Re-inventing Ourselves Silently
Nations do not change, only individuals. We are all called to be artists, creators of change within ourselves and around us. To create something entirely new, to go beyond our best as individuals, we need to draw on our inner capabilities.
One such path is through meditation. Meditation is not something we do, it is a state we enter when our body, mind and spirit are ready. Certain meditative techniques or practices help make meditative states be experienced sooner than others. As such it can not be taught, but only experienced by those willing and open to experiment on themselves and disciplined enough to create the right body, mind and spirit.
There are many paths that lead to “meditation,” chose one that fits you and begin today.
Nirmal was trained in Raja yoga in Nepal as of age nine, practiced Ayurveda as of eleven and is fluent in Japanese. We recommend you meditating with him (on Tuesday at noon — check schedule in case it changed), or his private Ayurvedic Counseling or Pranyama class (Thursday nights) at Nirmal Yoga. Contact Nirmal Gyawali Yoga Studio (Shirokanedai) email@example.com to create a new group of meditators or to practice one on one or for for individual ayurvedic counseling. Nirmal also has a teacher training course.
For those interested, we recommend Zen at Senkakuji Temple with Chudo Yamamoto (Japanese/English). Many other temples in Japan have Za-zen, you need to call and find out when it is available to the public. Most in Japanese! Zen is a full life-style that includes the way you walk, sleep, eat, so if you think by sitting one or two hours a day will be enough for a full transformation, you need to re-think your whole lifestyle.
YOGA TREE (Hiroo, Japan). We recommend for hatha yoga Michael Glenn’s studio (English/Japanese) at Yoga Tree in Hiroo, Tokyo. There is something about Michael’s intensity and focus that makes practicing there an incredible experience that harmonizes the body, mind and spirit. The Japanese teachers are excellent too.
YOGA in SYNC (Outram Park, Singapore). For those in Singapore, we recommend hatha yoga with Vikram at Yoga in Sync (hard to find a yogi who knows the body better). For advanced students, health challenges and athletes, we recommend his private sessions.
NIKAM YOGA. For cleansing techniques that prepare the body for meditation we recommend doing yoga with Nikam Yoga. Nikam Yoga includes pranyama and is free of charge, but only available in certain countries like India and Singapore where former students become teachers devoting their time and expertise freely. It is a course, with each class building on the other and regular practice, so committed members only.
We recommend Qigong with Shu Seika (Chinese/Japanese) Friday mornings at 8am in Arisugawa park (near the statue on the side of Library) Hiroo. Mr. Zhou or Shu Seika began his training at age 9 and has helped people with cancer and other illnesses in Japan for many years. He has given workshops that rejuvenate health at the cellular level and treats individuals. Speaks Japanese and Chinese fluently. Tel: 0363289606.
YOGA (From Comfort of your Home with most Effective Yogic Techniques)
For those who do not have an individual teacher, who wish to learn at their own pace or from the comfort of their own home, we recommend the effective techniques of Sadhguru, an Indian yogi. The best place to begin is his online Isha Kriya or his on-line Inner Engineering Course (download his app). Sadhguru gives more advanced trainings in countries where there are enough volunteers to assist follow up trainings. The US, India, Singapore, Malaysia, UK are amongst a few. Then perhaps to India!
For those with limited time but desiring effective techniques–this is it. Naturally as this yogi is Indian, in the West one must be open to that which we do not know (not the best trait of the French nor the Japanese according to a Franco-Japanese!).
Sadhguru is a yogi full of joy, he is profound, his technique combines all forms of yoga even if he himself is probably a kriya yogi. He has talked at the UN, taught the Kennedy brothers, spoken at MIT, Harvard, Yale, trained CEOs and does whatever is needed to bring a small element of spirituality to this world. You may not understand everything he does (nor do I), but his techniques I have tested. They work!
Download Sadhguru App (itunes Version) or search for the one adopted for your phone. For simple 5 minute practices select Yoga on the app and press “Yoga Tools” Learn Now. Apps available on isha website.
For those who wish to do a short 15 minute meditation try ishakriya meditation on the app. Do it daily for 90 days or 2x a day for 48 days for maxium benefit without missing a day. It works..
For those with health issues download the health meditation chit shakti meditation online or use the app. There is also a meditation on love, success and peace.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM there is a Tibetain Buddhism center in Saint Gilles called Kagyu Samye Dzong, located at 33 rue Capouillet who follow the Karmapa line of Buddhism which is in line with the Dalai Lama. I walked in one weekend to do my first seated 20 and 40 minute meditation with a formidable meditator and Lama named Yeshe who has meditated in seclusion for many years in the forest and also more than once for 25 or so days in a dark enclosed box (most humans go crazy after a few days).
I later returned once again to the center to learn briefly from and meet his elder brother who was a great lama and doctor, named Akong Rinpoche. Both brothers started the first Tibetain monestery in Europe in Scotland. Lama Rinchen Palmo, a French lama at the center also kindly helped me to contact a Zen master as I was leaving for Japan to work with the Japanese. Ken Holmes and his wife Katia are a formidable team of scholars who I met there and give an 3 year on-line course on Tibetan Buddhism that is impossible to find elsewhere. I could only complete two due to my schedule, but recommend it highly.
The Kagyu line also have a monestery in the Catskills, New York which I discovered when a monk I met in the train back from NYC wished to bring me there! Although a novice myself on Tibetain Buddhism, all the people I met at this center were inspiring.
