now there is a train that runs between Kakogawa and Washizu on the other side of ..mono that goes through Mori.
There were trade routes that went into the mountains from Kakogawa. These trade routes were to carry salt into the mountains and they'd come back with various things that people in the mountains made including a sort of white slave trade that was going on. Mori was one of the first stops on these routes that went from the coastal areas into the mountains and back down. So there would have been communication between Kakogawa and Mori but it's not clear why Sogaku ended up there. K. Was also in the same cultural and political area, the Enshu area, and I believe at that time it was a part of the Hamamatsu Han and I believe it would have been a natural step to go from K, to Mori. This was the time of the HK and anybody who wished to become a priest must have been fairly dedicated and determined and it was probably not an easy or popular road to take.
Hoitsu spoke to the current jushoku of Zoun'in, Okamoto Shoko, about why his grandfather ended up going to Shoganji in Kanagawa prefecture. It is obvious talking to everybody who grew up in Zoun'in including Suzuki Roshi and his brothers and sisters , that they didn't want to leave Zoun-in but they had to. According to Shoko, Sogaku was involved in a scandal in which somebody in the danka of the temple, without authorization from the temple, sold some temple lands to someone else. We're not sure if this danka did this for money and Hoitsu doubts that his grandfather was at fault for this situation or that he had any ulterior motives in the transaction. He imagines that the danka just sold the land without the authorization from Sogaku and when it came to light later on it was already too late and Sogaku had been criticized to the point that the only proper thing for him to do as a leader was to step down and to admit that his management had not been proper. This is a traditional way of dealing with problems and very often superiors have to take responsibility for what their subordinates do and that is the way that superiors are kept in line. Sometimes the subordinates are protected and the superior has to make amends and in the case of samurai perhaps even commit seppuku, ritual suicide. In Sogaku's case his taking responsibility would mean that he would move to a lesser temple and give up Zoun-in. Zoun-in was left in the care of Soon who was from Aichi prefecture in the area called the Nikawa area, a rather poor area down on the Chita Peninsula, a fishing and farming area. We know that he had no family, no heirs and was a very respected disciple of Sogaku.
Suzuki Roshi asked to become the disciple of Soon and we speculated as to what his motives would have been for this. There was probably no one decisive factor. At the time he was twelve years old and was pretty sure he wanted to be a priest and that his life was going to be dedicated to Buddhism. He took things very seriously as a child. He worked hard in the temple and enjoyed temple life and dedicated himself to doing things in the temple and was a kind boy. So the idealistic Suzuki Roshi would have taken seriously his request to become So-on's deshi. Soon was very respected and known as a good manager so he would have been a logical choice for the priest of Zoun-in after the supposed scandal. There's no doubt that Suzuki Roshi wanted him to become his master. At the same time Suzuki Roshi's family had been taken from their home and moved to another temple and I'm sure he also would have seen that his father was upset at his lot. It is possible that Suzuki Roshi would have seen it as his duty to try and regain Zoun-in for his family and perhaps for his father. If not so his family could live there to try in some way to clear the name of his father after the scandal. He seems to have been an idealistic and very loyal son. Soon would have had little choice as to whether he would accept Suzuki Roshi as a deshi. He was obligated to Sogaku.
So Suzuki Roshi went to Zoun-in and we have all of the stories of Soon and his lover and how they mistreated Suzuki Roshi when he was there. So-on's lover was the wife of a rice merchant, Marushichi. The mistreatment was quite intentional and didn't let up for quite a while and it's pretty clear in everybody's mind that Soon did not want Suzuki Roshi to be his deshi, that he didn't accept him as a deshi and didn't want him to come to Zoun-in. He did not trust his motives. Hoitsu feels that this is a misunderstanding though, that Suzuki Roshi's motives were as pure as they could have been for a young boy of that age. But Suzuki Roshi could not have understood the issue of who was to take over Zoun-in from the viewpoint of an adult. In his boyish logic he probably saw no problem with Soon being the abbot of Zoun-in as long as he would be the abbot and then for Suzuki Roshi to take it over and retain the temple in the family. In Suzuki Roshi's mind, Soon, having no family, would have no need of using the temple for his family, and then Suzuki Roshi, as the first deshi would take over. But obviously Soon interpreted Suzuki Roshi's actions as those of an ambitious person, actions not befitting of a child of Suzuki Roshi's age or for a disciple. Why should he start off his training thinking he was going to be an abbot? He might have also interpreted the move as a strategy by his master, Sogaku, to try and get his temple back and to use Soon as a pawn in that strategy. Perhaps there was some strategy involved on the part of Sogaku but Hoitsu thinks it was a simple misunderstanding between them all and while it may be seen as a misunderstanding that could have been easily remedied just by talking about it, perhaps in those days in Japanese society, things were not talked about so much. In my own experience I can testify that Japanese people will continue to maintain appearances without ever talking about what they're really thinking and end up in situations that nobody is contented with but continue simply because they refuse to talk to each other about their feelings.
