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About the Book       

About Suzuki Roshi    

WITH THREE MEMBERS OF THE TAKAKUSAYAMAKAI (Yasumasa Amada, Yasuo Suetsune, Sadayoshi Asaoka), Hoitsu Suzuki, and Mitsu Suzuki. Interviewed by DC in Yaizu, Japan, April, 1994.

The Takakusayamakai is the High Grass Mountain Group. Takakusayama is the name of the mountain that Rinsoin is at the base of. Itís not a high mountain I donít think, but the Japanese call practically anything that goes up higher "yama," so it can be a hill or a mountain. Kai means group. The Takakusayamakai is an informal name for the former students of Shunryu Suzuki's who lived at his temple during the war. This is the first in a series of interviews with three of them. Unfortunately, the translators didn't identify who was speaking. At times I could remember or was pretty sure who was talking and identified them. Fred Harriman has listened to much of these tapes and written a report on them for me which I will put on later. He says the tapes need to be retranslated more carefully with consistent methodology. There is a lot of untranslated and summarized material. And in these transcripts there are some errors. Fred says there's nothing revealed to contradict what's in Crooked Cucumber, but that for the sake of the archive it would be best. It would be pretty expensive to do. When writing Crooked Cucumber I relied on these transcripts, on my memories of the conversations (much of which I understood), on unrecorded conversations, on other sources for the same areas of information (such as Shunryu Suzuki's lectures and memories of what he said, and other interviews in Japan), and I frequently called up Hoitsu Suzuki and asked him questions. I am interested in doing (or getting done by others) some follow-up interviews with some of these people and their fellow members of the Takakusayamakai.

The [?] mark is anything I think should be looked into. Sometimes it means "What does this mean?" and sometimes it means "Look into this further." Most of those things were looked into.--DC


[This brief tape, recorded in a moving car, is particularly difficult to understand.--DC]

[who was saying what wasn't always marked. Amada talks the most.]

-- He was honest and determined. In a discussion, if we thought something needed to be done, he did it.

-- The biggest influence I received from Shunryu-san was his way of living. He was sincere and unaffected.

-- He was enthusiastic about Zen.

-- I saw Kishizawa-roshi many times, too. He wrote many books and was the teacher of the Kancho[?] of Eiheiji.

-- Amada has studied a lot about Zen. He has read the Shobogenzo.

Amada: Kishizawa-roshi kindly came and gave us a lecture on Shobogenzo.

Hoitsu: I met Kishizawa-roshi when I was twelve. He was the abbot of Gyokuden'in.

[more on Kishizawa]

Amada: He used special terminology which was difficult for us to understand. Zen is difficult to understand. He taught us Kyoiku-chokugo[?] first. Then Shishobo[?]. Then he stopped, saying that was enough for us as we were not learning to be monks. He gave lectures for a large audience in Shizuoka City, though. He did it as a practice of ofuse (offering). He would say things like "cook soft foods for the elderly." Elderly people were pleased to hear such a talk. Tens of people turned up to listen to his talk. He gave talks in a private house, not in a temple. We got to know about his talks through Shunryu-san. He must have been looking after Gyokuden'in financially.

Every time I went to Gyokuden'in I got scolded by Kishizawa-roshi. It didn't seem fair (as I took the trouble of going there only to get scolded). He would abruptly tell me I wasn't using my brains enough. So I would piss on the fence of Gyokuden'in before entering the temple in order not to be overwhelmed by him. But I got put down every time.

The abbot of Gyokuden'in before Kishizawa-roshi said jokingly that he and his family had been kicked out of the temple by Kishizawa-roshi. It seemed Kishizawa had put down that abbot down from time to time.

The nun there was good. Her name was Jikai[?]. She would treat us to food such as sobagaki[?] when we came out of Kishizawa-roshi's room, having got scolded. He would scold us for not thinking well enough or not speaking politely enough.

Gempo Yamamoto[?] roshi of Ryutakuji in Mishima (in Shizuoka Prefecture) [?that's Rinzai - Nakagawa Soen's temple. Check on this - SR did say that he studied with a Rinzai teacher for a while.--DC] . I think Shunryu-san studied under Gempo-roshi as well. [If that's true it's a pretty big deal. Edo-roshi loved the idea as you'll see in his upcoming interview. But I wasn't certain enough of it to put it in Crooked Cucumber.--DC] Empress Teimei [?]was a lay disciple of his. Kantaro Suzuki[?] turned to Gempo-roshi for advice too. [Must put Kaz Tanahashi's article about Gempo in the Wind Bell on here.--DC]

Gempo-roshi said to him, "Japan is an ozeki (sumo wrestler of the second highest rank). When we lose, we should lose with good grace." It was great encouragement for Kantaro Suzuki.

