|About the Book
About Suzuki Roshi
OTOHIRO SUZUKI, Shunryu Suzuki's youngest son.
[Otohiro Suzuki has lived in San Francisco a long time. In this interview he remembers his father. He was a lot of help to me and he and his wife, Mitsuyo, always took time to answer questions I had from time to time. They have been involved in the Japanese tourist business in San Francisco for some years and now run a business called Skyline Coach Inc. They have two children, Takako, a daughter born in '76, and a son named Kazuto born in '70. This interview was done at their home in about 1996--DC]
DC: Tell me about Philip Wilson.
O: [In Japan--1964 or 1965] I went to pachinko. All of a sudden -- two guys ask Wilson for passport. The police. He didn't have it. He didn't want to lose it so he left it at home. They took him to the station. He was so mad.
DC: That's unusual.
O: (I don't understand the accent so much). . . .Shimizu close to it . . . Couldn't go back. Can we go back and get it? He says, no. . . . I wonder where Philip is at now.
DC: I came in '66. You came in '61 or '62. Do you remember when you came? This says June 13, 1961. Is that the day you arrived?
DC: So in '61 you were 17 years old.
O: Close to 18. Jeanette taught me. I was going to high school. She was helping me graduate from high school.
DC: So Jeanette was a student at Zen Center?
O: At the same time Philip was there. There was another girl called Annie, Arnie, or something. He was deaf. That's the time that Bill Kwong was there. I asked Bill Kwong about Jeanette. He doesn't know either. She's from Los Angeles.
DC: People don't necessarily go back to where they're from. Was Jeanette your tutor?
O: Yes, she used to tutor just about every day.
DC: You came in '61. You hadn't seen your father in two years?
O: No, three years.
DC: He came in May of '59.
O: I remember the day -- he got on a flight with the DC-6. Propeller-type small plane. Stopped in Hawaii. He was wearing a koromo. I remember that. The Narita Airport [impossible - wasn’t built yet]. International airport. I'm positive.
DC: How did you feel?
O: I was 14 - 15 years old. I didn't have a mother. I had a grandmother. She actually raised me. He was going to America. Wow. I didn't have much idea. He was going far away.
DC: Did you have some sense that he knew what he was doing? for a reason?
O: I didn't know what he want to do. I didn't have any idea what he wants to do. When you get to a certain age yourself then you know what you want to do. But at a young age, you don't know.
DC: Did you have any resentment? Were you angry at him for leaving?
O: No. I don't have any angry to it. But he's going pretty far away. I was going to go along with my everyday life. I was youngest child. I didn't have a mother to take care of me. My grandmother spoiled me actually. Her name was Kinu. Muramatsu Kinu.
DC: After your mother died she took care of you.
O: All of our family actually. She was a stubborn person. She was strict. She know she go wrong. After we get grown up we find out she knows. She knows everything what's going on. She was a very kind person. . . . made me a person I guess. My father respected her a lot.
DC: What was his relationship with her like?
O: I don't know. I was very young. I don't know what kind of conversations they had. He respected her. When I got here my father used to tell me about my grandmother.
DC: You came over with Mitsu. Did you know her very well by then?
O: She was my kindergarten principal. Did I know her well? No. Not well.
DC: She never lived at Rinso-in. When Shunryu married Mitsu were you surprised?
O: No I guess not. My grandmother told me something. It was her idea.
DC: That's what Hoitsu says.
O: Mitsu says that. So that's what happened. Why they got married? I guess my father knew her a long time.
DC: From the late forties. She knew your mother too. The reasons Japanese people get married are so different from here. In terms of writing a book, I can't just say . . .
O: I guess the way you put your mind to it.
DC: Anyway, you came to America. What was it like for you coming to San Francisco in 1961? Were you 10th grade?
O: I should be going to graduate in high school. 17, going to 18. You should be younger, or older.
DC: That's difficult. In Japan what were you like as a student? Were you studious?
O: No I was not. I guess my grandmother said, "I can't take care of him. You'd better take him to America." I think she said that.
DC: She didn't want to worry about your taking all these tests to get into college.
O: Not only that Probably she thought she fail at my future if I stay in Japan. Not good for me.
DC: So you roll the dice and go to America. Do you think she thought it would also be good for you to be near your father?
