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Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan
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[DC notes to self and others in brackets]

Chapter 85


September 12  -  A LETTER FROM NORMAN


When I arrived back home from the ashes ceremony, there was a letter waiting for me from Norman.  He'd been back in the States for a year and a half and was running his own zendo in Kalamazoo.  He brought me up to date on what's what with the gang that was at Hogoji.

Koji is living at his father's temple, helping out there half time - two days a week he goes to a wealthy temple in Tokyo that can afford to pay him.  I knew that much because Elin and I visited him in both places when she first arrived in Japan and we were pretending to be married.  I didn't know the rest because he's one of those people who doesn't write.  I've written him a number of letters and he never answered one.  I was so hurt - I thought he was mad at me for some reason - that I'd made some fatal mistake like not using the proper form of address in my letters.  But I knew everything was okay when he sent his regards to me through Norman who had called him on company business.  Norman said Koji wants me to come to Tokyo to teach Torture English.  We are friends forever.  He's married and his wife is pregnant. She's very happy he says and living most of the time with her parents a couple of hundred kilometers away.  They are not "separated," it's just one of

the ways things are done.  I sighed and waved to Koji way up northeast.

Norman said that Maku and Jakushin both left Hogoji before their time was up - an anomaly - people are supposed to be dependable in this country and stick to one calling forever.  Maku took a job with - get this: the Sumitomo Bank.  That's not totally outside the fold, as the Sumitomo family is the most established danka (member-supporters) of Suienji.  Nishiki probably even arranged it.  I can just see Maku, looking respectable in a business suit, surrounding by fellow employees all waiting late for the boss to leave first, napping and reading newspapers, except he'll be sitting at his desk still plugging away at an obscure text on how to cultivate magic power.

Jakushin didn't even give notice.  He just walked out one day.  Maku told Shuko that Jakushin went off to find Gyuho, the monk who'd been busted for LSD.  Wonders never cease.

Dokujiki roughed up one too many freshmen and got canned, though it was apparently handled so as to seem to be a promotion.  He had a temple to go to and so he's there now with his wife and kids.  Hope they can handle him.

The last one hanging on at Hogoji, Shuko, will be leaving too - at least for a while.  Nishiki Roshi took pity on Norman all alone in Michigan and asked Shuko to go join him - to "let him know we love him and that there are no hard feelings."(!)  MUTILATED JAPANESE MONK FOUND FLOATING IN LAKE. 

Norman has ordained a woman disciple and is sending her to Hogoji for a year - "It's the practice place where I learned the most about myself."

What is this?  A marriage of minds? or some sort of sadistic plot?  The karmic shuffle continues.


I think Nishiki picked something up from Katagiri, something I hadn't thought of - they need us as much as we need them.  I mean, they don't need us if they just want to be good Japanese monks and irrelevant to the present tense and the rest of the world.  And we don't need them if we just want to be cowboy iconoclasts without regard for tradition and harmony - but we need each other to get out of our ruts and get on with it - get on with creating this diverse unity.  Maybe we are each other's secret ingredient - to metamorphose.  It's butterfly time.