Gempo-roshi committed suicide, so to speak. He lived to the age of over 100. He was getting too weak to go to the bathroom by himself. Also he had lost his sight. He said Zen monks knew when to die and starved himself to death.

Gempo-roshi was a strong monk, as strong as Kishizawa-roshi. Gempo-roshi even went on a walking pilgrimage of visiting 88 temples in Shikoku island (hachijuhakkasho-meguri ohenro in Shingon school tradition) toward the end of his life - before he lost his sight. He died in Showa 33 or 34 probably. I'm 70 now.

[R II D-2 ][Leave the car, go into Mitsu Suzuki's daughter's house]

-- Kozuki wrote about you in the column, "Kokoro no furusato" in the Nikkei Newspaper. Do you remember? [? we've got this]

Mitsu: No I don't. (looking at photos of Shunryu in the States.)

Shunryu was sent to Sokoji to become the abbot there by Shumucho. Sokoji is 60 years old this year.

-- I heard Zen was very popular among hippies in the states. Free thinkers like Zen which teaches non-attachment?

Hoitsu: When we think of hippies we think of some stereotyped image of them. But among real hippies there were literary people like novelists and poets. Intellectuals first became interested in Zen. There were other types of people as well, though.

-- Perhaps Hojo's emphasis on one's life appealed to them.

Mitsu: When I asked Richard Baker what he liked about Shunryu, he said he liked Shunryu because he was "yokuganai" (disinterested, indifferent to worldly gain, unselfish) and never criticized other religions, saying he hadn't studied other religions.

Hoitsu: One day, Shunryu went to Shumucho on business. There he was asked if he would like to go to the States to succeed the abbotship of a temple for Japanese there since he spoke some English. The then abbot of the temple was wanting to return to Japan.

Mitsu: He first turned down the request as he had about 400 danka to look after.

-- It is my assumption that Kishizawa-roshi recommended Shunryu to be abbot of Sokoji.

Hoitsu: It was after Kishizawa-roshi's death. I was 12 or 13 when he died.

-- Kishizawa-roshi may have scolded Shunryu-san a lot, but I think Kishizawa-roshi appreciated Shunryu-san's worth. Perhaps that was why Kishizawa-roshi taught us in a strict and vigorous way.

Mitsu: At the service of the third anniversary of Shunryu's death, tears ran down my cheeks because I was so happy to see all these people practicing well, having overcome the sadness of his death three years ago. They loved him dearly and cried so hard when he died.

Soon after the service was over, David came around to my room and said, "Why are you weeping? I don't weep. I would weep if I hadn't met Suzuki-roshi in my life. But I have, so I don't weep." I told him I was weeping because I was happy.

-- Americans are always Americans. "The child is father of the man." (Mitsugo no tamashii hyakumade.)

Mitsu: It was rather that America was fit for Shunryu than that he was fit for America. He said Americans absorbed Zen much more quickly than Japanese did because Americans realize the reality of life and death quite clearly, while death is a taboo to Japanese. The question of life and death is the core of Buddhism, you see. Japanese believe in impurity around death. On the other hand, Americans know what is living will die, with no exception. Doctors tell you if you have cancer in the States.

Shunryu said, "I find it easy to live here as people here are very sincere and honest. Once they have made up their mind to study and practice with me as their teacher, they trust me wholeheartedly. They would even jump down from a roof willingly if I tell them to. So, you (Okusan) should be careful about what you say about me. You sometimes say, "Why isn't he back yet? It's already time for dinner." in Japanese. You know they (people at Zen Center) understand what you say. You talk to me like a kindergarten teacher to a child. You should talk to me with more respect." So another day I spoke to him extremely politely and he said I was making him uneasy.

[a lot cut out here and moved to Mitsu file]

At the ceremony of the anniversary of his death each year in the Buddha Hall, they said something to him. They asked me to do so as well, so I said I'd always be honest, or I'd not be able to be with you after I died. Honesty was very important to him. He was a monk through and through.

-- There are few real monks nowadays. [?typical comment for Shunryuís time as well as now.]

Mitsu: While Hoitsu gives brilliant dharma talks[?] easy to understand and absorb, he said very little about Buddhism. One day I asked him to tell me what Buddhism was all about in a few words because I knew very little of Buddhism, being a Christian.

He said, "Well, accept what is there as it is and help/let it be its best." (Arumono wa arugamama ni ukeirete yori yoku ikashiteikukoto.)

Another day I asked him what was gained from zazen, as I wouldn't like to do zazen for no purpose, although I knew one shouldn't ask such a question. He said, "The practice of zazen makes you capable of dealing with the situation when something happens in the best way, on the spot."