O: Probably. My thought is it changed my life. Did I want to come? Actually it's not my wish, I think. It's more like I didn't have much choice. I couldn't make the choice. At that stage you can't make up your mind. I wasn't afraid to come to America. But I was apprehensive. When I got here, coming from Shizuoka . . . all my friends were there. All of a sudden it changes. I never never disagree with my father's thoughts about me. I agree to it. I accept that. But it was hard to get to my ordinary life. Couldn't get . . . wave of my life.
DC: Did you have trouble adapting?
O: Living, I guess. I used to live in the top of Sokoji. If you're looking at the building, it's the right side, top, on the back side of it it had an attic. The bed was there. If you call it a room, it was there. I had a bed. For how many months.
DC: Six months to a year you stayed in Sokoji. Above the office?
O: Right above the office.
DC: I've never been there but I'm going to go look. Do you want to come with me?
DC: I want to spend time there so I can describe it. I've never been upstairs. Shunryu and Mitsu lived up there. And you. And then you moved across the street?
O: Right. An apartment across the street. I guess Sokoji was paying for it. Yeah, I liked that. Actually the room itself was not even like this. Very small room. My father had a small room on top of the office. The stairs comes up and right hand side as you go up there's an attic there with a bed. I stayed there. Mitsu stayed with Shunryu in the other room. Just for sleeping. Living room was downstairs. And kitchen, and zendo, and office. That's our living room.
DC: Did you enter into the 12th grade? How was it?
O: I don't know what's going on. I couldn't even talk. There was a Japanese friend. Hanayama(?) Shinto [shinshu]. At Pine and Octavia there's a temple.
DC: Shinshu. So you went to school with the son of the Shinshu priest?
O: He still is a friend of mine.. . . (break) . . . In that time there weren't so many young Japanese living in United States. So we made a group. Zenukai. Lasted about 3 years or so. That helped me. Helped a lot of people. 20 or 30 people.
DC: All of you were from Japan.
O: Originally from Japan. Having get together. Related to Sokoji. The idea came from my father. my parents. The idea, the go-ahead, came from them. We met once a week.
DC: Did you graduate from high school?
O: Yeah. Jeanette helped me a lot to graduate.
DC: Seems impossible -- to come from Japan --
O: I was a shy person anyway. Went to City College for about a year. Then to barber school. I got the license. The war started. Went to army. Four years later. '66. Five years later. Four years after I got here I went back to Japan. Then came back to United States. I was in Japan for about 3 months or so. This wasn't my father's idea. I guess I have that same philosophy. Do whatever you want to do. . . . have a conversation, make sure that his mind isn't set. What he has. Whatever he wants to do his mind is set. It will change of course. I guess he thought about me -- just do whatever you want to do. He didn't talk too much to me. But he had a hold onto the string -- couldn't get away. If I do something wrong he just pulled.
DC: You came in '61. You graduated from high school in '63.
O: '63. I was 18, close to 19. Took me 2 years to graduate.
DC: One year would be impossible. What did you do then?
O: Then I went to City College for one year. I knew I would have a hard time. After a year I decided to become barber. Barber school for about 6 months or so. Then I got the degree. I think that was my mother (Mitsu's) idea. I worked about a year or so. There was a barber shop on First Street between Mission and Market. They were pretty good to me. After about 6 months or so I decided to go back to Japan. I saved up. And went back. I guess my father was helping me. I took about $1000 with me. I didn't have enough money there. So I asked them to send some money to me. I don't know how much exactly. Probably '65. Then I came back.
DC: So you went there in '65. Why did you leave Japan? Were you uncomfortable? Was there nothing you wanted to do? You wanted the freedom you had here?
O: No, it's not that type of thing. More like -- I should come back. It's not duty, I just thought I should. Then I came back. . . . After that I went back to the barber shop for two months or so. I knew then that Vietnam War started going on, that I'm going to get drafted. I might as well go. I cannot stand waiting. My feeling is not settled. I might as well go. I went into the Army.
DC: Did Mitsu or Shunryu have anything to say about this? Did they encourage you? Was this all your idea.
O: Most likely. Do whatever you want. Go ahead. They didn't encourage me. I decided. . . . feeling toward the other person. Even my father. I guess when I came back from basic training, then I had one month leave. Come home for one month. Basic training was three months. Tassajara was born then.
DC: You went to Japan in '65. Do you remember what month?