So we know that Suzuki Roshi was mistreated.
Suzuki Roshi brought enough cloth with him to Zoun-in so that he could have proper clothing made so that he could go to school and be warm in the winter. That cloth was only partly used. Old cloth was used. He was embarrassed about the clothing that was given to him by the temple. He would try to get out of PE class because he was embarrassed and he was cold. He also caught colds and eventually became tubercular. But in those years in the society, people were pretty tough on each other sometimes. We know from Suzuki Roshi's comments on that time that he didn't bare any grudges against anybody and never did. This is particularly illustrative of a Buddhist way to deal with adversity. Instead of complaining and asking to be taken back home, Suzuki Roshi instead just tried to express his sincerity through his actions and work hard so that Soon would understand that he was sincere. This obviously had some effect because Soon eventually stopped giving him such a hard time.
Why did Soon end up with the wife of the rice merchant, Marushichi. How could a woman just leave her home and go and live with somebody else in those times? What sort of moral issues were involved in this and what sort of societal pressures can we imagine would have come into play. This is a lot of reaching and conjecture. Let's assume that she was the daughter of the original merchant, born and raised in a rice shop. If this were the case, she would be the rightful heir to the rice shop and her husband would be adopted and would change his name to her father's name, to her name. Her husband would become the son of her father. In such cases, men who were adopted into such households in such a way, were known to be very complacent and to not act in the typical Japanese husband's manner. They did not boss their wives around, they did not boss the members of the household around, because they were very aware that this household had picked them up and given them security for the rest of their lives and it was a good deal they were getting and they weren't about to rock the boat. If her father-in-law ever decided that he wanted to disown the son then the son was out on his ear. Very often such men were chosen by the parents and perhaps the daughter would have been spoiled and may have been the oldest child or only child and knew her future was secure and maybe she wasn't happy with her parent's choice of her mate. The very manly Soon could have caught the eye of such a spoiled young woman.
Suzuki Roshi was scolded for losing messages sent between So-on's lover and Soon. We know that she brought Soon rice once with Orchids cooked in it, a very high quality rice. But we can't be absolutely sure it was romance going on between them. There were no children from their relationship. We don't know if they slept together. But we do know that she left her home and went to live in the temple, first at Zoun-in and later on at Rinsoin. We've also heard that she eventually left Rinsoin and returned to the rice store. If this is the case, it strengthens the case that she was the original daughter of the rice merchant. Her family would have had a social obligation to take her back in. The other possibility was that she married the son of a rice merchant, but considering her behavior, I find this a difficult possibility to consider. It would have been very easy for the family to disown her or divorce her. It seems that she would have been born and raised there.
This brings up the role of women in the Japanese temple of any sect. We discussed this. If we go back to the Edo age again and remember that some temples were very established and large with a lot of land and help from the samurai class. As in Europe where some of the monasteries became decadent, the same thing happened in Japan as well. Whereas Rinzai allowed the priests to get married the other sects enforced celibacy. But at the same time women did start to appear in temples, particularly temples that had the wherewithal to employ people. Such women were given the nickname of Daikoku-sama. Daikoku-sama is one of the seven gods of happiness together with Ebisu-sama. Daikoku-sama is pictured sitting on some parada of rice, large bales of rice, and Ebisu is always pictured holding onto a large tai, sea bream, and holding a fishing rod. These two gods are omnipresent, in almost any household and they are specifically not put in the living room with the Butsudan, the Buddhist altar and the kamidana , the altar which is used for Amatarasu Omikami, the sun goddess. It may not have always been so. Daikoku-sama represents bounty, plenty, because he's sitting on the rice bales. Ebisu is who you pray to if you need some money. And the reason Hoitsu says these women were called Daikokusama is that Daikokusama is placed inside the house and never leaves. My relatives in Japan have these altars in the kitchen or the vestibule. They are the two gods that are known not to go to Izumo when there is the gathering of the gods every year in October. They stay home. They are the nerd gods, the obnoxious gods that the other gods don't want to have around. So they feel kind of put out. So at that time a special tribute is given to them because nobody wants them to feel lonely and they want them to feel welcome because they bring plenty and good fortune.