SILENCE AND THE SISTERS OF BETHLEHEM
Christianity has its own set of practices that are meditative in nature and a tradition of silence. The monastery of the sisters of Bethlehem in the Catskill Mountains (Livingston manor), two and a half hours from New York City, is home to this silence, to great love and to the joy of solitude. This is a sacred place and Sr. Amena, the head of the monastery, and the nuns who practice there have a beautiful presence which make each moment spent there sacred.
I had the good fortune of going there once a year for the last few years and staying in a wood cabin for a few days of silence in the forest. It was divine and the small chapel with the chants of the sisters early in the morning lift one’s prayers and meditation.
See if you can book a place Livingston Manor for a silent retreat, contribute for your stay a donation to the sisters (as they live on what they earn with their art) and return re-invigorated. Each sister here is special, each one wants to remain nameless. Each one feels like my sister. Each one has prayed for our family countless times.
Silence is rare these days. And yet, Jesus went into the desert to meditate. There is in Christianity a tradition handed down by mystics and later by the Carmelite tradition exemplified by Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux and Thomas Merton amongst others for silence. One of the techniques used, centering prayer, is much like the techniques I have found in the other traditions above. It is contemplative prayer and it has been renewed with Father Thomas Keating’s work at St. Benedict’s Monastery.
Learn to enter deeper states of relaxation, strengthen your meditation practice, experience the art of well-being or discover a new level of being far beyond a previous best, as you transform yourself and us with your creations and your life.
With gratitude and joy to all artists, all creators,
A blog to go Beyond our Best in body, mind and spirit
Beyond Our Best: Creators Uplifting Japan Collective Ideas
Can the 2020 Olympics be an Occasion to Better Protect Japanese Citizens and Tokyo from Climate Change (Water Suge, Typhoons, Rising Water Levels in Asia) and Natural Disasters?
Idea Stage Proposal
Problem: According to a May 2013 Asian Development bank report on climate change, rising water levels in Asia including Japan will create important problems for farmers and others in the next 40 years calling for the re-enforcement of ports and large adaptation costs. On March 17, 2014 the Japanese Environment Ministry also estimated that in the next 100 years Japan may lose as much as 85% of its beaches and triple the cost of flooding damage.
Tsunamis, typhoons and rising water levels call the Japanese and others in the world to innovate on new structures that can better protect its citizens, farmers and its coast. Climate adaptation cannot wait for a gridlocked climate mitigation agreements that have sustainable development goals for all nations.
Opportunity: In 2020, the same year that the Kyoto protocol has been extended through, the Japanese will host the Olympics in Tokyo Bay area. Can the Japanese use the Olympics as an opportunity to propose and possibly demonstrate new innovative structures to better protect Tokyo Bay and Japanese citizens from future storm surges, typhoons, tsunamis and rising water levels as well as inspire the world to follow or emulate?
Our focus is not the Olympics, but innovation on structures and ideas that can save lives and be used in Japan and elsewhere. We hope to help imagine new ways to stop, slow down or deviate water surge and waves other than the simple rock structures currently used on coastlines of Japan which have proven inadequate and are a blight to the coastal view.
Let us Imagine:
We believe that Japanese artists (architects and others) can work together to elevate, inspire, build and test new structures for Tokyo Bay that better protect Japanese citizens in Tokyo and elsewhere from climate change, all in time for some inaugurations before 2020.
During this process we hope to create more environmentally friendly Olympic games that contribute to the welfare of local citizens far after the games are over.
To do so we must be flexible, we must work with the Olympics and with scientists, governments, farmers and countless others to imagine innovations that can save lives and facilitate recovery. We must realize that some will work and others not. We must begin together now.
Architects and Climate Change, Crisis and Innovation
We appeal to Japanese architects to use their imagination to design new ways to combat environmental threats. We envision an interdisciplinary environment where architects exchange ideas with physicists, mathematicians, engineers and astronomers to think in revolutionary new ways.
We believe that the combination of Japanese architectural ingenuity and ideas from different fields of science would yield ingenious new solutions not only for protecting against tsunamis, but also for addressing rising water levels, earthquakes and other related environmental threats. In the future, we see the type of forum we develop becoming international and some programs even being implemented under the auspices of the United Nations.
If sufficient interest is shown, we will find a way to organize informal gatherings of architects and other interested persons to jumpstart this program.
Please contact us to get involved. We need to work with the team making decisions for the Olympic Games, with Architects, Farmers, Astronomers, Landscape Engineers, Golf Course Architects and other Scientists. Together.
Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka
Director, Beyond Our Best : Creators Uplifting Japan
USEFUL LINKS :
UN and Resilient Design
Asian Development Bank Report in Asia (and Japan) on Climate Change Challenges
The Rockefeller Foundation Grant to Resilient Cities http://100resilientcities.rockefellerfoundation.org/pages/about-the-challenge
Challenge for Architects and Scientists:
Innovative Japanese Landscape Architects Explore Alternative Solutions to Seawalls http://issuu.com/thehiddentokyo/docs/shibitachi_project_brief_01
Nuclear Power Plants at Risk from Tsunamis Around the World
Suggested Studies to Explore
FIELD SURVEY OF THE 2011 TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI IN MIYAGI AND FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURES, TAKAHITO MIKAMI∗, TOMOYA SHIBAYAMA† and MIGUEL ESTEBAN‡
Coastal Engineering Journal, Vol. 54, No. 1 (2012) 1250011 (26 pages)
⃝c World Scientific Publishing Company and Japan Society of Civil Engineers DOI: 10.1142/S0578563412500118
Japanese Version of Letter Below (scroll down)
French Version of Letter Below (scroll down)
Emerging Above Natural and Man-Made Crisis
A letter to Japanese friends contains a poetic vision of how artists, citizens and decision makers could together define a new Japan.