O: Probably March. Then I came back close to summer. Then worked for 2 months in the barbershop. Joined the Army around October of '65. September or October. Could be '66, I'm not sure.
DC: I came to Zen Center in '66, and I have some memory of your joining the army.
O: It could have been '66. So I might be at the barber shop -- no, it has to be a couple months. Anyway, after basic training -- Tassajara. This is a very -- twenty percent of my life is conjoined by that. By what happened at Tassajara. He took me to Tassajara, up and down the hill. I was supposed to leave after a couple of days. I was supposed to go back to San Francisco. I remember my father telling me, Oh by the way, if you want to stay at Tassajara, you have to do tangaryo. What is that? Oh, just staying --
DC: This is '67. There was no one at Tassajara until '67. We bought Tassajara in December '66. I was one of the first people that went there. I went there in February '67. Do you remember if you went there in the summer, spring, fall?
O: It wasn't cold.
DC: There was no tangaryo until the summer of '67. First tangaryo was maybe June '67, maybe May. I think you were there in the fall, September '67. Does that sound possible? Sometime in the summer?
O: I came out of the Army in '69. I was three years in the army. '67, '68 I was in Vietnam. I went to Vietnam in September or October.
DC: So in the summer or spring of '67 you came to Tassajara.
O: I was in Washington one year before then.
DC: We'll figure the dates out later.
O: Anyway, it was pretty warm. I stayed 3 days of tangaryo. I never thought I would stay in one room, it was that hard. And also, cleaning the bathroom is that much pleasure to me. That experience was very -- I guess it helped me a lot. Very important experience.
DC: Influential, pivotal.
O: No more human being that live -- you cannot look success -- you cannot look dream -- cannot chase a dream -- whatever you have here you have a lot of pleasure in side here in that small room -- 6 hours a day or 7 hours a day -- it's boring and everything -- all you have is half an hour a day that's very pleasure there.
DC: After Tassajara, you went back into the Army. At Tassajara what work did you do?
O: I don't know what I did.
DC: Then you went to the army. Where did you go?
O: Did I go back to Washington? I was in Washington for basic training, Washington state. Then I came back, went to Tassajara. Or I came for about a couple weeks, went back to Washington, I got ordered to go to Vietnam. I got one months off. That's the time I went to Tassajara maybe. I forget. Probably if I went October or November to Vietnam. . . . I fixed trucks, tanks (I was a barber too). Helping with welding. Welding not so hard in the Army. You've seen the guys do it and you just copy. Sometimes you take a truck and transfer all the people. I was there a year. I was in the army three years. One year in Washington, basic training 3 months. Vietnam one year. Came back. Virginia one year. No, I didn't sign up for an extra year. You sign up for three years.
DC: I didn't go in the army. I convinced them I was too crazy.
O: Then I got out and went to Japan. Then San Francisco. I lived downtown in an apartment. I couldn't take that . . . (not hearing so well something about 18 years.
DC: You got out of the army in 1970?
O: '69. I was with Japan Air lines 18 years.
DC: I went to Japan in '88. That was not so long ago.
O: When I got out of the Army, my father was sick.
DC: He got sick a lot in '69, '70, '71. In '70 he had an operation. But he got a flu in '69, like three months he was sick.
O: I was finding where I go. After I got out of the army, everybody did that at that time. After service you've got to find a way to --
DC: More servicemen killed themselves than died in the war. Tremendous trouble adjusting, and drugs. A lot of people came back from Vietnam smoking marijuana, but a lot of people came back taking heroin. Heroin use in America increased a lot because of the Vietnam war. Did you have a hard time in Vietnam? Were you in any combat?
O: Everything was combat.
DC: Where were you stationed?
O: Called Ju-Lai. It's about, I don't know how many miles from a Danang.
DC: You left before Tet.
O: Yeah. When I left it was October or November, around there. That year, the next January, got a (?) in Jul-Lai.
DC: How did that change you?
O: Quite a bit. But I'm not sure.
DC: I have many friends who were in Vietnam who were very affected.
O: It could be where I am now could be affected, but I don't think so. My parents -- . . . made me a human being. I don't know why. I think it could be -- I would say it did. It wasn't a hard time. Why is this happening to me? Why -- so good to me? Why -- so pleasant to me? What is this? I feel good about this. Why is this?
