Thoughts on Memorial Day



Every year, Memorial day reminds me of my mom's daddy, who was, of course, my grandfather.


My father's side of ancestors were Buddhist ministers from generation to generation, but my grandpa was a captain of the Japanese army who was once an enemy of the United States, as you know.


What a great liberty, freedom, and tolerance this country have!    Of course, it's been nearly 70 years since war ended and I even don't know the war, but I'm grateful for this country which accepted old enemy's grandson as a permanent resident and his great-grandchildren are Americans.  

At the same time,  I am sorry for what Japanese did during the war.   However, I deeply believe I wouldn't be born without that tragedy of war.  In a sense, it was "the war" that gave me "a life."


The following story was what I heard from my mom.  My grandpa passed away in 1988.  He didn't talk about the war much but the one thing he was always saying was, "I have to pray for soldiers."

He left this word to my mom and later he asked me, too when I was able to chant the sutras.   He was sorry for the soldiers who died of war, especially for his many men who died near the Truk Island.  


According to my mom, the Japanese occupied Truk Island was attacked by U.S.  and my grandpa was on one of the battle? ships . Then it received U.S. torpedo missiles and quickly sunk.   Many men died of the attack, however, my grandpa was one of a few miraculous survivors of the boat, though he was deeply injured.   I didn't realize it when he was alive, but after he died, my mom told me the scar on his face was from that injury.


She also told me my grandpa saw "the hell" during the war.   He saw the soldiers who died of hungers and fevers (malaria?).  Before they died, they were dreaming of eating white hot rice.   He also saw some soldiers committed suicide by jumping from the cliff to the ocean at the ending of war.


But the most shocking event for him was, he found his beloved daughter who was my mom's older sister,  died when he came back to his home after the war.   


 So when my mom was born after the war,  it's not so difficult to imagine, his love toward his daughter was really something.   He had treasured my mom.   She also loved father very much since he was gentle and kind.


However, there was one thing my mom didn't like.  That was marriage.  It was not my mom but  my grandpa who liked my father.    The reason why my grandpa liked my father was because he was a Jodo Shu Buddhist priest.   That was all.  He didn't investigate what was he like.  He trusted the fact my father was a minister.   My grandpa seemed to feel it was destiny for his daughter to get married with a priest so that they would continue to pray for the dead soldiers.     


Honestly speaking, I don't know how to comment this fact.   It was lucky for his father since he was allowed to get married to a smart and pretty lady who WAS my mom.  This means, I should be lucky, too.   Without his being lucky, I wouldn't be born.    But, poor mom!   She was enforced to get married with someone she didn't like.   

Besides, all of a sudden, she had to move far from her home and live in the temple.   Just a simple life has become a religious life.  Objectively, I feel sorry for my mom, but because of this marriage, my brother was born, and later, I was born.  So was my sister.


One time, I heard my grandpa was very proud of my father who went to officiate the memorial service for  the dead soldiers in Truk Islands with grandpa's group in 1970's.   This was what my grandpa wanted to do after the war but his feelings of sorry for soldiers never ended.   He continued his prayer every day and after he passed away, my mom took over the prayer every day.   I have joined her in prayer for soldiers.


I remember when I chanted sutra in front of my grandpa, he looked very peaceful and said, "Kosen, will you continue to pray for soldiers."


My answer was, of course, "Yes, I promise I will pray for them."   

I haven't broken the promise yet.  But my answer has been different since I came to Hawaii.  

My answer is both "Yes and No."    I don't want to pray only for my grandpa's men and friends, but I do want to pray for all the people who died.  It doesn't matter whether he or she or Japanese or American or because of war or not.   I am praying for all the dead people since I am mindful of countless lives.  

I am truly grateful I received my life because of sacrifices and loss of countless lives, which I want to mean "Amida Buddha."

Thank you Amida Buddha.  Thank you all the soldiers.  Thank you every living things. 

I hope you have a happy memorial day.  Namu Amida Butsu.

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Colleen (Saturday, 07 June 2014 17:51)

    I wish this post could be printed in a newspaper or magazine. Just the idea of your parents coming from such opposing backgrounds (in theory, war and peace) is provoking. Your grandfather's obsession with praying for his soldiers shows what character and heart he had.

    It is too easy for people to judge their "enemies" as bad. We should all do the more difficult, which is acknowledging that our cultures differ, but underneath we are all human.

    Thank you for such an inspiring and thought-provoking post!