Today is the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami. Let us move forward together. Fukushima could one day be a name associated not with disaster, but a springboard for national and international change. Everything is still possible.
Please circulate this Letter to Japanese Friends, discuss it, click “like” to encourage Japan. Join us to work with other artists and citizens who inspire. Link to Beyond Our Best: Creators Uplifting Japan so we can work creatively together.
This letter has been published in 2012 both in English and Japanese by the chief editor of Sogensha in Osaka Japan in 日本語臨床フォーラム, a web journal dealing with psychology psychotherapy and art. It has also been since re-published in Belgium in 2013 in the philosophy and theology journal Acta Comparanda XXIV, FVG, Faculty for Comparative Study of Religions, pp. 137-138, 2610 Antwerpen Belgium.
For other venues interested in publishing it, please Contact Us.
A Letter to Japanese Friends
Leiko Ishizuka, MBA, MALD, Keio University exchange, a Franco-Japanese from New York
Paul Briot, Ph.D. in Philosophy, Professor at the Antwerp Faculty of Comparative Religion
understanding, heart of sun,
Nations, just like individuals, often ask crucial questions in times of crisis. It is only when things become really difficult that we have the courage to consider transformational change. After the 2011 tragedy, Japan set about recovering with a dignity and courage that moved the world. Just as in 1945, the Japanese will recover and rebuild. The question is: can a new Japan emerge?
Some Japanese realize that in the face of increasing natural and man-made disasters, the country has to equip itself with a new moral drive that enlightens and inspires. To rebuild an old Japan in the current international context is not enough. To write a glorious page of its history, Japan will need to emerge from this crisis far beyond its previous best.
Let us imagine how Japan can conceive and bring about a sublime nobility, a beauty capable of projecting its inhabitants beyond what they ever were, even at the height of their culture and past.
Japan needs This, a moral drive rich in comprehension and compassion. The country requires an enlightened spirit of fraternity, open to all those in the world who in this period of adversity have shown their sympathy and respect for Japan’s courage, dignity and solidarity.
In order to mold a new heart for themselves, a heart of sun, one that ignites the sparks that live within them, the Japanese launch into the sky the arrows of their imagination. In a country that experiences a tremendous range of human emotions and feelings, poets suggest a Japanese This, an element of value and meaning that resides in the very spirit of the Japanese people.
Painters, sculptors, architects and all artists envision faces that gradually rise towards This, a moral sun that is stronger and undoubtedly nobler than unbridled nature.
Intellectuals, historians, writers, journalists, major broadcasters evoke the past. Throughout its history Japan has been influenced at times by China at times by the West. But today those lands are also in search of meaning, of their own existential journey. Fortunately, Japan itself can devise its own audacious future.
The spiritual, the wise and those who meditate propose their experience. This will signify according to each individual: spiritual faith, moral force or beauty. These three aspects are indeed compatible. Imagining meanings, choosing one’s own specificity, committing oneself to the essential Adventure.
Individual citizens ask important questions of themselves and of their country. They move, they engage, they act to rebuild Japan from within.
Finally an appeal is launched, a solemn appeal to those in charge, including leaders and decision-makers, to contribute to a new Japan.
The Japanese envisage the sun in full freedom, as their inspiration dictates. They question it in all possible ways. They imagine poetically its responses, its enigmas, its allusions. Meaning starts to live, it deepens, it spreads freely. Value blossoms, sparkles, becomes light, a measureless light that sublimates all things.
The Japanese are capable of This and the world context requires nothing less: comprehension, compassion, liberation, realization.