DC: It was like your rite of passage. Sometimes the American Indians would go spend three days in the woods. So then you came back and started working for Japan Air Lines. Then your father died pretty soon. Do you remember anything in that period? Before he died?
O: I was too busy then in my life. I got married in '70. My father date of death and my wife's date of birth were the same. My mother, my real mother, date of death was my brother's wife's birthday. Coincidence.
DC: Yasuko told me.
O: Somebody was telling me, you guys are going to forget the day of my birth, the day of my death. You going to bury her.
DC: It's important to remember your wife's birthday. My wife's birthday is so important to her.
O: . . . Two days before that (before he passed away) I say I'm going to stay here. He's going to pass away pretty soon.
DC: You stayed with him the last two days?
(End of Side A)
DC: He dies in the morning of the last day.
O: That night . . . (hard to hear) . . .My hand was (?). My father grabbed it. And the heart would start beating hard. . . . The breath was short. Calm down. Take a big breath. slow, slow. Was taking a bath. And he was going real fast. (breathes) He was copying me. Calm down (inaudible) . . . That night . . . he grabbed my hand. . . . going fast . . . calm down . . . I laid him down on the bed. I called my mother. . . . My father said call Baker Roshi . . .And all the people came. . . .In a couple of hours he died. That was the morning.
DC: Baker came. Who else?
O: I don't know how many people. Three or four people I think.
DC: Mitsu, Dick, Yvonne --
O: I don't know Yvonne. I was out of it. . . . (inaudible) . . . This is what happened. My father called all the children, and got together and had time to talk.
DC: He talked?
O: I guess so. I wasn't there.
DC: That was very early in the morning, like 5:00 in the morning. Tell me this again. The first thing is the night before, you took him to the bath.
O: I believe I took him to bathroom, and the bath. In the bath something had to happen. He was breathing hard. Very fast. My mother was there. More likely, my mother was giving the bath to him. All of a sudden breath was going fast so they called me. You know the bathtub right next to the kitchen. Tea room, bathroom, kitchen, and the bedroom. All of a sudden we are calm. He started copying.
DC: Why do you say he started copying your breath? Did you start breathing loudly, slowly?
O: Yeah. (breathes). Quiet down, quiet down. Breathe slowly. And he did. . . . (inaudible) he died. He was a very stubborn person I think. What I think now about him is a very stubborn person. The way he wants to do it, he has to do it. He's got to do it. When he was 57 years old, coming to the United States, he threw everything away, and he's coming to the United States, and he was good. I'm 51 now. When I got laid off at Japan Air Lines, I was 47 years old. What am I going to do now? He was 57 years old when he got to the United States, I want to do this. . . . Very stubborn. . . .
DC: Many people say this. Stubborn, determined. He came to America when he was 55.
O: 55 years old! When you get to 55 years old -- hey -- I have to accomplish something. Now I have accomplished this already. Now after 55 I have to skill myself to live. He didn't do that. He threw everything away. At 55 years old he's going to start all over again. As a priest he could live anywhere. That's the way he was thinking.
DC: Do you think he had an idea from when he was younger?
O: I think so. He was very good in college. He studied English. He wanted to go out of Japan. The war action blocked him.
DC: You think he wanted to come to America earlier.
O: Yes he probably did. Nothing he said, but how he acted, when he got to 55 years old. Normal person, normal priest in Japan -- I can't do that now, I'm too old to do things like that. There is younger people out there, educated people out there. He says, okay, I do it. I don't know how long he had to make a decision.
DC: I think he had a year or something. Do you remember Yamada in Shumucho? He's dead now. I think Yamada talked to him earlier. Maybe Yamada and he started talking about it in '57 or something. And Tobase -- he was gone a year before Shunryu came. He had to tie up Rinso-in. I think he had to marry Mitsu before he came.
O: He has to marry with someone. I guess it was some kind of deal -- something. They wanted a married person.
DC: Nobody knows that here. Mitsu says that. Hoitsu didn't understand that. They wanted a married priest here. He filled out the application for a visa. He filled out that he was married so he got a visa for a married priest.
O: I was saying that father has to marry because . . .
DC: Because of maybe some problem with Tobase.
O: Oh yes, something like that. I hear about that, something like that. There was something before. Sokoji members don't want to have a single person. They want a married person, so they don't have any problem. If that's the case, then my grandma said, get married to Mitsu. She's the one that suggested doing that.