These two things were all he said to me about Buddhism. He wouldn't sit around after dinner. I asked him to have a chat with me. He said he had no time for such a thing. I asked him what it was that he thought about all the time. He said, "Zen in America."

-- He never preached to us, either.

[Mitsu part cut here and moved]

-- [?]Talking about their school.

[Mitsu part cut here and moved]


Mitsu: Shunryu found it unbearable to see soldiers who were staying in Rinsoin during the war making merry every night.

Amada: We discussed in this very room what must be done for peace [?] for which we could risk our lives. But those soldiers took over the room. [the room to the far end of the temple that overlooks Shunryu's garden].

Mitsu: Shunryu couldn't stand it. That's why he set out for the Tohoku [a northern region--no other mention of him going there--DC] region to recite sutras at homes of war-bereaved families there.

Shunryu went to Manchuria, too, to offer prayers for those who had died there during the war. The Shumucho sent a priest there every year, but no one was willing to go there toward the end of the war, so he volunteered to go.

Amada: I was expelled from the Military Academy, not because I had said Japan should take political and economic measures for peace (although I couldn't say Japan should surrender), but because my health had deteriorated. It was to this temple I returned from there, and it was Shunryu-san I turned to for advice.

What I said to him was that peace negotiations had to be held, and the only possible and prospective negotiator seemed to be Shokaiseki[?] of China because he was an Oriental like us, even though Japan had done terrible things to the Chinese people.

I was supposed to go to China before the end of the war. If the war hadn't ended then and I had gone to China to see Shokaiseki [?], I might well have been killed there without achieving my goal.

This book by Takagi[?] explains how things were in those days.

Young people like us were distressed. Shunryu-san, a priest, was distressed also. He disliked the navy officers.

[Suetsune talks about SF and Tass - not translated - is he the one who went there? Maybe should ask him about it.]

Suetsune: I lived in this room for a year when I was a student of Shizuoka Senior High School, [Showa?] 18 to 19. Shunryu-san put me up on condition that I did zazen every morning (5:00-6:00 a.m.). Then we had breakfast and left for school.

We entered the senior high school at the age of 18 and became soldiers at 20. I lived in a dormitory for the first year and then moved here.

Shunryu-san hit the "han" at 5:00 a.m. to wake me. There was an old caretaker too. It was a 30-minute train ride to Shizuoka. From there the walk to school was thirty minutes.

Kozuki[?] can't come here today since he is ill. A message from him. "Shunryu-san never said what we should do nor what we should not do. He never preached. He set good examples by his own attitude and conduct. When we asked him a question, his answer was very brief, simple, and clear. He never explained wordily. I admire him for those reasons."

How we came to gather at Rinsoin. An elder brother of a friend of ours[?] was a graduate of Shizuoka High School and a student of Tokyo University then. Hishinakama[?] started a zazen meeting with his friend Shibazaki[?], also a graduate of Shizuoka High School and a student of Tokyo University then. I was asked to join them. It was before I entered a high school.

They chose this temple because Harada[?], their junior, living in Yaizu, recommended it to them. The meeting I attended extended for 4 days or one week.

The first meeting they held was at Sotokuin[?] a Soto temple] in Okitsu east of Shizuoka City.

Harada became the Minister of Construction in the Kaifu Cabinet.[? must talk to him]

He is Shunryu-san's disciple who has reached the highest social position.

Shibazaki became director of the Tokyo bureau of MITI. His last job was as the vice president of All Japan Gas Company Association (Suetsune's English translation).[?must talk to him]

-- Shunryu-san was an "advisor" for Nishisakamoto [?where Rinsoin is?] village at that time. He did physical labor too. He fixed the creek[?] and the fence [around Rinsoin?]. He was repairing the zendo for local young people to do zazen there.

But Korean laborers came to stay at the zendo before he finished repairing it. They were brought from Korea by force and made to work in a factory instead of becoming soldiers.

-- No, it was the navy men who stayed at the zendo [?]after the war[? maybe they both did at different times].

Amada: I said to Shunryu-san about the necessity to go to China for peace negotiations, and he himself went to Manchuria later on toward the end of the war. It seems we (Shunryu-san and our group) influenced one another.

(This statement was corrected at tape counter #094 as it was found Shunryu had gone to Manchuria before he met Amada for the first time in May 1945.)

-- A couple of officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs watched over the Korean laborers staying at Rinsoin. Not all the time, though. They worked from 8:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the evening. Worked in shifts of 8 hours, maybe. Their schedule was not as strict as that of soldiers.

-- Some facilities for communication were set up on top of Mount Takakusa. That's why Rinsoin was occupied by navy men.

