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An Evening with Brian Victoria
by DC

Brian Victoria cuke page

Part I

That seems to be a fairly recent photo of Brian. When Katrinka and I met him at the front gate of Kyoto's Nishihonganji temple though, he was wearing blue denim monk's samue and carrying an extra umbrella for us (but we had our own). It was 3pm. We walked a short distance from there to his home where we had tea and goodies with him and his partner of 28 years, Aimee. Brian of course is known for his book Zen at War and for other writings about Japanese Buddhist warmongering and anti-Semitism. There are links on the Victoria cuke page to more on him, some of his writings, and to the responses of others. More can be found on the Internet. We did talk a lot about those subjects into the night.

Since we met at one of the two head temples of Jodo Shin Shu I asked about that. He clarified with the following. Shinran who founded Jodo Shin Shu (True Pure Land sect) was a devout follower of Honen, founder of Jodo Shu (Pure Land). They were both Japanese. Shinran did not intend to create another sect. He clarified what he saw as a misunderstanding of Honen's teachings. It's not that we can achieve salvation through our own efforts, e.g., by calling on the name of Amida Buddha. Rather we should recoognize and rejoice in the fatct that we have already been saved through original vows of Amida Buddha and express our gratitude through the formulaic recitation of his nae, i.e., Namu Amida Buddha. That's not exactly what he said though it's how he corrected what I'd written before.

Aimee is fourth generation Japanese Canadian/American. Recently she translated for anti-nuclear matriarch Helen Caldicott on a speaking tour focusing on the perils of Fukushima and nuclear power in Japan. Here is a video of Caldicott speaking on that subject. Brian said that there was only an average of 43% capacity attendance. Aimee said it's because Japanese don't want to hear foreigners criticize them. She has been speaking on the threat posed by Fukushima and nuclear power for years and has been more successful because she knows how to communicate with Japanese and the audience doesn't have to sit through an English version then a Japanese one. Aimee's mother was a doctor who entered Hiroshima later in the day the bomb hit to help people. She suffered greatly from the radiation she received and Aimee says that she has had medical problems that are due to her mother having been exposed to so much radiation. She is passionate about saving children today and in the future from such suffering, from cancer, from loosing sight and hearing. She is trying to get Japan to wake up. She said that for years she was ridiculed for her warnings but that since Fukushima people have listened.

Hiroshima Peace Media Center article on Aimee Tsujimoto, journalist whose mother experienced the atomic bombing, conveys the dangers of radiation. Aimee is the partner of Brian Victoria.

Brian says that a good video discussion of the present medical situation in Fukushima is available here.

I said that my friend Jake who's been in the Kyoto are for over thirty years said that people here are resigned to the situation, feel it is their civic duty to eat radioactive food, and that the young are completely uninvolved. They agreed that's true of the majority but that a minority of concerned citizens can grow into a majority. Prime Minister Abe wants to restart a number of closed nuclear plants but opposition is growing. Especially important is that two influential prime ministers have come out against nuclear power.

The situation is so dire that it's not clear what's going to happen or what can be done. Brian says that the easily extracted fuel rods are being removed from reactor #4's spent fuel pool, but that the ones that have been pushed together by the cave-in of the roof will not be so easy to extract. He said it's been compared to trying to remove cigarettes from a crushed pack. And the spent fuel pool is on stilts and is tilting and being shored up. He said that reactors 1, 2, and 3 are - that they don't know what's up, can't get to them, they have melted down as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. He says there's a river and aquifer below the plant that they're worried about the hot stuff above contaminating and that they're currently attempting to redirect that massive flow of water before it becomes contaminated. I got a better picture of it being a gargantuan problem and understood better why so many people are calling for the global community to help deal with this enormous problem immediately. (See cuke's Engaged post for 4-20-14 for one example). Brian says that the dangers of the GE made Mark I reactors used at Fukushima Daiichi were known in the US as early as 1972 - the dangers of the reactor design and how the fuel rods are stored and how the generators were placed in basements - but that cost cutting is at the heart of most of the decisions that led to the situation today. Like cutting into the hillside and putting the reactors near sea level so the cooling water wouldn't have to be pumped up high. He said there are published Atomic Energy Commission memos showing they knew these GE reactors had potentially fatal flaws but that stopping them at that time might well mean the end of nuclear power - there was too much invested when the flaws were figured out.