DC: That's what Mitsu says. Mitsu says that he said, good idea. He liked that idea. But people here think he married Mitsu because of Rinso-in. But she never lived at Rinso-in.
O: My mother was different. . . . (inaudible) . . . she was strong person. (inaudible) . . . she was very independent person.
DC: Very unusual for a Japanese. I spent a lot of time with her last April. I spent time with her in Japan with Japanese people and I saw how different she is.
O: She's unusual in Japan and in the United States, but most likely she'd be more -- rather be in United States than Japan most likely. I don't think I can find a person like that.
DC: She's unusual. And with men. I was with three men in their 70s -- [shitotsu?] and Kayoko, -- we went and got Mitsu. She's very strong.
O: I would say, I know her more than anyone else. But I have to keep away. (inaudible) . . .
DC: You kept some distance.
O: Have to make some distance there. Otherwise, she's unhappy.
DC: She and I were very close. We were actually closer in the '60s. I've seen her many times, but there's always been -- I saw her right before she left. She didn't want to see me. I said, no, I have to see you, because I wanted to tell her about this book. So she said okay I think she keeps some distance from many people just so she can have her own life.
O: In that moment she refused you I think she was tired of thinking about people. . . . (inaudible)
DC: She saw me. Then I told her I wanted to write this book and she was very enthusiastic in supporting the idea. And in Japan we talked many hours, in Japanese. She was so happy to speak Japanese. She was very surprised that I could talk with her in Japanese. I had been there a week, talking Japanese all day, so I could remember a little. I had many many hours with her.
O: (inaudible) . . . It could have been like that. I think she's happy now. She did experience a lot. But she did sacrifice a lot to be in the United States.
DC: What did she sacrifice to be here?
O: I think she is the one who sacrificed herself. She put the mind into, I have to do this. . . . My husband did that. I have to do this. (lots of inaudible talk about Mitsu having to do this) She accomplished a lot. . . . I have to stay here. That is important to her. Important. Everyone at Zen Center, Roshi's wife was still here, is important. And she thinks it is. I have to stay here. Yes, I understand. It's very important. If you sacrifice too much, you might give up sometimes. That's the time she probably thought, I have to leave, and she left.
DC: She was here 30 years.
O: Same time I was here. She should write a book. I'll bet she's going to write a book. She's capable. And she's very very intelligent person. I don't know why, she really . . . (?) . . . She should (shouldn't?) get married with my father. If she went on her way (?) . . . she could be a very famous person.
DC: You think she's going to write a book now?
O: She started work to do it.
DC: Do you remember any experiences with your father, other
than what you've said? I know he didn't talk much.
O: He didn't talk much. He likes to walk a lot. My mother carried his finger(?). She would carry his (?) . . .
DC: Big rock he was pushing, maybe?
O: I don't know what it was. . . . Big bees(?) . . .
DC: He got stung in Japan?
O: Yeah. I was young. About 10 years old.
DC: And he got stung by a suzumebachi? 1954, '55? What happened to him.
O: Doctor came. . . . couple weeks or so . . .
DC: He was sick for a week or two from a suzumebachi sting?
O: I still remember that. (inaudible about the stinging and nest) . . .
DC: Did he get stung by more than one?
O: I guess so. I don't know what he was doing.
DC: Do you remember him working with rocks at Rinso-in? With stones? In the garden?
O: (inaudible) . . .
DC: Did he work a lot with kindergartens? After the war he spent a lot of time getting the kindergartens going.
O: Yeah. (break in tape) (picks up at) -- into the person. Not organization itself. Zen Center doesn't mean anything. Zen Center is a strong group. It shouldn't be a strong group It's made by people believing it. It's not believing in it. If we say believe, it's more like Christianity.
DC: It's people who gather together.