understanding, heart of sun,
Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka（ナタリー 玲子 石塚） パリHECでMBA、慶応大学に留学、「ベストを超えて：日本を元気にするクリエーター達」ディレクター
Paul Briot（ポール・ブリオ） 哲学博士、アントワープ比較宗教学講座教授
個人と同様に、国家も、危機に直面すると重要な問いを発するものです。本当に困難な状況に陥ったときに初めて、根本的な変化へと踏み出そうとする勇 気が出 てきます。2011年3月の悲劇的な災害から、日本は尊厳と勇気を持って復興への道を歩みだし、世界を感動させました。第二次世界大戦から復興したときと 同じように、日本はまた復興と再建を成し遂げることでしょう。問題は、「日本は新しく生まれ変われるのだろうか？」ということです。
自然 と人為、二種類の災害の頻度がますます高まっている昨今、日本人の中にも、道を照らし、人々を勇気づけるような新しい精神力を身につける必要があることに 気付きはじめた人々がいます。現代の国際情勢においては、以前と同じ日本をもう一度再建するだけでは十分ではありません。日本がこの苦難の時を乗り越えた とき、これまでの日本をはるかに上回る素晴らしい国として生まれ変わった姿を示すことができれば、その歴史に輝かしい1ページを書き加えることができるで しょう。
日本の人々は、新しい心、すなわち内なる輝きに火をともす太陽の心をかたち作っていくために、想像力の矢を空高く放ちます。詩人たちは、数えきれな いほど さまざまな感情や思いを今まさに経験しているこの国において、日本人本来の精神性の中にもともと備わっているこの価値観、この意味を訴えかけます。
知識人、歴史家、作家、ジャーナリスト、ニュースキャスターなどは、過去の歴史を呼び起こさせます。日本はその歴史上、中国から、そしてまた西洋か らも影 響を受け続けてきました。しかし今日では、それらの国々もまた意味を求め、自らの存在を問い直す旅のなかにあります。幸いなことに日本は今、自分たちの未 来を自らの手で大胆につくり出していくことができるのです。
宗教家や賢人、瞑想家たちは、自らの経験を言葉にして伝えます。信仰、精神 力、そして美――これが日本人ひとりひとりにとって重要な意味を持ちます。これら3つは共存可能です。意味を想像すること、自分だけの特質を自ら選び取る こと、そして意義深い「冒険」へと踏み出していくこと。
霊感の指し示すところにしたがって、日本人はその心の中に自由に太陽を描き出します。日本人は可能な限りのあらゆる方法で太陽に問いを投げかけま す。太陽 が返す答え、太陽がかける謎、太陽が暗示するものを、日本人は詩的に想像します。意味が命を得て、深まり、そして自由に広がっていきます。価値は花開き、 輝き、光となります。それは、すべての存在を至高の高みへと導く、計り知れない光です。
ポール・ブリオは哲学博士、アントワープ（ベルギー）の比較宗教学講座教授。危機の活用、誠実さ、芸術的創造、目標の明確化などをテーマとした詩的随想や記事、著書を発表。近著（Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…? 2004, Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers）では、すべてを超越し、人々を高みへと導く内なる芸術について論じている。
ナタリー 玲子 石塚
石 塚ナタリー玲子は慶応大学で日本語を学び、フレッチャー法律外交大学院でMALD（法律と外交に関する修士号、ハーバード大学との共同学位）を、パリの HECではMBAを取得。学位論文では1946年に制定された日本国憲法と国連平和維持活動について論じ、憲法起草者の一人から称賛の手紙が贈られた。危 機を国家や個人を変革するためのチャンスとして捉えることをテーマに執筆活動を行っており、「日本の友人への手紙」に、日本の昔話「鶴の恩返し」を重ね合 せた寓話「きずな（KIZUNA）」を発表している。
LETTRE A DES AMIS JAPONAIS
Leiko Ishizuka, M.B.A. HEC, M.A.L.D. Fletcher School, a Franco-Japanese from New York
Paul Briot, Docteur en philosophie, Professeur à la Faculté des religions comparées d’Anvers
comprendre, cœur de soleil,
En 1945, les Japonais ont réparé les dommages de la guerre et développé une économie particulièrement brillante. Après le drame de 2011, ils se redressent une fois encore avec une dignité et un courage qui touchent le monde entier. Mais certains Japonais comprennent que, face à des désastres naturels et d’autres créés par l’homme, le pays doit se doter maintenant d’une force morale qui éclaire l’existence et l’inspire. De cette crise actuelle le Japon peut écrire une page glorieuse de son histoire.
Imaginons comment le pays conçoit et réalise une noblesse, une beauté qui projette ses habitants au delà de ce qu’ils étaient avant cette épreuve terrible.
Il faut au Japon Ceci, une force morale riche de compréhension et de compassion. Il faut au pays un esprit éclairé, fraternel, ouvert à tous ses amis du monde qui, dans cette épreuve, ont manifesté au pays sympathie et respect pour son courage, sa dignité, l’aide que chacun a apportée aux autres.
Pour se forger un nouveau cœur, un cœur de soleil, pour faire jaillir ces étincelles qui déjà vivent en eux, les Japonais lancent vers les hauts les flèches de leur imagination. Dans ce pays qui a reconnu l’immense gamme des émotions et des sentiments humains, les poètes suggèrent ce quelque chose qui vaut, ce quelque chose lourd de sens qui réside dans l’esprit même du peuple.
Peintres, sculpteurs, architectes, tous les artistes imaginent des visages qui peu à peu s’élèvent vers Ceci, soleil moral plus fort en fin de compte, plus noble assurément que la nature déchaînée.
Compositeurs et chorégraphes évoquent une sagesse où volonté et courage s’unissent à l’amour.
Penseurs, historiens, écrivains, journalistes, grands diffuseurs évoquent le passé. Au cours de son histoire, le Japon fut influencé tantôt par la Chine, tantôt par l’Occident. Mais aujourd’hui ces lieux se trouvent eux aussi à la recherche d’un sens, d’une formule d’existence. Par bonheur, le Japon lui-même peut concevoir des plans d’audace, un Ceci japonais.
Les spirituels, les sages, ceux qui méditent proposent leur expérience. Ceci signifiera selon chacun destinée spirituelle, force morale ou encore beauté, ces trois aspects étant, bien entendu, compatibles. Imaginer des sens, choisir un sens particulier, s’engager dans l’Aventure essentielle.
Enfin un appel est lancé, un appel solennel qui s’adresse aux responsables, aux dirigeants, aux décideurs pour apporter leur aide à un nouveau Japon.