These temple women were called Daikoku-sama because they didn't go anywhere. They stayed in the temple and they didn't go outside. They didn't go out or show their faces because they weren't supposed to be there in the first place. So they were hiding. Later on there were also the Kayoi-daikoku-sama. Kayoi meaning the Daikoku-sama that goes back and forth, that commutes to the temple. These were other women who weren't employed full-time. Whether these women were actually sleeping with the monks or not is left up to the imagination as most things are in Japan. It's obvious that some did sleep with the monks in temples that were lax with the rules and perhaps the idea of the kayoi-daikoku-sama was prostitutes coming back and forth. Perhaps not.
Hoitsu says that considering So-on's character, was a dedicated monk who worked hard to restore Rinsoin which had fallen into disrepair and he was a hard worker and a sincere man. So it is very doubtful that what he did in bringing this woman to the temple was totally unacceptable socially. Even if it looked bad, perhaps that wasn't really the case that she was his lover. But it was somehow acceptable in the eyes of the populace. She was the Daikokusama of Rinsoin and apparently she lived to be quite old.
Soon has been described as a very domineering person by the people who lived around Rinsoin. When this is considered in the light of the undercurrent of anti-Buddhist feelings that Hoitsu feels remained after the Meiji era, it's seen in a different light. Soon was sent to Rinsoin because things had deteriorated to a serious state. Hoitsu speculates that things were being stolen from the temple, that it wasn't simply a matter of physical disrepair. The deterioration of Rinsoin can be seen to be somewhat a result of haibutsu kishaku. I asked Hoitsu what about the other priests who came before Soon. He speculated that the job must have been just too much for them. They had to take on the job on an era where they had no cooperation and actually animosity from the surrounding community. So it may well have been that the Shumucho looked for a strong personality to go to Rinsoin to take matters in hand.
There were accounts of farmers giving their ringu to the temple and it sounds pretty medieval but the temple was surely lending these people fiats which they were cultivating and it was more like rent than tax. My own in-laws in Hamana-gun, we live next to a Rinzai temple. The graves of the family are at this temple. For years there has been very bad blood between my in-laws and the family that ran the temple. It goes back at least a generation or two. My father-in-law's father always had fights with the temple that consisted of whose land is whose. There's a road between us and the temple. There's no respect whatsoever between the two. These sorts of feelings are very common with country people. We find this attitude in Akubo . We find it in stories. It's a holdover from the decadent days of the Edo era and the days in the Meiji era when the government winked at people who attacked temples and took temple possessions for their own. In modern times it is compounded by the fact that religious corporations do not have to pay taxes. It's resented that priests are exempted from something that all Japanese are obligated to do - pay income and corporate tax. Sometimes there's a love\hate relationship and sometimes just hate between people and their local temple.
This is something that Sogaku, Soon, Suzuki Roshi and Hoitsu have had to deal with and I've noticed that one of the things that Hoitsu is doing these days is going out and having little classes of other aspects of Buddhism. He does more than just go out and recite sutras at funerals and memorial services though that's a major part of his activities. He'll also go out and give lectures and teach other aspects of Buddhist culture. He teaches goeka. I went with him to his class. It's all old ladies that study with him. They are very beautiful songs of archaic sayings in ancient Japanese that people still understand these days. It's obvious that Hoitsu is trying to bring Buddhism into people's lives in more ways than just services. Buddhism has had its times of faith and greatness and of decadence and every once in a while there's a priest who has shown himself to be very sincere and obviously Suzuki Roshi is one of those people but when you speak to people in Japan it's very rare that they have an image of a priest such as he was. And Hoitsu says this himself. He feels that his father was just another priest but he admits that there was something very special about him. That as a boy he didn't recognize it, his father was distant on purpose and he didn't know what the attraction was that everyone felt for his father but he is able to recognize it.