Shunryu-san and his family were able to use only a part of the kuri (the residential part for a priest's family in a temple).

Amada: Both Shunryu-san and his wife abhorred the navy men. They valued us extremely. We had the ability to control ourselves, but the navy officers were very selfish and arrogant.

His wife once said that we (Amada and his friends) were spiritually superior to the navy officers. They would demand food with no consideration for other people's share, would strike their men, and would not make themselves helpful to people at Rinsoin in any way. Such behavior is unacceptable in Buddhism and disgusted Shunryu-san and his wife.

-- In the Army, officers struck their men with their leather mule[?] while in the Navy officers struck their men with a stick.

Amada: Other members of our group included Takahashi[?], Genjiro Fukuhara[?], Taro Kondo who was killed in war, a younger brother of Nishinakama's, a younger brother of mine (Hiroshi Amada)[?], Utagawa[?], and Masamori[?]. There were many others[?]. We were more than ten. The first time we gathered here at Rinsoin was in 1942, a year before we entered Shizuoka High School.

Mitsu: Shunryu had had an aversion to war always.

Mitsu: Shunryu returned from Manchuria by the last repatriation ship [?when]. He said he had had a strong feeling like the ringing of a bell that that ship was going to be the last one. If he hadn't taken that ship, he wouldn't have been able to come back to Japan.

Amada: Was it before I met him?

Mitsu: Must be.

Amada: We must have had similar thoughts, then.

Mitsu: It may have been the protection of Buddha that he was so urged to take that ship. Taro Kato, who had been practicing under Shunryu here as a young man then and became mayor of Shimada City later on, went to and came back from Manchuria with Shunryu[? good lord - where is he?].

Shunryu went there to offer prayers for the souls of Japanese people who had died there. He did so at the request of Shumucho (the general office of Soto school). He was the last priest to go on that mission.

Amada: Did your (Suetsune's) father ask Major General Takagi to your house to meet me?

Suetsune: It was Nishinakama. He wanted to reorganize our group after the war. Takagi-san was the Chief Cabinet Secretary then. Nishinakama wanted the group to discuss what we should do after we graduated from the university for the future of Japan with Takagi-san.

Amada: My guess is Major General Takagi gave advice to Prince Takamatsu.

Suetsune: Prince Takamatsu was the highest-ranked figure who worked to end the war. He personally asked the Emperor to surrender. So Nishinakama tried to make the connection with Prince Takamatsu and Takagi-san was the person who would act between them.

Suetsune: What Nishinakama thought before this movement was that young Japanese like us should be sent to China to live and work as civilians, not soldiers, in rural districts in China in order to deal with the economic problems.

Amada: He went to inspect China. Seeing the situation was far more critical, he came back right away.

Suetsune: He had connections with Manchurian Railway and Korean Railway. He got to know the president of Korean Railway through Kon Shincho[?] the novelist.

Amada: Kon Shincho made arrangements for me to go to China to appeal to Shokaiseki for peace negotiations.

Mitsu: Shunryu said he had come to think that way (the importance of peace) after studying under Kishizawa-roshi.[? no kidding?]

-- In 1942 Nishinakama and Shunryu-san met here through the arrangement of Harada[?] who became the Minister of Construction and sat in zazen with other young Japanese men here before I started high school.

Mitsu: Nishinakama-san already had interest in Zen before he started his study group at Rinsoin.

Amada: When I happened to be here I was asked by Shunryu to help him fill out a questionnaire in English. It was a questionnaire which GHQ sent out to those who acted prominently during the war, like heads of self-governing bodies. GHQ used the returned statements to decide who to "expel" (from their social positions). People like government officials and school principals and company directors were expelled.[? it was Amada, not Hoitsu who did that - want to know more.]

-- Shunryu was not expelled.

Almost every man was drafted by the end of the war. Buddhist priests as well as men over 40 were drafted to work in factories.

Amada: An official in the prefectural office knew about Shunryu and told the office not to draft him.[?]

Mitsu: Perhaps it was Isobe[?], I would imagine.

Amada: There was someone influential in the prefectural office who recognized Shunryu as an important person capable of helping inhabitants in his village.

Mitsu: When right after the end of the war villagers tried to bury the stone monument of the war dead which had been standing in the playground of a local elementary school, Shunryu brought it here and it's still standing upright. Now local people come to offer prayers to the monument.

He could have been arrested then, but he said he wouldn't let a monument of those who had served the nation be buried, even if he were to be arrested. He did it on his own without hesitation.

-- Everyone was afraid of GHQ before they came. They would hide lists (of the war dead?). But GHQ didn't do what Japanese were afraid they might do.