Les Japonais considèrent le soleil librement, selon leur inspiration. Ils le questionnent de toutes les manières. Ils imaginent poétiquement ses réponses, ses énigmes, ses allusions. Du sens se met à vivre, il se creuse, s’étend librement. La valeur s’épanouit, lance des feux, devient lumière, lumière immense qui sublime toutes choses.
comprendre, cœur de soleil,
A Franco-Japanese at Home in Tokyo
I am now living in Minatoku, Tokyo, Japan since August 2012 and there is too much to tell. I have not even informed my friends abroad (nor many in Japan) of an address in Tokyo for the next four years nor of my presence, let alone had time to write or formally study Japanese. I hope you will forgive me.
Forgive me for this absence. It has taken me time to get settled and I have much to learn.
I begin again on the spirit or soul of the Japanese with Ishinomaki, in Miyagi Prefecture (Tohoku). I write about artists who through their work bring joy. They are many.
The town was devastated by the tsunami on March 11th. NHK has mentioned that the water overcame 46 percent of the city’s land which is not difficult to imagine when one watches this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBtRIRiTJqA .
An article in the Huffington Post co-authored by Tokyo based Robert Michael Poole states that more than 3,000 residents died and about that many remain missing as of a year ago.
We went up to Ishinomaki with my six-year-old daughter and many families from her school, TIS (Tokyo International School) as they had donated a Playground of Hope for the residents in a housing project. We took the Shinkansen past Fukushima (the stop at Fukushima seemed a bit odd – a deserted feel) and continued up north to Sendai. From there we took a 1 ½ hour bus ride.
Thanks to a year of fundraising by TIS (Tokyo International School) students, teachers and parents, Bita Alu, a parent and friend, had selected the NGO It’s Not Just Mud and been in contact with Michael Anop and Jamie El-Banna. The NGO is involved in several projects including building playgrounds, which bring a dash of color to temporary housing residences. The NGO is efficient, and no frills attached.
When Temporary is Childhood
Jamie from It’s Not Just Mud explained to me that it was difficult for the parents in this temporary residence as there were no places for children to play and often local or national organizations have not responded thinking it not a necessity to build a playground as the housing is temporary.
And yet, temporary housing here is estimated to be five years—a good part of youth for a child.
A Playground for Kids or Adults?
Jamie pointed out to me an old man with his grandson who had watched the playground being built since the beginning of the week. “He’s been here since the beginning,” Jamie says smiling. “I keep telling the man, ‘It’s for the kids!’ but he always returns!”
Black and White with a Touch of Yellow
When we got off the bus, the cold wind (strong enough to blow off a door of a car if left open according to one resident) added to a feeling that there was no natural warmth here. The trees which all had been destroyed by the tsunami created no front against the most chilling wind.
So when we approached the playground (and could only hear the cries and laughter of children) playing, the contrast with the scenery struck. The black and white photo suddenly had a small dab of yellow.
My daughter was a bit shy at first. She clung to me and even the clown, Supa Gajin, had a little difficulty initially warming her up (although after he had great success). And just as I was wondering what to do, a Japanese man from the town with the most expressive eyes came forward with his little dog, and suddenly the scenery had changed for her. The little dog, this Japanese man, and my daughter became friends. After a short while, my daughter played with the children in the playground.
I stood by and envied how children do not need to speak the same language.
A Place to Play
One resident told me that the children all went to different schools, and that to get to their schools they take different buses. So the children, despite they live in the same housing unit, never play together. Now they have a place to play and can make new friends. Now the parents can sleep a bit better at night in rooms too small for play.
A Place for Everyone
Another old woman told me she felt useless. That she could no longer clean clothes nor read given her age. I told her I felt lucky when I was with older people. There is a wisdom in age, that is more meaningful than any task we can accomplish.
A young man in his early twenties seemed lost and disoriented with nothing to do. I saw he had lost all his teeth and wondered how that happened. I went up to him and we spoke a bit. I gave him some models I brought. Something to occupy, one was of a Japanese temple — and that was the one he wanted. Perhaps he was telling me discreetly that we have succeeded in building houses, but forgotten the human spirit.
Just Like Us
There was a very nice father smiling with his child. A man with deep eyes, smart, and a feeling of warmth about him. He was watching the clown Supra Gajin with his child in his lap. He was just like us. But his wife was not with him and he lived here.
A Smile One Can Not Forget
There was a man who I did not speak to, but whose smile lit up the whole playground and miles around. I am told his name is Yamakami Katuyoshi, and he is the head of the housing association we visited.
He works freely and given his work is a full time job I wondered how he managed to feed himself or his family. Yamakumi’s smile was infectious, it never came off his face, not once.
Men with a spirit like this can change Japan.
When A Smile Lasts
There was a man, a clown, who I met, an artist by the name of Gaetano Totaro, who is known as SupaGaijin the smile ambassador. I had heard of him before from my son’s school BST (through Helen O’Brien who runs BTT Bridge to Tohoku) and has done wonders with children.
BTT has supported the smile ambassador’s work in Tohoku by helping him pay expenses (he gives his own time freely). Unlike many others who first came to this region, Gaetano returned over and over building a relationship with children – a lasting smile.