Suzuki Roshi was married once before he married Chie Muramatsu and unfortunately that marriage ended in divorce not because of any marital difficulties. It ended in divorce because his wife caught tuberculosis just as he had it but she got it so bad she really could not perform the duties of a temple wife. There were no children. So they were divorced and she went back to her home. According to Hoitsu, this is something Suzuki Roshi was disappointed in. He cared for her and didn't want it to end in such a way but divorce was the only sensible thing to do since she had to be taken care of and he couldn't take care of her so she went back to her parents house.
Hoitsu considers that Suzuki Roshi was very fortunate to be able to get married to anyone at all. Chie was obviously a very wonderful and kind person. Suzuki Roshi probably felt himself especially lucky to be married to her because he had tuberculosis. It might have been tuberculosis or not - they used the term keikaku a lot and probably had no tests. It would have been very common for a woman not to want to go live with a man who had tuberculosis. It's almost a guarantee that you're going to become a widow and have a lot of problems raising the children perhaps without the help of your family. Hoitsu speculates that Suzuki Roshi was very grateful to get married again after his initial failed marriage.
Chie was the daughter of the treasurer, fusu, of Kasuisai, which is where Suzuki Roshi went to lecture for some years. Hoitsu speculates that the way they met was simply that she was someone who came to the temple and thought that it wasn't the result of matchmaking. I wondered about this and thought there would have been a big to do about it but perhaps that wasn't the case. [See Suzuki Roshi's interview with Peter Schneider where he says their marriage was decided by others before they met.] No one remembers Suzuki Roshi taking about his nakodo, matchmaker. Hoitsu remembers his mother as a person who was always running somewhere ["hurry" the most said word by mothers today]. She was never still. She was always trying to get something done, to do something for people. His father was always a distant image. It seems in this respect that Suzuki Roshi's family was no different from any family at that time. Mother kind and sweet, father distant and stern. Father hardly ever played with his children. Hoitsu says that Suzuki Roshi would have had an image of what a mother should do and a father should do and he would have been trying to live up to that image. In the image of an ideal family the father is purposely different in order to avoid spoiling the children from too much love. But Hoitsu doesn't think was particularly difficult for his father to do. He probably didn't have conflicts within himself about playing those roles.
In trying to understand what the Takakusayamakai's activities, we got into a discussion about what one might have been able to do during the war to try to talk about and encourage peace. Hoitsu thinks that the paper that Suzuki Roshi took to GHQ (General Headquarters) in Shizuoka was basically a statement of the principles of Zen and considering that he was very good at English, he probably pleaded a very convincing case to say that in trying to maintain the principles of his religion he did what was possible at the time to try to make people think about the war and was in no way a person who encouraged war activities. However, the fact that he was a jushoku at a temple, in no way could he have done anything actively that could have been considered an anti-war or peace activity or he couldn't have remained as the head of the temple. He cooperated with the stationing of military personnel in the temple. There was a communications station on the mountain. It appears that some of that personnel together with Korean laborers were involved in the construction of an airport in another area.
At the same time the confusion of war had displaced people in various ways, towards the end of the war especially, people were losing their homes. Suzuki Roshi did his best to make the temple open for other people to come and use it while they got their lives together. The Takakusayamakai could not have been any kind of planned activity on the part of Suzuki Roshi. It was something that came out of Suzuki Roshi's penchant for trying to help people and trying to make his temple open for people who he felt were good people and who were striving in some way or other. He certainly didn't accept them on the basis of their political beliefs or anything of the sort because there were all sorts of people at the temple with various opinions about what should be done about the war. He probably chose the people who he took in more on the basis of their sincerity than on political or religious beliefs.
Both Hoitsu I feel that rather than the Takakusayamakai being a name that Suzuki Roshi used, it was these young men themselves who, as they got together and talked in the temple, and as they asked Suzuki Roshi to give them lectures on Buddhism they might have felt they were coming together on certain things and decided to give themselves a name. There could not have been any idea of an organized activity to stop the war as a group. Japanese are always giving names to the activities that they do. Very often it's simply a drinking party. David used the word salon to describe the Takakusayamakai and I think that's what it was. There certainly wasn't any leader or written description of it.