Amada: The control of speech and writing was not so strict in Japan. [? during the war I think]

Mitsu: We thought military policemen would get us in no time if we said something against the nation.

Amada: But I wasn't killed for saying Japan was losing at the Military Academy. Left-wingers have said they had had such a hard time during the war. But I think it's megalomania[?]. There was quite a bit of freedom of speech in Japan during the war.

-- Perhaps our gathering here gave other people the impression that Shunryu was organizing some movement as there were very few young men to be seen generally during the war. Young men were drafted.

-- Shunryu supported us, especially because Shunryu and Nishinakama found themselves kindred spirits.[?]

-- There were very few people who thought the war was wrong at that time in Japan.

-- Nishinakama contrived an idea of a sort of peace corps to live and work together with local people in the rural areas of China in order to revive its economy, though it may seem a bit self-righteous from the viewpoints of today. It may have been seen by the Chinese people as an invasion by the Japanese. But when he returned from his inspection tour in China, he was well aware of the coming defeat of Japan and advised Japanese officers that Japan should give the States a blow big enough to make the States start peace negotiations with Japan.

Mitsu: Shunryu sent his students at Zen Center who didn't want to go to the Vietnam War to Eiheiji[?I think she means Tassajara]. But his son, Otohiro, volunteered for military service in Vietnam, believing it was for peace. When he came back in three years (he voluntarily extended for one year) he wouldn't talk about it at all. He experienced himself how much American soldiers were abhorred by the Vietnamese.

I think Nishinakama's case was the same as Otohiro's. They went in high spirits with their splendid ideals and came back with different views and attitudes after seeing the reality.

My first husband did 58 air raids. I wrote him letters saying "There are families of soldiers who are waiting for their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers to come back from the battlefields, just like I'm waiting for you. So please don't drop bombs on houses. Drop them on rice fields just enough to startle raccoon dogs [tanushi]." He wrote back to me saying what I asked him was quite a tall order. At the memorial service of the fiftieth anniversary of his death, one of his relatives asked me if I really wrote such a thing. Such a peace-loving disposition of mine might have been one of the reasons for Shunryu to choose me as his wife.

Amada: Nishinakama asked for my younger brother's photo when he died and always carried it with him. Shunryu-san recited sutras for my brother as well. They showed their affection to him and regret at the loss of a hopeful young comrade of ours very clearly. [?name]

Mitsu: Shunryu told me to call Rinsoin soon after he died to let the members of this group know it. He must have kept the bond with you all.

I gave a watch to one of Otohiro's children before I left the States, saying he should take good care of it as it was the second watch such that the members of this group had given to his grandfather. I had the first watch fixed and it's still ticking on my desk.

-- It was not that we were not able to speak about peace, as it was officially said that we were fighting for peace. But it was difficult to say the war should be ended straightaway.

Nishinakama and Shunryu-san talked with us about what we may nowadays call "peace corps" instead of soldiers should be sent to the rural areas in China to work there for peace. After coming back from China, Nishinakama gave us facts of Japan's losing battles to make us realize the reality, even though he didn't say anything against the military. He must have had Major General Takagi[?] behind him. [proof? Papers?]

Takagi-san wrote a book during the war giving evidence of battles Japan had lost, when nobody else dared to talk about them and the public was kept ignorant of them. [name?]


Hoitsu - I heard from my father that he was about to be "expelled" so he went to GHQ and protested to them both verbally and with a paper. [here he says so]

- [?find out who - probably Amada] I remember helping him fill out a questionnaire in English. GHQ sent copies of this questionnaire to all prominent people in Japan to "expel" those who had been actively involving themselves with the militarism.

-- He didn't even wear a militia uniform.

Mitsu: I think it's because he spoke English when not many would speak it.

Amada: We have to be careful about the difference in viewing the peace issue between Americans and us. American people have a very simplistic attitude toward issues of justice/injustice, freedom/control, and democracy. Situation should be seen in perspective. For example, Americans protested so vigorously when the Tienamin Square incident broke out. But Japanese wouldn't protest so far as to try to overthrow the Chinese government as we could see the necessity of governmental control to a certain extent in order to keep the country together. Fairness should not be judged for the sake of fairness. Consideration of the whole system is important. We were able to sympathize with the Chinese government in some aspects because we have also struggled to reconstruct our country after the war and have learned the complexities of society. Sometimes freedom doesn't necessarily lead to freedom. Certain controls may be necessary for freedom. Situations are different from country to country. In China and India about 90% of people are starved [bullshit]. The Government has to feed them. For this there has to be a certain control. The ideals of the States do not necessarily apply to other countries. In America the primary importance is laid on human rights.

Hoitsu: My father may have been different, but not special.

