The performance of "Daiku", "The Ninth", Beethoven's 9th symphony, is a Japanese highlight every year in the end of December. This year it was performed with 10,000 (amateur) chorus singers. Here is the last movement, recorded at the December, 2011 concert in Osaka. This year the performance was dedicated to the memory of the victims of the disastrous tsunami in March.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 Finale. [with Chorus on Friedrich Schiller's "Ode an die Freude" / "Ode to Joy" / "歓喜に寄せて"]
Keiko Yokoyama, soprano Masako Teshima, mezzo-soprano Satoshi Nishimura, tenor Eijiro Kai, baritone Choir of the 10,000 from Osaka and Sendai Yutaka Sado, conductor .
Several days ago I briefly described, and presented a video, about the process of becoming a Buddhist monk here in Thailand. Several years ago when my neighbor and very good friend Pae [also known as 'Justin'] went through the ordination process, I later wrote about it. Even posted it on another of my personal web sites, 'Chiang Mai Tales'. This is the link to the complete story of Justin's ordination.
Many years ago I also went though the Buddhist ordination process, though mine was in 1955 and occurred at the Eiheiji monastery [永平寺] in western Japan. Many of the features of the process were similar, though couched in the customs and traditions of Japan. I have also written about that process, and the events which led up to it, in 'The Repository'. This is the link leading up to my own Buddhist ordination process.
The attached video of the Eiheiji monastery was taken by my good buddy from Oz, Yakov Smirnoff when he visited there several years ago.
"Established in 1244 and Japan's most active zen meditation monastery since the late 16th century, Eihei-ji, Temple of Eternal Peace, is about 30 minutes by bus from Fukui and is home to about 50 elders and 250 black-robed trainees. This serene community, set on the slopes of a mountain and surrounded by cedars, is moss-green in summer, and serenaded by cicadas. In winter, snow arrives to transform the complex into a glistening white mountainscape."
"With a minute of silence, prayers and anti-nuclear rallies, Japan marks on Sunday the first anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a radiation crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation's leaders.
A year after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan's northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 unaccounted for, the country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs. . . . . "
In an attempt to keep this blog interesting I occasionally change the masthead. This new banner design contains a digitized version of my Japanese 'hanko' [name stamp].
In 1954, when I was working in Japan, for the U.S. government, I became friends with a most remarkable person, the abbot of a small rural Soto Zen temple. Rev. Shimizu becama a personal friend and mentor during my four year stay in Hokkaido. During one of our many conversations he suggested that I get a personal hanko, or name stamp. In Japan it is the custom for all adults to have a personal name stamp which is used in lieu of a personal signature and is used in all documents, office paperwork, contracts, art, or any item requiring acknowledgment or authorship.
And to this end he transformed a part of my surname into Japanese kanji characters, striving to combine the phonetic sounds with kanji characters which had a connection to nature.. And so I became 栗巣帝 [Kirusutei].
栗 'Kiru' can be traslated as 'chestnut tree', 巣 'su' means 'bird nest', 帝 'tei' means 'along the royal way'.
[Usually this blog contains rather impersonal bits of news and things that interest me. Today's posting is much more personal, a bit of personal history.]
Reading about the death of gay Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt in Afghanistan yesterday opened a personal repository of memories more than half a century old.
I recalled the day in October of 1955 that I learned that Sp3 Gregory Bartoni, a Korean linguist attached to the ASA, had been killed in Korea. No, not from warfare, since the Korean War had ended three years previously, but rather a tragic jeep accident on an icy road. He had also died in a foreign land, far from his native home and his immediate family. Also far from his military lover, who was stationed on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Gregg and I had first met at Fort Devins, Mass. where we were assigned to a two man room during the first part of our 'intelligence training'. Later we would both attend a year's training at the Army Language School in California, where he was assigned to the Korean department, and I would be studying Russian. Both languages were necessary during the 'cold war' of the time. We both eventually worked collecting intelligence for the Army Security Agency, a super secret military wing of the National Security Agency.
I know it may sound a bit corny and perhaps overly romantic, but it was love at first sight. And we were both aware of it from the time I walked into our two man room. I remember well that Gregg was reading a book by John Donne, a contemporary of Shakespeare, and listening to some Vivaldi. We spent that first evening drinking beer and getting to know each other. We found that our interests, in classical music, opera, literature, botany, film and art, dovetailed like a perfectly mitered joint. His family was from Greece and Italy, and mine was from Slovakia, though I also had a bit of Mediterraneanancestry.. Both of us had joined the military not out of any über patriotic reason, but rather as a way of escaping the draft and not having to shoot anyone or be shot at.
We knew that somehow destiny had arranged for us to become lovers and lifetime partners. It was certainly not something that we announced to all our military buddies, but rather they adduced it for themselves, and were accepting. They knew us first as individuals and worthy of their friendship, and if we happened to be gay that was our business. [This was long, long before the introduction of DADT.]
Towards the end of our year's language study we drove down to So. California to spend the three day 4th of July holiday with my mother, since my birthday also occured during this period. Bozhena, my mother, almost immediately adopted Gregg as a second son. In fact it was during dinner at a restaurant that weekend that she casually mentioned that we seemed to be very much in love. So I didn't have to have the long dreaded , "Hey mom, I'm gay" talk with her since she had figured it out all by herself, and as I learned, even approved of my choice of a life partner.