There was talk of Suzuki Roshi's getting in touch with Chaing Kai Shek when he went to Manchuria in order to negotiate peace with the allies. This is the sort of idea that would have come up in an informal sesshin with people just saying what they think. For almost anybody at that time in Japan, the only bright spot of the war was Manchuria and the possibility that a lot of new ideas for social change could be worked out in Manchuria. A lot of people who were not wholly for the war were still very excited about what they might be able to do as Asians, as Japanese and also as new modern people to the lands in Manchuria, how they may be able to make a model for a new Asian society of some sort, something that couldn't even be achieved in Japan. So it makes a lot of sense that there would be a conversation as the war was getting worse and worse, as things were going more poorly for Japan and as it became evident that they were young people getting together in a little salon would start talking about big ideas and big things and the opportunity of Suzuki Roshi going to Manchuria would illicit a lot of grand schemes from everybody including probably Suzuki Roshi. If one went there one wouldn't know what it would be like and the possibility that he might be able to talk to Chaing Kai Shek might be thrown up. It seems to be a discussion group where young people could get together and let off steam and discuss exciting ideas.
We have yet to know of any discussions that Suzuki Roshi had in M. and we might be able to. But we do know how he got there. He was friends with Kato Taro's father who was an anarchist who was under surveillance by the secret police. At the same time Kato Taro's father was an official in the Imperial government who was working hard to do his part to win the war. Kato was going back and forth from Shimada to M. on a regular basis and he certainly would have known Suzuki Roshi and they would have had some discussions and Suzuki Roshi would have known that through Kato he would be able to go to m. and he would have been able to meet different types of people, not just your regular Japanese Imperialists.
Suzuki Roshi didn't need to get any special approval to take this trip. At this time if people wanted to go from Japan to m. almost anybody was encouraged [as they were trying to increase the population there?] however at this time the tickets were limited to people who were going there for particular purposes and the purposes that had the highest priority were government and immigration. There were no limitations on travel, just on tickets. There was open travel between Japan and M. Suzuki Roshi probably was able to buy a ticket together with Taro and was able to go there because Kato said there were plenty of Shrines but not many temples and people were dying and needed to have a proper funeral. So he went off to China to chant the sutras for the people who had died and to look into the possibility of establishing temples there. As he got excited about going on this trip, it's possible he might have thought about talking to Chaing Kai Shek about talking to the allies and the Japanese government about working toward a negotiated peace.
But it's very doubtful that Suzuki Roshi had any illusions about the position he had in Japanese society and about how much he may have been able to and not able to do once he got to Manchuria.
When Mitsu mentioned Tohoku she meant the Tohoku region of China, which is the present politically correct name for Manchuria. He never went anywhere during the war except for the trip to Manchuria.
About Nona Ransom, Hoitsu feels that Suzuki Roshi's contact with Nona Ransom was very important in giving him a different perspective on the war. Suzuki Roshi was always a big thinker, even when he was a little boy. He would tell his mother he wanted to build a zoo around the temple or he might go hiking with someone and go to the top of a mountain and say I think we ought to have a train that goes from that area to this town over here and that way it would be easier. He always had schemes he could talk about off the top of his head. He was always the sort of person who could see Japan as one part of the world and not as everything and anything that he needed. Almost the whole country is like that. Everyone can see their own needs being filled by Japan and have no need for the rest of the world. So when he had the opportunity to associate with Miss Ransom he took it. The majority of Japanese might simply shy away from an opportunity like that. He was one of the types of people who took it and learned very earnestly from her. Simply by having had this experience of knowing a foreigner, he had a totally different view of the entire war. As they went through it people would be historical about the prospect of losing the war and he would be able to calm them down. People would be sure that all the women would be raped and all the men would be taken off as slaves and killed. He was able to note that that wasn't the case. He would not use his knowledge to argue but when things might get out of hand he was calm enough to calm the situation down. The ihaito incident is an example of that. He knew that it was nonsense that the Americans would be angry at a memorial for unknown soldiers. He knew they wouldn't be upset at all and he took the memorial to the temple and took responsibility for that. There were plenty of other Buddhist priests who may not have been able to be that enlightened about the situation.
To wrap things up, Hoitsu feels that the only thing that was important to his father was the teaching of Zen and getting other people to understand its teachings. And no matter in what situation he found himself, he simply tried to teach Zen. As an individual he had an interest in foreign countries. He was deprived for a long time of the opportunity of going abroad and of teaching. Whenever he did get the opportunity to go out and teach he did. He has said that English was an easier language for him to talk about Zen in, that in Japanese things had to be left up in the air too much but in English he felt he could focus on the issues and say exactly what he wanted to say, whereas in Japanese he felt he couldn't focus people's attention on the issue he was trying to talk about. He felt that Japanese was too fuzzy and confusing to really explain the principles of Zen.