Amada: But in fact he was great. Even when he was leaving here to become jushoku in Sokoji, how many people gathered here. That many people used to come here to get some advice from him. He was a "real" monk. Very rare. [yes, how many?]

Hoitsu: When I hear about him from many different people, none of them really points out any specific outstanding characteristics. It wasn't something prominent. It was more like his innate nature coming from his presence. That was what attracted so many people. Like fragrance.

Amada: Well, I don't think that was the only things about him. I think it was his "real" way of life. In the temple also, not only this Okusan who thinks highly of him, but his ex-wife also really respected him. So, too, the grandmother. She used to call him "Hojo-sama." This is rare in a family. And even Harada-san[?] (a politician) had a very friendly relationship with Hojo-san, though I personally have my own opinion about Harada-san as a politician. This is also rare. Kishizawa-roshi, though he was very strict, had a high estimate of him as well.

Hoitsu: When people were asked what they learned from Suzuki they couldn't tell what they got from him. So what was good about him was his personality/characteristics. I don't think he ever taught anything specific.

Mitsu: We sensed something by seeing his way of life.

He didn't drink alcohol at all. When he was offered a drink he always made me accept the offer. That's how I became something of a drinker. He was a great singer, though. Good at knowing directions too. If he went somewhere once, he would know its location. When he was trying to find a place in Tassajara he went so many places.

Amada: Oh, he was so kind.


-- He completely accepted wild young people of this group. He had "bottomless" compassion - profundity.

Amada: When I was told to come over here to talk about Hojo-san (Shunryu), I wanted to come here, then Asaoka called and said he also wanted to come. All of us wanted to. This place is, borrowing Kozuki's words, our "kokoro no furusato."

Amada: We all wanted to be just and right. He led us to righteousness so well. All my friends from the group have become first-class. Nishinakama as a private secretary [to?] negotiated with the States to agree on no reparations from Japan to them[?]. Shibazaki[?] was the chief of the economy planning section of the headquarters for the economic stability plan. Three or four of about ten staff of the section were ex-members of Takakusayama Group. They were Shibazaki, Shozo Harada (now a member of the National Diet), and Shigeo Nishinakama (Masao Nishinakama's younger brother). Shigeo Kozuki was in another section of the national policy making after the war. Asaoka has worked all over the world. Suetsune, too. I have worked in a manufacturer.[?find out more]

(Talking about American characteristics.)

Hoitsu: My father often said it was easier for those from Jewish background to understand Buddhism than for those from Christian background, as followers have direct connection with God in Judaism, while there is a mediator, Christ, between followers and God in Christianity. It must be easy for Jewish people to understand Amidism especially. There are quite a few Jewish people at Zen Center.

-- There are lots of personality qualities common between Jewish people and Japanese people.

-- But Jewish people's feelings and senses are beyond the imagination of Japanese.

(Talking about Jewish/Judaism.)

D - Why did Hojo-san go to Chugoku?

Mitsu: Shunryu went to Manchuria because no other Soto priests volunteered to go there to officiate memorial services for Japanese who had died there. It was a request from Shumucho.[?on record?]

Hoitsu: What I heard from my father was he had gone there to found a branch temple of Rinsoin.

Mitsu: It was impossible to do such a thing during the war. We should ask Taro Kato.[?talk to Taro Kato?]

-- [?who] We intended to emigrate to China. I wanted to be drafted in China if I had to be drafted at all, and wanted to be killed in China. We had a plan to build a village "Aigo-son" (there are some Japanese characters here, on p. 32[?of what] - love, protect, village) in China somewhere on the Manchuria railway.

Mitsu: He had always wanted to go to the States since he had been a junior high school student. That's why he studied English very hard. He thought Buddhism should be taught in the States.

Hoitsu: I've heard he used to make bold statements when he was a child. For example, he said he was going to lay a railway up to the top of Mount Hiratsuka and build a zoo there.

Mitsu: He was a lot like me, then. I was told by my cousin that she had known since I was three that I was not going to spend all of my life in Japan.

Amada: Shunryu was not thinking much about China during the war [?].

Mitsu: It was Shunryu, as a college student then, who fervently cheered Daito[?] Suzuki-roshi who went to Los Angeles. He went to see the roshi off at Yokohama port with "burning emotions." [?] And the first funeral he officiated at Sokoji was that of Daito-roshi. Roshi had been working as a sokan[?] in Los Angeles.

-- The first time I attended the meeting organized by Nishinakama and Shibazaki was at a temple in Okitsu near Shimiza, which was Shibazaki's homeland.[?]

-- Nishinakama's father was a section chief (Tokko Kacho) of the Metropolitan Police Department [Tokyo?]. He "suppressed" the left wingers. He was already retired when we met him at his home.