A Clown who Doesn’t Clown Around
This clown who was trained at Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey’s Clown College had a way of bridging barriers amongst children. By using familiar objects such as an umbrella, which could be found even in temporary housing, he encouraged children to use their imagination and to begin a road to recovery.
I thought, I want to do something with this clown, this artist of great imagination.
When we departed, my daughter had made a new Japanese friend — a girl with the greatest smile. The two girls didn’t want to separate. As soon as my daughter got in the bus, she opened the window. The Japanese girl ran to the bus and through that small window, the two girls held hands. Surely, they were not saying goodbye.
There is nothing Fun about surviving and yet Joy
I am told that there is a difference in Japan between “tanoshimu” and “yorokobu.” The laughter–a deep kind– that lasts—is of the latter. It is caused not by fleeting entertainment, but by the deep smile of a Mr. Yamakami and by true friendship offered to us so freely by the Japanese we met in Ishinomaki. We have much to learn from you.
Thank you. We will return.
A VIDEO OF OUR VISIT ISHINOMAKI
Kenzaburo Oe, “Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself,” Gallimard, 1995. BOOK REVIEW
For the purpose of artists working together to incite Japan’s imagination on a new Japan, see the About section of this website.
What follows in this blog entry are thoughts and questions for Japanese artists and citizens that stem from Kenzaburo Oe’s book “Japan the Ambiguous, and Myself,” and from thinking about a new philosophy in face of crisis with Dr. Paul Briot. All opinions are errors are mine.
The questions in this review concern the soul of Japan as defined by Murasaki shikibu (and not Japanese nationalists), the “ambiguity” of that soul and Japan’s capacity to use the March 11th disaster for fundamental change.
Reflection & Question 1: Can we use March 11th to envision a Japan with the comprehension, sensitivity and imagination of Murasaki shikibu?
If I understand correctly Kenzaburo Oe’s book, “Japan, the ambiguous, and myself,” in 1945 Japan did not utilize the crisis to define itself it a large humanist sense—in the same manner that the noted woman writer Murasaki shikibu, the author of “The Tale of Genji,” might have inspired us to do so by her work.
The soul of Japan, a term originally used by Murasaki shikibu, was instead utilized by Japanese nationalists during WWII as a vulgar slogan of war, and forgot its initial vast definition formulated by this great lady of Japanese literature. Comprehension, sensitivity and imagination have not yet taken root in our world still today. Is it not the moment now, one year after the March 11th crisis to accomplish what we Japanese did not know how to do in 1945?
Reflection & Question 2 : If knowledge is critical to create a new Japan, is there a knowledge which stands above technology, efficiency or even the great classics of Chinese writings?
In Kenzaburo Oe’s book , « Japan, the ambiguous, and myself, » he explains that without « knowledge,” the Japanese soul could not function. He mentions that the Japanese have throughout history at times inspired themselves with a Chinese knowledge, and at times from a knowledge emanating from the West. They have nevertheless not come any closer to their own soul as a result.
I agree, however, I wonder if the Japanese direction remains ambiguous in part, because we Japanese have not yet understood the definition of knowledge itself?
Is there not a knowledge that is above technology, above efficiency or even the great classics of Chinese writings? I cannot help but wonder if the definition we are looking for is not simply a comprehension or knowledge of ourselves and the meaning of life. A basic knowledge: that the Japanese and all human beings share a common humanity and a recognition that we Japanese must act with full understanding of this knowledge.
Reflection and Question 3: What is the nature of a “Japanese soul”?
Murasaki shikibu spoke of a Japanese soul to designate a Japanese specificity or something common to the Japanese. In effect, although nations can be considered fictions or constructions of man and history, they each have their own energy or creativity; an imagination inspired by a collection of individuals. Each nation has its own specificity, which needs not be eliminated nor made to resemble all other people nor all other nations. In this sense our specificity if kept both noble and tolerant is a strength to inspire and share freely with others.
Kenzaburo Oe in this book says this well when he says that the understanding of a Japanese soul as defined by Murasaki shikibu has nothing fanatic or intolerant. Rather it is both “gentle and human”; it comes from certitude of men capable of doubting.” But we Japanese went astray. During World War II those who tried to define a Japanese specificity contented themselves with the definition of a traditional culture whose center was the emperor. No one could question such a sun, embodied by the emperor, and defined by the militarists themselves.
I cannot help but wonder if there was not a time in Japanese history where the sun itself was above even the Emperor? The Emperor and most Japanese, agreeing that the sun is humanist, would encourage each of us to question a tolerant sun in full freedom.
And if the sun encourages us to question itself, if it embodies full freedom, who is anyone to speak for the sun or for each other? I believe that Japan today is ready for a tolerant and humanist sun; its own “Hikari” a light capable both of inspiring, doubting and transforming.
To envision a humanist sun, I would like here to quote and encourage artists to discuss and interpret artistic propositions by Paul Briot found in Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…? Here are two beautiful ones, there are of course many possible others.
FACES OF SUNS
A field of sunflowers, moving sculptures. The flowers converse, look after one another, bow in all directions. Eyelids of suns. Us.
–Paul Briot, 2004, Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers
Noble suns move forward masked. At rare intervals, their veils part, announcing radical changes. Time, the intermittent revolutionary.
–Paul Briot, 2004, Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers
Reflection et Question 4 : Will the healing power of art transform Japan from within?