O: It's (?) is happen into you. It's somehow, into you, Buddhism is good to your human. (?) You know what Buddhism is. Buddhism is teaching you that humans should live this way. It's not should think, it's supposed to live, as a human, it's not -- living as a human, not human is living like an animal. A human being. That's what Zen Buddhism is teaching. To be able to do that, you control yourself. You've got to control yourself. If you cannot control yourself, you're not a human any more. That's what basically it is. Zen Buddhism is teaching that human is supposed to live as a human. As a human, as yourself, you think. You are the one who thinks as a human. That's what Buddhism is. You have to think as a human. It's not in any other religion. Like, God is helping you, so you don't have to worry about it -- you did your best. No! If we did that, if you felt consciousness is (?) . . . you better live. You've got to carry that consciousness the rest of your life. But you've got to live at a human. That's what I think Buddhism is. If you're getting the big organization, how to organize it. Abbot and all those people. Forget that. Let's get back to basics. What Buddhism is all about. We have to teach what we think is right. We believe in it. This is right. Human beings support this. We support that we have to teach all this to other people. Even one person a year. We taught that person. That's good. Forget about organization. All the people should get together to do that. If there's a conflict -- how to organize-- it's important, in a way. If it got that big. But if you got basic humanism maybe it shouldn't come out so easily.
. . . my father had, . . . accompany him to the United States. He also had desire.
DC: He had very directed desire. Did your father tell you anything about Buddhism?
O: Yeah. We had discussions a lot at the kitchen table. At dinner time, or something. Starting when I was 18, 19. In America. I didn't talk to him at all in Japan. My grandma used to. My grandma fed all the priests coming to Rinso-in. We'd talk about this, talk about that.
DC: What would your father tell you in San Francisco?
O: We would discuss what religion is. Money? It's not about money. We have to live. You're living. I said something very strong.. . .
DC: So one time when you were 18 or 19 years old around the kitchen table, you said something very strong to him about what is religion? Is it only about money?
O: No, it isn't only about money. (?) . . . Something to do with money, though. It could be a problem.(?) . . . Anyway he said you go sit, you go zazen and find out yourself. That's what he told me. You go sit down.
DC: So you asked him what is religion? is it about power? is it about money? He said you go sit in the zendo you'll find out what it's about. That means it's about you.
O: Go find out yourself. . . . That's what the whole thing is about.
DC: So it's not about the organization. It's not about the power or money or all that. It's about you, about me, about what are we.
O: He's saying, you're the one that's thinking, you go find out yourself. That's what he's saying. After I think about it, now I understand better. At that time I couldn't understand it. I felt bad about it once. I felt real bad about my (?). In the morning I wished I had had discussion. After I had bad day, or bad morning, I didn't have enough sleep or something. I was about 18. . . . I grabbed his hand . . . I felt so bad. I felt so bad that day. (much inaudible) . . . After that he never raised his hand at me.
DC: You were too strong.
O: I felt so bad.
DC: So what did you say to make him angry?
O: I don't know. I don't know.
DC: Are most of your memories about him in America?
O: Most of them.
DC: What do you remember about him in Japan?
O: He wasn't home a lot. . . . (?)
DC: If he wasn't home, the home was the temple, and he was gone, what did he do when he was gone? Just the kindergarten?
O: I don't know, man. I was too young to know.
DC: Did he go out at night?
O: He was always gone, day and night. He was out from nine o'clock.
DC: Hoitsu, now, he's at the temple a lot.
O: Yeah, he's at the temple a lot.
DC: I call Rinso-in all the time and talk to Hoitsu. He's very easy to get. If Hoitsu isn't at the temple, he's doing a memorial service in somebody's home; he's doing a calligraphy thing; or he's doing a meeting at city hall or something. Everybody tells me that Shunryu wasn't at the temple. If he wasn't at the temple, then it had to be the kindergarten. What else?
O: I think he had friend. About 4 or 5 friends. All the friends tried to make the kindergarten. I got into the kindergarten . . . 4 or 5 years old. It was made then. . . . (?) . . . 40 years old. I'm not old enough to know what he was doing then.
DC: Did he change when he came to America?
O: I think so. But I don't know before America what kind of father he was.
DC: I know what yasuko says. I know what Hoitsu says. Yasuko and Hoitsu also say he wasn't there. It seems to me that he changed when he came to America.
O: He could be very wise(?) person when it comes to -- but I don't know what type of person he was. My sister, she knows more about father than I do.
DC: I can talk with her very easily. Her Japanese is very easy for me to understand. I talked to her several hours one time. Do you remember your other sister, Omi. She committed suicide. What do you remember about her?
O: I would say that me and my oldest sister were pretty close. . . . I was 12 years old. She was a very bright person. I don't know why -- . . . a hard spot of mine(?)
DC: I know so many people whose sisters have committed suicide: Dick's sister committed suicide.