Amada: It was he who stopped the general office to use Nishinakama and me to go ahead with our plan of guerrilla fighting against GHQ. If it had not been for him, we might have been executed as war criminals. Ha-ha-ha!

(They continue to talk about Nishinakama in the incidents during the war/end of war.[? should be translated])

-- During the war navy soldiers stayed in Rinsoin. Hojo-san and his ex-wife hated them.

Hoitsu: People were attracted to Shunryu by his personality rather than a specific quality of him. And I think that is the most convincing thing. It seems Americans understand this.

-- What were you taught by Shunryu?

D - Ordinary people are the Buddha. Ordinary life is enlightenment.

[Mitsu cut]

Amada: Hojo was for me a teacher and a friend. We wanted to say thank you for taking care of him till the last minute.

[Mitsu cut]


Amada: It's just occurred to me the biggest thing I've learned from Shunryu is that we should mind what we say and also what we do. He never explained this in words, but it was the most important teaching he gave me, I think.

(Mitsu Leaves)

-- People younger than us, about 18, e.g., Kato Mochizuki were here after the war. Ichiro Sasaki. Suzuki. Okubo. Masamori, now a member of the Diet (a Communist Party member), lawyer.[?]

-- Shunryu's ex-wife and their children were all admirable. Especially Yasuko-san has supported Shunryu tremendously. Shunryu's mother (he means mother-in-law, I think) was splendid too.

-- Takakusajuku. Shunryu taught young people at Rinsoin after the war, from 1946-1951[? More - diff between it and the kai].

-- He was 22 when he entered Komazawa University. A few years older than the normal age to enter a college. (18?)

-- Kaisei Chugakko for junior high school education. Komazawa Yoka (junior college?) for senior high school education. Komazawa Daigaku for college education. Perhaps?

-- Kishizawa-roshi used his influence secretly for Shunryu's shinsanshiki (inauguration ceremony) in Showa 22.[?how so]

-- Shunryu had won credit in Buddhist circles for his achievements as a Zen priest. Kishizawa supported Shunryu greatly. Kishizawa had high opinions of Shunryu.

-- Rinsoin is a prestigious temple with a long history. Must be over 50 to become the abbot there [?]. Shunryu was 35 or 36 then. Kishizawa recommended him to Eiheiji for the abbotship of Rinsoin.

Hoitsu: There was a group of dankas who strongly objected the appointment of Shunryu to the abbotship.

-- He looked like an ordinary man. But you could see he was profoundly knowledgeable when you heard him talk.

An old caretaker of Zoun'in[?] used to try to scare Shunryu with ghost stories about a fox, etc. when Shunryu was a boy. "Some white thing flickering in the Buddha Hall . . ." Shunryu told the old man there was a white thing flickering in the Buddha Hall as the old man often said, and ran to the Buddha Hall. Then he waved a bamboo branch with a white cloth tied to it, which he had made. The old man got petrified. He couldn't stand up. Shunryu never believed in superstitions. A section in Shobogenzo tells not to believe in superstitions (Shinpen no maki). He taught us even such a thing not in words but by his own acts.

He was "real" (realistic?) since he had been a child.

-- One day when I stayed here with Kozuki [?], [?Suzuki] brought two chawan (ceramic tea bowls) and said that I could take one I liked. So I took the one which looked better and Kozuki took the other. But the one Kozuki took was better quality.

-- Shunryu said how to distinguish a good chawan from a lower quality one was to see the inside of it. A good one looked larger inside than the actual size.

-- I returned (from the army?) in May, Showa 20. I came to see Shunryu at Rinsoin for advice for my future. There were navy people staying in Shuzaryo[?] in Rinsoin. I slept in another room. The futon was of the highest quality. Shunryu and his wife treated me very kindly. I was moved by their kindness. He never told me what to do even at a critical time. But he was considerate of other people's feelings and situations, and treated them well.

-- He seldom scolded others.

-- [? Who] I don't remember Shunryu correcting my chanting of the Heart Sutra. But he stopped a monk (who was staying here at that time) chanting and made him start again. Shunryu did so over and over again. The monk was the one who killed his wife. He was around 30.

-- Two young monks came here to study under Shunryu after the war. I was here, too, having returned from my military service in China. I talked with the young monks often. One of them had been a shonen kokuhei (boy pilot in the air force?). Both of them quit practice. They wanted to work in a factory as they could be well-paid there. I saw them again some time later. They said they should have stayed in Rinsoin and should have become priests.

-- After the war, there were always 4 or 5 young people of about 20 staying at Rinsoin. Shunryu's good nature was well-known. Influential people in this area sent their sons or daughters to Rinsoin for cultivation of their minds. [is this the juku? More on this?]