In Kenzaburo Oe’s book, he states that he believes in the curious power of the healing of art. His writing is art, an art that inspires. In the letter Dr. Paul Briot and I have written entitled Letter to Japanese friends, we too think that art heals and transforms. That is that art can share an experience which words cannot. I have put on this site artistic propositions to encourage artists to interpret them and propose their own, ones that can be shared freely with all the Japanese.
My question to artists is how can artists inspire more comprehension, compassion, liberation, and realization through their art? Can we the Japanese, with as strong tradition of inner art, create a radiant art that inspires and transforms as Dr. Paul Briot suggests? In Kenzaburo Oe’s future novel, will such an imagination succeed in having us go out once again to see the stars? When will we go out and experience this together?
Reflection and Question 5 : Is there such a thing as a moral sun?
Kenzaburo Oe mentions Natsume Soseki’ book « And Then » written in 1909. He tells us how Daisuke, the main character, evokes the difficulty of finding an equilibrium between a “vital desire” (such as the endless desire for the consumption of goods) and a “moral desire.”
In the novel, Daisuke believed that Japan could first grow by responding to its vital desire, an economy equivalent to that of the West, and only in this manner afterwards acquire a moral desire. After 1945 this was the path taken by Japan, but today after the “accident” of Fukushima Kenzaburo Oe seems to suggest by his activism and words that we are indeed asking ourselves the same questions as 1945.
I think that we Japanese can exit from an ambiguous Japan and create a new one, and in so doing, come nearer to our own soul as described by Murasaki-shikibu. For this to occur, one path may be for artists and citizens to experience this moral force through transformative art that lifts us far above March 11th.
How will Japanese artists help define the nature of a Japanese soul, as possibly intended by the great work of Murasaki shikibu? How will the Japanese people experience such art and use this crisis to transform their country from within and inspire us all?
I read the book in French but comment and quote here in English. All errors are mine. I am not yet able to read the original texts in Japanese. As such I remain limited, I ask to be corrected and quoted only in English to avoid any misunderstandings. Japanese themselves, with a knowledge far beyond mine, can engage in a more profound discussion. Indeed, I have much to learn from many.
The purpose of this site is to stir the imagination and examine current views of Japanese artists in a variety of fields (Japanese writers, Japanese composers, Japanese sculptors, Japanese painters, Japanese historians, Japanese intellectuals, Japanese poets, Japanese architects, Japanese film producers, Japanese choreographers and others) on using the 2011 Tohoku earthquake to define a New Japan. The objective is to explore a Japanese understanding, philosophy or existential experience in face of natural and man-made crisis (the earthquake, tsunami & the Japan nuclear power plant). Together, we wish to define a vision for Japan in positive terms that can lead to greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization.
Japanese Art & Culture can Stir New Vision of Humanity
The website presents a letter to the Japanese people with a vision of how artists and individual citizens could together define a new vision for Japan. It will include a commentary on artists, works, or individuals who are moving Japan in a positive direction. In the future, we will also post interviews with key individuals in Japanese art, culture, and society who wish to discuss a positive vision for Japan and incite both the old and young to act. We will include examples of artistic propositions to be interpreted freely by Japanese artists which could incite the imagination of the Japanese. Finally, to help individual Japanese citizens use the crisis as a means for greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization, we will post articles about a psychology of crisis, balance and building meaning in our everyday lives.
A Call to the Japanese and to Each Other : The World’s Most Valuable Asset in a Time of Crisis
Efforts by the Japanese to use crisis as an opportunity to define itself in positive terms could inspire other nations in a difficult international context to ask important questions during their own economic, natural, or man-made crisis– each with respect to their own traditions, culture and specificity. In that sense, the articles on this site has relevance to other countries or continents such as the U.S. or Europe which also face crisis. How individuals and societies collectively chose to respond to crisis and emerge beyond a previous understanding can and should be explored together.
Opinions Mentioned on the Website
All errors are mine and I ask indulgence. The website is the first step in an investigation to explore a possible philosophy or understanding in the face of crisis, and is by no means conclusive. Each individual who is interviewed on this site is not responsible for the views of all others on this site nor does that individual embrace a common philosophy or message. Likewise, commentaries posted on this site are the sole opinion of the author of each article. Dr. Paul Briot and I can have different opinions and unless stated in this blog that we sign something together, the opinion is mine. There are of course many other valid perspectives to be considered. Differences of opinions are encouraged. Naturally, the response of a few individuals does not constitute the whole. And yet, it may be sufficient to stir the imagination.
About the Author of the Blog, Leiko Ishizuka
Copyright © 2012 Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka
Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka reserves the right to be recognised as the author of her writings contained in this blog, under copyright law.
Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka, a Franco-Japanese from New York, sees hope for Japan
Born of a French mother and Japanese father but raised in New York, Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka is of three cultures. Today, due to the Japanese crisis, she desires to return to Japan and be with the Japanese people. She, her husband, and her two young children (5 and 7) are hoping to make that possible as of September 2012.
Seishin Joshi Gakuin: A traditional Japan
At age 16, Nathalie enrolled as the first high school student from the United States to attend the all-Japanese traditional girl school, Seishin Joshi Gakuin. There in the most traditional of Japanese schools, Leiko was initiated to the Japanese language, Japanese mythology, and Japanese brush painting during a four month exchange.