I mentioned that I was friends with Mitsuhiko Tanaka who was an engineer on some part of Fukushima, that I'd known him back when I first came to Japan and he was translating and writing science books. I stayed with him in Tokyo ten years ago. He'd been warning about the dangers of Fukushima and more for decades. Aimee said she'd argued with him about not revealing more that he knows that could be helpful, and not opposing all plants being reopened. They talked to me about trying to get to him about this. We were going to meet when Katrinka and I were in Tokyo and Kamakura but he had a meeting on Fukushima. Maybe I can get something from him on this but I know that our mutual friend, translator and great guy Shin Yoshifuku who died last year had warned Tanaka about talking to the media saying they'd distort anything he had to say. I told them how my friend Jake wants me to write about all this but I don't think I can do more than put a few things on cuke.

I think I could give well attended talks in Japan though. I'd promote them as An American on American Culpability in Japan's Nuclear Crisis and Responsibility in Helping to Solve this Great Problem. Or something like that.

---Posted 4-21-14. Edited according to Brian Victoria's suggestions 4-22-14

Part Two of an Evening with Brian Victoria

Brian Victoria showed a movie to Katrinka and me projected onto a big screen upstairs in his and Aimee's traditional Japanese home which he said was 180 [?] years old. The name of the film is Zen and War.

Zen and War - a 2009 film by Alexander Oey, Dutch

The film tells about a Dutch woman Zen practitioner, Ina Buitendijk, who read Brian Victoria's Zen at War, was disturbed by what she read about how Zen and other Buddhist sects and priests up to the very top not only went along with Japan's militarism but encouraged and supported it. She wrote letters to Zen masters in Japan. One thing she mentioned was how traumatized her husband had been as a young boy in a Japanese POW camp in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. The film interviews her, and some Zen priests including Shodo Harada who responded to her letter. He's the teacher I studied with when in Japan from 1988-1992. I wish I had a transcript of what he said in the film. One thing was that wars can seem justified at the time so the Zen schools or Buddhist sects should just make it clear right now that we won't be part of war no matter what.

The head of the Myoshinji temple complex also came across quit impressively and wondered what he'd do if it happened again. Would he speak out? He said he might fear being tortured too much to do so then so he's speaking out now and encouraging others in the Zen world to speak out now.

The film shows a meeting of Buddhist priests, not sure if they were only Zen, on this subject. Ina Buitendijk was invited. Apologies were made and there was discussion of how to make sure the past is not repeated.

There are some politicians in Japan who want to retract Article nine of the Japanese Constitution banning Japan from using force to solve problems or having a military. There was some content in the movie about that - maybe that the Zen schools should stand up for it. The US got them to interpret this article in such a way that they could have a self defense force. So right now Japan's defense budget is fifth largest in the world.

After the film, Brian, Katrinka, and I talked about it. Brian had some questions. Who was not mentioned? No one person was mentioned. Brian names names in his writing. Who was not represented in the meeting? Chinese, Koreans, and other Asian victims of Japanese aggression were not at the meeting.

Brian pointed out that Ina Buitendijk's husband was in Indonesia because of Dutch Imperialism which was replaced by Japanese Imperialism. Katrinka and I have heard nothing positive in Indonesia of the Dutch as masters though they're happy to have Dutch tourists now. Also, after WWII, the Dutch, who'd been occupied by the Germans, tried to take control of Indonesia again but gave up after four years. See this link.

Brian said that unlike Vietnam, where in the immediate postwar period the Japanese military fought together with the British to restore Vietnam to French colonial control, in Indonesia some 1,000 Japanese soldiers refused to follow Japanese military orders in the immediate postwar period and, instead, joined the Indonesian independence fighters in their effort to prevent the Dutch from reclaiming the "Dutch East Indies" (aka Indonesia). This effort continued for four years until independence was finally achieved in 1949. Brian stressed the mostly enlisted Japanese soldiers' revolt was probably the only time large numbers of Japanese soldiers actually fought in support of anti-colonial and nationalist forces in the countries of Asia they occupied. They did this in opposition to the directives of both their immediate military superiors and the postwar Japanese government which was cooperating fully with the Western allies to restore Western colonial control of Asia. 

The film interviewed American monk Thomas Kirchner but not Brian who said he didn't even know about it till it had come out.

Brian says that the Dutch version is available online.
The English version is only available through the Clear View Project.
A Japanese version will soon be available.

Zen at War on the Cinema of the World site

Read more on Alan Senauke's Clear View Blog

The part about Japanese soldiers in Vietnam and Indonesia had changes submitted by Brian, changes he calls "fascinating and little known story, especially in the US." - 4-26-14