Letter from Masaji Yamada

by Kyoto Furuhashi and translated by her.

[Notice how he calls Suzuki-roshi "Shunryu-san." That's normal. Nobody uses "roshi" over there outside of monks in very formal training temple situations. Most people don't even know the word--DC]

About Mr. Yamada:

- sewanin, sponsor of Rinsoin

- sodai, representative, of neighborhood associations in the area where Rinsoin is situated

- 79 years old

- his grandfather was a village chief when the area was a village (it is now part of Yaizu city)

- his family has a history that is older than Rinsoin

- the interview was done in his farmhouse which was relatively large in the neighborhood

(First I (Kyoko) explained the purpose of the interview and he asked me what Suzuki roshi had achieved in the States.)

I thought of declining this interview after I got your call because I don't remember much about Shunryu-san.

K: I would appreciate to hear any little thing you remember about him. Any firsthand information would be appreciated.

He was quite forgetful. He would leave his hat or his "zutabukuro" (monk's bag) and didn't come back for what he had left, so we had to return it to Rinsoin.

He was a gentle person. Didn't seem particularly ambitious. There was nothing nasty about him.

For some years after the war, the life at Rinsoin must have been hard. They were borrowing money and other things, which they were too poor to repay. It's admirable that they have managed to overcome it all. They put up and took care of school children from Tokyo and soldiers during the war.

I heard Shunryu-san taught English at chugaku (which corresponds to senior high school in the postwar educational system) somewhere in Shizuoka Prefecture either before or during the war[?].

In those days priests weren't so worldly as they are today. They used to be more decent.

Shunryu-san was a man of mild nature. he always talked smilingly.

His teacher, So-on-san led a perfectly monastic life.

Both Shunryu-san and So-on-san recited sutra well. But neither of them preached. They were priests as priests should be. We could feel their humanity. They devotedly followed the religious path in all aspects of life. For example, they walked wherever they went.

Shunryu-san was an ordinary priest.

K: Do you remember anything about the rethatching of the roof of Rinsoin?

Neighbors came to work. People used to work hard and help one another in a rural community (like this area) in those days. Shunryu-san did heavy labor too. Thatch was stored in the attic every year (for the rethatching that was done every few years).

K: Do you know if Shunryu-san had any disciples?

Well, there were one or two monks practicing at Rinsoin. There was an unsui who was practicing at a small temple nearby for ten years. The practice monks did those days was hard and strict. They would get up very early in the morning and wipe the floor with a wet cloth.

K: I've heard danka objected Shunryu-san's going to the States.

Well, I don't know about it. I think it was rather that Shunryu-san took advantage of Shumucho's request to work in the States in order to flee from troubles he was encountering here. Danka were criticizing him for his affairs [Not clear if he means with women or what. I didn't make much of it. Could be--Japanese have affairs and trysts more lightly than we do--aren't so puritanical. And Suzuki was younger and handsome and I find no reason to assume he was totally beyond such human temptation. Maybe Mitsu. Who knows? There wasn't any confirmation. It wasn't reliable enough for the book. But there is confirmation that he was gone a lot and with his friends. But he was no drinker or party animal.--DC] He didn't make it secret. He would go downtown and have a good time. It was widely known. Danka were not very happy about it. So, he might have thought his designation for the abbotship of the temple in San Francisco was a good chance for him to get away from it all. Also, there had been that incident which had happened to his wife. The unsui who attacked her was found not guilty. [It's widely assumed that any priest who goes abroad does so to escape troubles. Otherwise, why would they leave Japan?--DC]

I've heard Shunryu-san stamped his foot (with mortification?) when he rushed back to Rinsoin and saw his wife lying. That incident might have contributed to his decision to go to the States as well. That woman who has recently come back from the States is not legally married to him, is she? [Yes! He's got some weird ideas. Hoitsu told me not to pay too much attention to what he says. But then again, have I ever asked her about their wedding? Must check into that. Wouldn't it be great if they weren't. But it doesn't seem like him or her not to get married.--DC] What's her family name? It's not Suzuki, is it?

K: I understand they had got married just before Shunryu-san left for the States. Mitsu-san went to San Francisco to join him a few years later. I've heard that some people who used to know her as a kindergarten director still call her Matsuno sensei, but she is Mrs. Suzuki now.

I see. It's a strange coincidence, but I met her in Umegashima Onsen (a hot springs resort in Shizuoka City) while I was staying there for recuperation for one month just after the war. When she saw me at a meeting at Rinsoin the other day she recognized me and greeted me.

On the whole, Shunryu-san was a gentle and unselfish man, quite free from avarice.