Mitsubishi Communications: A Peek at Office Life
A following short summer internship at Mitsubishi Communications, gave her a peek into Japanese office life. Like the Belgian author Amelie Nothomb in Stupeur and Tremblements Nathalie Ishizuka served tea in the morning, arrived early, and spent much of her day asking how she might be of use.
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution : Original Research
At age 22, Nathalie Ishizuka wrote a 240 page Summa Cum Laude thesis at Amherst College on Article 9 of the 1946 Japanese Constitution. She received the Doshisha Asian Studies Award and written praise from Colonel Charles Kades, one of the Constitution’s founding fathers. Ishizuka was fortunate to benefit from Kades’ guidance as well as input from Professor Ray Moore, Professor Donald Robinson, Jim Sutherland, and Terusuke Terada.
Keio University: A Struggle with Language
Nathalie attended Keio for a six month exchange to better speak the language.
Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy: Psychology and International Affairs
While at the Fletcher School, Ishizuka wrote “Lessons from Preventive Health to Preventive Diplomacy,” winning an Eisaku Sato Memorial Essay Award. Ishizuka was invited to the U.N. University in Tokyo. During this time she also applied a hypothesis about how the affect fear influences economics and went to Berkeley for a year to work with Oliver Williamson (Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2009) to explore a paper she had presented at the Academy of Management.
Returning to Japan to be with the Japanese
Today at age 42, Nathalie Ishizuka wishes to return to Japan in a sign of solidarity with the Japanese people. She hopes to work with writers, thinkers, artists, deciders and those who hold the Japanese traditions and spirit dear.
While Nathalie’s own father’s mentor, Dr. Taro Takemi, a long time President of the Japanese Medical Association, had once told her father, Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, “Not to return to Japan,” because the future was the West, Nathalie Ishizuka believes this is no longer true. She and Dr. Paul Briot, a Belgian essayist, see great hope in Japan.
They will share their optimism with their Japanese friends in an article they wish to publish in Japanese print in the next few months.
The World’s Most Valuable Asset in a Time of Crisis
Letter to Japanese Friends
Dr. Paul Briot and I (Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka) believe that to rebuild Japan will require a magnificent and strong morale made of comprehension, of compassion, beauty and all the pacific values of the great Japanese culture. In that respect, Japanese artists, writers, thinkers and the youth have an essential task to realize.
It is with great modesty that Paul and I wish to address in the months to come a letter to our Japanese friends and in so doing share our own optimism for Japan. We believe that Japan thanks to this crisis will rise again. Not uniquely in an economic or political sense, but in a morale, aesthetic, existential or spiritual sense.
Should the Japanese collectively, and individually, emerge from this crisis with greater comprehension, compassion, liberation, and realization they could initiate changes in society far beyond a previous balance.
If successful, the Japanese could go as far as stiring the imagination of other nations on how to face and successfully overcome natural and man-made crisis, each freely with respect to their own culture, specificity and individual differences.
Brief Background Description of Authors of the Letter:
Paul Briot, Ph.d in Philosophy, Professor at the Faculty of Comparative Religion, Antwerp (F.V.G.), Belgium. Author of poetic essays, articles and books on the subject of the utilization of crisis, sincerity, artistic creation, and the clarity of objectives. Recent books include Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…? (The Radiant…An Art towards the Infinite?) 2004, Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers. La Structuration de l’existence, (The Structure of Existence) Charleroi, Editions du Centre universitaires (Cunic), 1989.
Nathalie Leiko Ishizuka
Nathalie Ishizuka studied Japanese at Keio University, M.A.L.D. Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (administered in cooperation with Harvard), M.B.A. from HEC, Paris. Her 240 page summa cum laude thesis on Article 9 of the 1946 Japanese Constitution and UN peacekeeping received written praise from Colonel Charles Kades, one of the Constitution’s founding fathers. Ishizuka currently writes on the use of crisis as an opportunity to build individual and national health for the Positive Mental Health Foundation. She is also the author of this blog inviting Japanese artists and citizens to imagine a new Japan.
Japanese Art & Artists: What will the works of Japanese Artists Invite us to Dream About?
If certain artistic masterpieces can be understood from the aspect of wisdom, what do the works of Japanese artists invite us to dream about? How did the Japan tsunami, the Japan earthquake, and the Japan nuclear meltdown change Japan? Are we about to discover something more important than technology and economic efficiency as the central motor of our civilization? This section of the site will analyze or comment on the works of artists who inspire.
We will include here examples of artistic propositions to be interpreted freely by Japanese artists which could incite the imagination of the Japanese. We encourage artists to make new suggestions. We suggest that any ideas used be appropriately cited to the authors to empower and continue to inspire. We encourage all artists to tell us about any interpretations so we can share their work with others.
Examples of propositions for artists to interpret freely (painting, sculpting, dance, multi-media or other) are included here from Paul Briot. They are published in, Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…? (The Radiant…An Art towards the Infinite…?) 2004, 2017 Editions Caractères, Collections : Cahiers & Cahiers
FACES OF SUNS
A field of sunflowers, moving sculptures. The flowers converse, look after one another, bow in all directions. Eyelids of suns. Us.
–Paul Briot, Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…?
A PURPLE CLOUD
A purple cloud condenses into a rain of ideas.
–Paul Briot, Le rayonnant…un art vers l’Infini…?
Ready Made Links to Beyond Our Best
A blog on Re-inventing Ourselves Silently: Body, Mind and Spirit