O: I think . . . my mother got killed. I think my sister . . . she must start to understand what's happening. She must just by being in between death -- not to understand all these things in between the age. I was too young to understand. I was 7 or 8. She was 10 or 11. . . . Hoitsu was 14 and ? was 17. I'm thinking something must have happened to her.
DC: Yasuko thinks it was your mother's death.
O: Yeah -- just in between that time --
DC: She was pre-puberty. She was still a little girl -- 10 or 11. Yasuko said she was artistic.
O: She was. Pictures she liked-- I figure she was outstanding. Everybody thought so. She must have thought too much in that time. Death happens to every human. It could happen to anybody. She was born that way. Can't tell.
DC: So you were 7 and she was 11. And you didn't come to America for 10 years after your mother died. What happened to Omi in that 10 years?
O: After a couple of years . . . . she was hostile.
DC: What did she do? What was the problem? Was she doing well in school?
O: I don't know. Why everybody thought she was wrong(?) I don't know.
DC: She killed herself in 1964.
O: That was when I got here.
DC: You'd been here 3 years. You saw her when you left Japan. You said good-bye to her? Was she in an institution?
DC: What was it like?
O: I remember (laughter) . . . I'm not that young. I don't know if it was a bad place or not. It was more like hospital.
DC: Do you remember your father having any -- did he just not pay attention? Was he too busy to pay attention to her?
O: I don't know. I understand what you're saying.
DC: Nowadays we don't put people in institutions much. My impression of him is that he was too busy to do anything with his family. When his daughter died he didn't go back, even for the funeral. Did he? Did he go back for her funeral?
O: Yeah, he went back before I did. Two years before I did. He went back after I got here.
DC: I'll ask Hoitsu. He'll remember. When do you remember your father going back? '63 or '64?
O: He went back after I got here.
DC: But he also went in '66. He went back one time before that? Was that for the funeral, do you think?
O: Oh my god, I don't know that. I should know.
DC: You didn't go to your sister's funeral.
O: I couldn't go. I didn't have the money to go back.
DC: You mean Sokoji was so poor?
O: I couldn't go back.
DC: So Sokoji was a poor temple?
O: I don't know. I couldn't go back. I heard about it. . . . 6 or 7 months later, or something. Have I seen my father cry for her? I probably didn't see it. Probably my father cried, but I didn't see it. Was I too young to know? Was I too stupid to know?
DC: I didn't know my father's emotional life at all. There was a distance. Whereas, with my mother, I know what my mother's emotional life it. Your father kept his emotional life a secret, maybe. That's like men, you know. I know your father cried when Trudy Dixon died. He cried when George Fields died. George Fields owned this bookstore. He cried at different times. But even if we don't cry it doesn't mean we don't feel something.
O: The Japanese -- habit -- that type of thing is different. . . . Especially my family. Try to make it (?) . . . children . . . as much as possible I talk to them a lot, I joke with them a lot. I show the feeling. I guess it changes. I guess I'm in the United States, that's why I think it changed. I don't know about that -- but in the old times, the father and the mother -- mother is the (?), father is not far away (?), that's the way it was.
DC: After your mother died, did your father get closer to you?
O: I don't think so. When my mother died, the whole family got together. From now on, we're going to get together. Live together. That's what my father said. I remember that. he was crying(?) . . . more like . . . got close to
DC: You mean, when your mother died, he got very close to you.
O: When he talked to us. . . . close to us. He was very far away for a father. Distant. . . . Used to be my father was sitting at dinner at a different table. All of us were sitting at a different table.
DC: Was this in the same room where Hoitsu and everybody eats now?
O: No. You know, in the kitchen, go through there?
Side B of Tape 1 ends.
Side A, Tape 2 (Labelled Bit of Otohiro.)
O: My father was . .
DC: This is interesting, I didn't realize this was at Rinso-in. The memorial for the war dead, for the Japanese soldiers who died during the war was in Yaizu, somewhere -- near the school? And before the American soldiers came?
O: I don't know if before they came or whatever --
DC : The people wanted to bury them because they thought the soldiers were going to kill them all.
O: Whatever happened I don't know.
DC: He didn't want to hide.
O: (Says something I don't here to which DC replies) --
DC: Oh, I didn't realize that. So they brought it into Rinso-in. I'll go look at it. I have to go back. Hoitsu will die if I go back there.
