The Austin Regional Japanese Speech Contest was hosted and sponsored by the Japan- America Society of Greater Austin (JASGA), and co-sponsored by the Austin ISD and Asahi Imports, in cooperation with the Japan-America Societies of Texas and the Consulate-General of Japan at Houston.
JASGA hosted the event, an opportunity to hear Elizabeth Andoh talk about her new book, KIBŌ (Brimming with Hope): Recipes & Stories from Japan's Tohoku and sample a few (vegan) tidbits featured in KIBŌ and prepared by the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts.
Black belts from Sun Dragon Martial Arts and Self Defense presented a demonstration of the traditional Japanese Seido Karate style. The demonstration included formal kata, defenses against knives, and tameshi-wari (breaking). Participants also enjoyed the opportunity to learn some basic techniques.
Jim Yatsu got connected with a great team of volunteers in Japan that made it possible for him to visit Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the most heavily affected areas in Tohoku and saw the area and people 3 times in the past year. It was one thing to see the progress, or the lack of, on the media and another to see it for yourself. He shared his experience volunteering in Ishinomaki and described the conditions there and its suburbs, and the activities (or the lack of ) towards long term recovery of the areas.
May has just started. We hope you enjoy this beatiful weekend.
Today is the last day of "Golden Week" in Japan.
Many Japanese workers get about a week off around the end of April and beginning of May. This is because there is cluster of national holidays during this time from April 29th to May 5th.
Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day)
May 5th is Children's Day (こどもの日 - Kodomo no Hi), a Japanese national holiday. It is a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was designated a national holiday by the Japanese government in 1948.
While it is a holiday for children in general, it is primarily for boys. Girls have a day of their own on the 3rd of March called Hina Matsuri.
Children's Day is a Japanese boy's festival and is a day to pray for the healthy growth of boys. It is Japanese tradition for families with boys to display carp streamers (koinobori) outside their houses around this holiday. Carp are believed to symbolize successes in children's lives, and by displaying koinobori it is hoped to bring boys of the family future success and luck. Samurai dolls called gogatsu ningyo (May Dolls) are also put on display in homes
Another tradition is the offering of kashiwa-mochi, a rice cake stuffed with bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf, which is also a symbol of strength. Iris flowers also bloom during this time, and are placed in the home to ward off evil.
Returned / Renewed Members
Steve Portnoy Pam Farley
Jizo Wasan (Jizo Hymn)
Tomio Yamakoshi Petrosky
Center for Complex Quantum Systems
The University of Texas at Austin
April 20, 2012
We are coming closer to May 5th, which is a special holiday for the children of Japan. Three years ago, I wrote about this holiday in JASGA and talked about the Japanese carp streamer and its relation to Shintoism. In this essay I will introduce a story involving children and Japanese Buddhism.
In every religion, one can find a favorite story for children. For example, in Western culture every child is told about Santa Claus during Christmas. In Buddhism, there is a special Buddha named Jizo. You can find many stone statues of Jizo on the street corners in Japan. The following is a story about Jizo from the Edo period (1603 ~ 1868).
One day in a village, children were playing with a statue of Jizo. They tied up Jizo with a long rope. A boy sat on Jizo while other boys pulled them on a slope. One adult man saw them and scolded the boys. That night, the man had a nightmare. Jizo appeared in his dream, and said "What an outrageous fellow you are! Everybody knows that I am a guardian deity of children. Yesterday I played with the boys, and I was enjoying myself very much. You should not rebuke their behavior when they are playing with me." The next day the man told this story to the adults in the village. After that, no one blamed the children's behavior, and all children grew in good health in the village.
Of course, all religions concern death. When a child dies, every parent hopes their child will go on to have a peaceful life in the other world. Jizo plays a special role in this. There is a sad but beautiful hymn about Jizo. This hymn is attributed to have been written by the Buddhist monk, Kuya, in the 10th century and was first translated into English by Lafcadio Hearn in 1894. Hearn is also known by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo. Hearn was an international writer known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories in his book, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.
Below is the English translation of a poem written by Kuya: "Jizo Wasan [Hymn]: The Legend of the Humming of the Sai-no-Kawara."
Not of this world is the story of sorrow.
The story of the Sai-no-Kawara,
At the roots of the Mountain of Shide;
Not of this world is the tale; yet 'tis most pitiful to hear.
For together in the Sai-no-Kawara are assembled
Children of tender age in multitude,
Infants but two or three years old,
Infants of four or five, infants of less than ten:
In the Sai-no-Kawara are they gathered together.
And the voice of their longing for their parents,
The voice of their crying for their mothers and their fathers -- "Chichi koishi! Haha koishi!" --
Is never as the voice of the crying of children in this world,
But a crying so pitiful to hear
That the sound of it would pierce through flesh and bone.
And sorrowful indeed the task which they perform.
Gathering the stones of the bed of the river,
Therewith to heap the tower of prayers.
Saying prayers for the happiness of father, they heap the first tower;
Saying prayers for the happiness of mother, they heap the second tower;
Saying prayers for their brothers, their sisters, and all whom they loved at home, they heap the third tower.
Such, by day, are their pitiful diversions.
But ever as the sun begins to sink below the horizon,
Then do the Oni, the demons of the hells, appear,
And say to them:
What is this that you do here?
Lo! your parents still living in the Shaba-world
Take no thought of pious offering or holy work
They do nought but mourn for you from the morning unto the evening.
Oh, how pitiful! alas! how unmerciful!
Verily the cause of the pains that you suffer
Is only the mourning, the lamentation of your parents.
And saying also, "Blame never us!"
The demons cast down the heaped-up towers,
They dash the stones down with their clubs of iron.
But lo! the teacher Jizo appears.
All gently he comes, and says to the weeping infants:
Be not afraid, dears! be never fearful!
Poor little souls, your lives were brief indeed!
Too soon you were forced to make the weary journey to the Meido,
The long journey to the region of the dead!
Trust to me! I am your father and mother in the Meido,
Father of all children in the region of the dead.
And he folds the skirt of his shining robe about them;
So graciously takes he pity on the infants.
To those who cannot walk he stretches forth his strong shakujo;
And he pets the little ones, caresses them, takes them to his loving bosom
So graciously he takes pity on the infants.