Kan Kimpara was the person in charge in Manchuria of Shizuoka Mura which was located in a certain area of m. . The village was established in Showa 12, 1928[38?] and so it continued for about ten years. They had to leave everything they had in 45 when the war was over and nobody was left behind. In the beginning they didn't know anything about the land and for the first two or three years, everybody who went and began working the land worked in a very cooperative fashion. Nobody worked for themselves until later on as people became more and more experienced and began to take on very large tracts of land for themselves under private ownership and began to work them. All of these tracts of land were given to specific families and they were not run by companies. They were run by households. By 1945 there was telephone service and a train with a station nearby - not in the village itself, however. There was a coal mine nearby as well. That meant that logistic support was available and that it was possible to get goods in and out without too much trouble.
Not only were the tracts of land that people had a lot larger than anybody could even imagine in Japan, but also the houses that were built had a lot of space by Japanese standards.
The lease of the land was not limited to Japanese people. Koreans were also allowed to come and settle. Kan Kimpara said that there was an air of cooperation from the very beginning and the spirit of cooperation and fellowship was very strong. He mentioned an incident in which Manchurian people nearby saw that the watermelons that the Japanese were growing were very large and they asked for seeds so that they could grow them as well. They said they would pay but the people gave them the seeds for free. He said there were many examples like that where on the civilian level, the Japanese and Korean immigrants were very friendly with the local Chinese populace. And there was a lot of cooperation. I've heard from a friend of mine who was born and raised in a Manchurian village and he talks about similar situations.
Mr. Kimpara did know that Suzuki Roshi did chant sutras for the people who had died in the area. He didn't know if Suzuki Roshi had come to build a temple. He wasn't able to talk to him himself but he remembered when there was the announcement that Suzuki Roshi and Kato Taro would come and visit. He remembered also that they'd had a hard time returning to Japan but that they'd gotten back. He himself by that time had been given the extra job of running the agricultural high school back in Shizuoka prefecture although he remained the head of Shizuoka village, before the end of the war he'd gone back to Japan to take up his new position at the high school. He said that everybody had to leave in August which was the harvest season. They left all of their animals and crops without being able to harvest anything and he said it was a very hard thing for everyone to do. He also speculated that Suzuki Roshi had been attracted by the reports of the wonderful spirit of cooperation among the immigrants and the local populace. He said that it was a definite atmosphere that he can remember very well and he says that such an atmosphere of cooperation and fellowship did not exist in Japan itself at that time.
Even by 1945, even though each family had its own plot of land, the actual legal ownership had not been transferred to each family. However it was clearly understood that they would eventually receive private ownership of the land that they were working. There was no agribusiness in Manchuria. And that was what Kato Taro was excited about when he went to visit Manchuria. He had heard that somebody would allow him to open up a very large amount of land and he was hoping he would be able to do it with a corporate organization and not with a private family. That is what he was after when he went there at a very early age.
Later on Suzuki Roshi did help Mr. Kimpara set up a monument at Goshajinja, a shrine in the middle of Shizuoka city. I'm sure its still there.
---On the phone with Fred on 12\20
This guy, Taro Kato just gave up being the mayor of Shimada. His house was a pretty funky place. Hoitsu took me there. He had money because he had land in an established part of Shimada but his house was not the house of a mayor. It was a funky old farm house. Then he took us over to his mother's house. She was still alive and peppy. She's the wife of Kato Kozo who Suzuki Roshi got in touch with to go to m. in the first place. He gave us a book and it mentions Suzuki Roshi in it as well. We have to send him a map of m. and he'll mark out the route that they took - to the station. Lets get him one in Japanese and one in English. At that time he was a 12 or 13 year old kid and he describes the voyage. He had wanted to go for a long time because his father was in charge of immigration to m. from Shizuoka prefecture during the war. At the same time he was a member of the Diet. And he was an anarchist. And he was a bureaucrat in the m. government in charge of getting people to go there. He was involved with several villages. He had been in touch with Suzuki Roshi for a long time and he had probably talked about the situation in M. [Were they moving Chinese farmers off their land?] Still for Japanese it was a bright spot. And from talking to this other guy, Tokuno , it was a lot of fun. I've never heard anybody say anything bad about it. According to Tokuno there were no deeds granted to Japanese for the land that they were working. It was an upbeat place to be in a dismal society (Japan) at an awful time. It was an interesting place to be, so much so that an anarchist could be a part of it. He was getting ready to be arrested at any time. This guy remained in the government and continued his work because he thought it was worthwhile. As long as you put your incense in front of the statue of the Emperor they let you do anything you wanted, they let you work. Kato Kozo visited people who were under surveillance by the police during the war. He was filling his son with visions of how modern agriculture could be applied and how the world could be made a better place if m. was done right. And Suzuki Roshi got it to. Hey, maybe there's something there. And Kato Kozo arranged it for him and by the time they got around to it it was near the end of the war and they almost didn't get back.