I'm trying to figure out what your father did during the war. There's a lot of stories, but there's no proof. He didn't go into the war. He didn't go into the army.
O: He was -- chaplain -- Buddhist priest.
DC: It's not clear why he went to China. Everybody says a different reason. Hoitsu and Mitsu have different reasons why he went.
O: Never talked about it either.
DC: Not just that, the Japanese people don't talk much in general. The people I meet through Hoitsu and Rinsoin, they're old Soto-shu people -- they don't talk much. I need to find through other sources, because the story is that he --
O: (inaudible) . . . very interesting . . . my father -- he taught me a lot. He didn't say much, but he was a good father. I won't say he was a bad father -- he's a good father.
DC: Certainly an unusual father.
O: You could say that.
DC: You're aware of how important he is in terms of American Buddhism. He's going to be very famous in the future.
O: Could be.
DC: He's already famous, but I think he's going to be very famous. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, the things he said, he concentrated what he learned in Japan. He was here 12 years. Very influential.
O: One thing is -- has to be right time, right moment to make it big. If he's businessman he could make money. Has to be right time, right moment. My father was. In that time, business(?) is gone, (?) is fading out, hippies starting up. Those people want a very intelligent person. Looking at the hippies -- drug people -- it's not that. It's not that. Very intelligent people try to create a new way of living in the United States. That time Zen Buddhism is introduced in the United States. It was long before that, but (now) start spreading in the United States. That's the time a lot of people got interested. That's the time father came in. Made sense. What father was saying made sense to them.
DC: What he was saying made a lot of sense.
O: Like my brother says, my father was original -- made no difference in preaching in Japan.
DC: But other priests came to America. We've had many Soto priests come to America. There was something different about him.
O: Difference was personality. He could communicate well. His sense of humor was well-communicated to United States people. I could get his sense of humor. I probably have the same sense of humor that he had.
DC: Hoitsu has a great sense of humor. To me, there's a conflict between Hoitsu and Shunryu. Hoitsu embraced the life that Shunryu left. I think Hoitsu has a little resentment that Shunryu left it. Hoitsu feels he should not have left so soon.
O: I don't know about that.
DC: He thinks he shouldn't have left until the (?) . . .But, people's feelings are complicated. I don't know what Hoitsu thinks, he says different things. He and I talked a lot. Now his relationship with the Soto-shu is interesting. I think Zen Center's . . .
O: At the end of his life, I think he wanted it to be that way. United States, Zen, not connected to Japan. United States temples (?) . . . When he moved into it -- I think somewhere along the line we had combination(?) -- one religion moving into other country, they change it. It should be that way. With Buddhism from China originated from India, moving to China, China to Korea, Korea to Japan. When every country stepped into it, they change it. Coming into Japan, they formed Zen Buddhism. That should be. If you move it into United States, it should be changed.
DC: Right. Dogen did not want it to be called Soto-shu. Dogen said, don't use "shu." He was just doing Buddhism. There was no connection. But of course transportation and communication were different back then. But there was no connection to China. Dogen's teacher in China asked him to stay and be the head monk. Dogen said, no, these Chinese guys won't accept me. I have to go back to Japan. And his teacher said, okay. In the same way I think we'd have a very uncomfortable relationship with the Soto-shu in Japan. They will not accept it.
O: Soto-shu in Japan should accept . . . (?) United States Buddhism.
DC: But we shouldn't be in too big a hurry.
O: We shouldn't want it.
DC: It's old guys.
O: But if they accept it. If they accept Zen Buddhism in the United States, you could be a member of Soto-shu as part of Japan. People in United States should know we are different than Japanese Zen Buddhism.
DC: There's problems with -- it's complicated. People in Zen Center are still going to ceremonies in Japan to recognize the authority of teachers here. This won't work.
O: I don't know. I talked to my brother -- this is only thought -- first step we take -- it doesn't matter how big they're going to be as long as this is Buddhism, as long as they have the right idea of Zen Buddhism -- it cannot be in the form -- in Japan the form is always -- this is the Zen Buddhist (?way?). In United States that cannot be. It could be changed . . . throw it open . . . you don't know how Zen Buddhism is going to form in hundreds of years from now. All our life is only 70 -- It's only 30 years old. Finally grown up? 30 years old?
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