Taro Kato[?], present mayor of Fujieda City, was sent to Rinsoin by his father who was a member of the Diet there. Taro was 17 or 18. A spoilt brat, then. A son of the deputy mayor was once here too [?].

-- Shunryu was asked by Kishizawa-roshi to take care of a monk who was uncontrollably violent. Shunryu declined the request at first, as he didn't think he could be a teacher to a monk. But Kishizawa asked again, and Shunryu agreed to take him.

I heard Shunryu correcting the monk's chanting and making him practice it over and over every morning.

One day (March 25th, 1952), the monk was smoking and puffing out the smoke at the dog Shunryu's family had. Shunryu's wife reproved him. He flared up and attacked her with a hatchet which happened to be there. She was killed. Shunryu though he had overestimated his own ability, and that he should have put the monk in more able hands. He said he was to blame. I read about this in the paper (Shizuoka Shinbun)[?]. When I rushed to Rinsoin, Shunryu told me he had been making his wife do what even he was not capable of doing. He was blaming himself. The monk killed the dog, too, didn't he?

Part of Shunryu's remains were put in the family tomb where the remains of Shunryu's ex-wife had been put, by the will of Shunryu[?]. There are a tomb of Shunryu's mother, a tomb of Hoitsu's younger sister, and the ancestral tomb of the Suzuki family.[?]

The monk must have been mentally unbalanced.

-- He moved garden stones around and cleaned the pond in the temple ground. He would scoop mud out from the pond as it got muddy from time to time.

Early in May, frogs come down from the higher part of the mountain and lay eggs in the pond. The pond became full of frog eggs and in a while full of tadpoles. Then, tiny frogs were all over the place. In a couple of days they went into the mountain. I can now see he cleaned the pond for those frogs. We helped him clean the pond.

-- I'm obliged to Shunryu's ex-wife for taking care of me while I was staying at Rinsoin. She washed my clothes for me. She was fair in complexion. Hoitsu took after her. His daughters are fair, too. Mitsu-san looks a bit like her. When I first met Mitsu-san I thought she resembled Shunryu's ex-wife and wondered if she was Shunryu's ex-wife's younger sister. Both are round-faced.

-- Shunryu, while he was in Japan, didn't explain about Zen in words. I think his students at Zen Center are very fortunate. He taught them Buddhism from its rudiments in a simple and systematic way. He would answer as many questions as they asked. He played the role which only high-ranked priests and great teachers like Kishizawa-roshi are allowed to and are capable of playing in Japan. Very few priests in Japan give systematic lectures, especially in the Soto tradition. Also, the use of the English language must have made him express in a more clear-cut way. We prefer things unsaid in Japanese conversations.

In Soto school, priests say, "Do zazen," "do cleaning," "arrange your shoes when you have taken them off" (Kyakka shoko, mind own footing), and so on. They tell you quite rigorously how to deal with daily matters, but do not teach you doctrines, generally speaking.

-- William-san in robe was in Rinsoin. He chanted a sutra after Shunryu. The first American Buddhist to visit Rinsoin.[?]Bill McNeil?]

The doctrine of Soto must be the hardest to understand of all Buddhist doctrines. It's very philosophical. I asked Shunryu if Soto Zen was understandable to Americans even though it was hard for us Japanese to understand. He said, "Well, yes. They understand what I mean."

-- Philosophically speaking, "action" and "behavior" are most important in Soto Zen. The second importance is "word." In the U.S. Shunryu talked about what he didn't and wouldn't in Japan.

-- Shunryu had been respected in Japan before, during, and after the war -- all through.

-- Shunryu was a spiritual teacher[?] (shukyoka) in the broadest sense. He had versatile tastes. Influential people frequented Rinsoin. He would invite artists[? Who? What about the photographer?] to Rinsoin and people interested in art would gather, talk, and draw with the artist there. He was a good calligrapher, too. Very cultured. He had an eye for the beautiful (shinbigan) - like in pottery and landscape gardening.

He was an educator of young men and women, too, though he didn't tell about it to others.[?]

Young women [?find them] practiced sutra chanting and traditional Japanese dance here.

One summer Shunryu took groups of those young people to climb Mount Fuji.[? I have photo]

-- When people's thoughts were confined within their own villages, Shunryu went out everywhere lightheartedly -- to Mount Fuji, to Tokyo, and so on.

-- He thought globally [specific examples? - always, specific examples]. Was suitable to go to the States. Was knowledgeable and open-minded. Was open to anyone.

-- Some Zen priests get pretty narrow-minded after practicing vigorously. But Shunryu was never stern like them -- except to his own children, I hear.

-- Asaoka. Iím 69 years old.

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