There were three Shizuoka villages.
Chugoku tohoku chiho is the politically correct name for what was Manchuria. It's an issue in China too. The Manchurians are Chinese like the Okanawans are Japanese. If you call it Manchura. now it brings up a whole can of worms. The Chinese don't want to acknowledge that it was every a separate country and at the same time it's an ethnic problem.
Kato Taro didn't know anything about the Takakusayamakai. He was there for a year and a half but he was just there for half a year. The food was better there and Suzuki Roshi was nice enough to let people come there. It wasn't an organized thing.
Hoitsu says that Zen itself is Pacifism and that Suzuki Roshi found himself in the middle of a war was a daily problem, but he obviously compromised or otherwise he wouldn't have been able to maintain his position as the head of a temple and he wouldn't have been able to go to m. etc etc. He was able to go to the authorities and say he didn't advocate or encourage the war. [I say no there were some papers he'd written during the war.]
All of a sudden in M. all the soldiers had to go back to defend Honshu. They sent the poorly trained troops to take their place and those poorly trained troops went to meet the Russians when they declared war and they lost immediately and either got killed or captured. Next the Chinese communists came in and they took over m. So these Japanese were trying to get out in the middle of a civil war situation. Some of m. was occupied by the Russians, some was occupied by the Chinese communists. There was a period there where there was a lot of chaos.
My friend was stuck in Harbin for over a year. He said that the Japanese immigrants started to get antsy and they complained that the Chines government had said they'd be able to go home after a year but they weren't able to do so. They were keeping them to understand their equipment and use their labor. He thought that the Chinese communists were very trustworthy people. When a Chinese soldier sold something they'd be brought up for trail and might even be executed for crimes against Japanese. That might not have been the case with Chaing Kai Shek. So the Japanese men got antsy and thought they weren't going to be sent back so they got some weapons and they had a revolt. It was immediately crushed and all the men were rounded up and put in a huge room for about two days. There were so many people in the room that they had to stand up and every once and a while their guards would just shoot one of them. There were some negotiations and finally the government sent them home.
Some of the railroads were dismantled by the Russians. The situation with the railroads that the Japanese had built which was most of them was that only Japanese could be employed by them.
The following unidentified fragment was added 1/11/2024. We think it's from Hoitsu but it could be Yasuko.
And it was the time when Father was working hard in America. So, from the point of view of us children, although he did have some very warm aspects of his personality, he was a man who dedicated himself to The Way. And in doing this, from our point of view, there were some aspects of him as a father that we found lacking. It's hard to describe what I am trying to say. But it isn't that we were not satisfied with him. But we are aware that we had a different kind of father than the norm. We were raised by him and thought nothing of it. But here is the explanation of what I meant when I said that he was not a family man. But perhaps all priests are similar. There were some hard decisions that he had to make. Sometimes he couldn't do two things that needed to be done to the exclusion of each other. It's difficult to care for one's children and everything else at the same time. When I look at what he has done in America, and I reflect upon my feelings of having lost my master to his work there, especially when we knew he was going to die, I do see the figure of a human being who did whatever he could to achieve what he needed to do. He lived a life that allowed him to face death with satisfaction (oujou). But there is also the force of all of you who followed him to make it all possible, and that, I guess you could say brought me to tears. Even with his death. He did raise me to feel the normal feelings of sadness at a person's death, but.. I lost my mother, and my sister too, and it is not a new feeling to me... But I didn't really feel sadness at his death.