Gregg was sent to Korea, and I went to Hokkaido, both horrifically cold in the winter months. After a year of writing at least once a week, we made plans to spend a lengthy R & R in Kyoto. And then we planned to visit some gay language school friends stationed in Kyushu in southern Japan. This was in September of 1955. Certainly the most memorable vacation of my life and Gregg felt the same.
In October two of my letters to him were returned to me having been stamped "Undeliverable". Perplexed I wrote to the unit commander where he was stationed, and soon received a reply that he unfortunately had been killed in a jeep accident. The first love of my life had been unceremoniously snatched from me and my future shattered.
Some six months later I was visiting with a Buddhist priest friend there in Hokkaido, an elderly gentleman of immense wisdom and compassion, who was the abbot of a small zen temple.
Then suddenly I was talking about Gregg and his death. I was even talking about our relationship, not knowing how Shimizu-roshi would respond to my revelations. He was silent. Then he began to gently explain that it was normal to love and expect our relationships to last forever, but it was this very aspect of human behavior that the Buddha had pondered and attempted to comprehend. The message of Buddhism was that all of life was impermanent, transitory, and whenever we attempted to hold on too tightly, we were bound to suffer the consequences.
Reverend Shimizu sighed ever so softly. We had been speaking in English, but he suddenly reverted to Japanese and said, "Hardest of all to love are the cherry blossoms." Then, as if to make sure I understood, he repeated it in English. He gazed out of the open room, the shoji had been left open to let in the gentle night air. He looked to the verdant hillside beyond, now bathed in the light of the nearly full spring moon. In the foreground there was an old cherry tree and even in the pale moonlight, petals could be seen drifting to the ground below. I knew that his phrase held a special significance, but had not yet grasped the meaning.
He continued, "There is a seventh century collection of poetry, The Monzen, which begins with the lines, 'Time passes and nothing endures, the delicate cherry blossoms least of all".
The pauses in his conversation were obviously as important as the information within the words, phrases and sentences. "The blossoms in spring, the song of the nightingale in summer, the red maple leaves in autumn and the first snow of winter are the most moving of all beautiful things,.......... but which of them lasts forever?..........Human life is no different."
"Perhaps most important, and difficult, is to learn an appreciation and acceptance of the moment. Like the refreshing breeze of summer your young friend has moved on. Your life was enriched by his presence, inspired by his knowledge and comforted by his love, and now you are faced with the ultimate reality that nothing physical lasts forever."
He continued by quoting the entire poem of that anonymous author of so long ago. Someone who, it appeared, had faced the same emptiness that had gripped my being.
Time passes and nothing endures, the delicate cherry blossoms least of all.
A storm in the night and we are parted from the blossoms; They are gone in the morning. These few words and tears alone remain.
Love them, those blossoms that fall so quickly. Realize that the ancient pine too, After a thousand years, will wither.
I am sure that we have all been exposed to countless strange animal clips on YouTube, but for me the expression on this cat's face is priceless. Of course I might react the same if someone blasted Richard Strauss at me from behind.
Ban, a dog which has been rescued at sea off the coast of Kesennuma, Japan, was reunited with the owner on Monday more than three weeks after being washed away by the killer tsunami triggered by the March 11 earthquake. Japanese broadcaster NTV aired images of the reunion with the woman hugging Ban and the dog warmly wagging her tail. The dog was rescued on Friday after being found drifting on a roof.
"After watching a TV news report on the rescue, the owner of the female dog visited the animal care center where she was being looked after, to take her back. 'We'll never let go of her,' the owner was quoted as saying by a center official, while the dog happily wagged her tail when the owner appeared." [Kyodo news]
"The warnings were stark and issued repeatedly as far back as 1972: If the cooling systems ever failed at a “Mark 1” nuclear reactor, the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor would probably burst as the fuel rods inside overheated. Dangerous radiation would spew into the environment.
Now, with one Mark 1 containment vessel damaged at the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and other vessels there under severe strain, the weaknesses of the design — developed in the 1960s by General Electric — could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.
When the ability to cool a reactor is compromised, the containment vessel is the last line of defense. Typically made of steel and concrete, it is designed to prevent — for a time — melting fuel rods from spewing radiation into the environment if cooling efforts completely fail.
In some reactors, known as pressurized water reactors, the system is sealed inside a thick steel-and-cement tomb. Most nuclear reactors around the world are of this type. . . . . .
G.E. began making the Mark 1 boiling-water reactors in the 1960s, marketing them as cheaper and easier to build — in part because they used a comparatively smaller and less expensive containment structure. American regulators began identifying weaknesses very early on.
In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. ......"
---------------- Greg Palast writing in Truthout mentioned some very uncomplimentary things about government nuclear plant fraud, both in the U.S. and Japan. "The No BS Info on Japan's Disastrous Nuclear Operators". Scary stuff, but then many corporations worldwide are not to be trusted since making money, by any means possible, is their only goal.
I just happened to be watching the BBC when their first 'BREAKING NEWS' announcement of the earthquake and tsunami which had occured in Japan, and the first videos began to appear. Two days later I was still watching with horror and incomprehension. Many years ago when I lived in Japan I had visited Sendai, the epicenter of this 8.9 earthquake and the cause of the tsunami, but I had no mental frame of reference for the enormity of the destruction which had happened.
We humans have a very fragile and tenuous hold on life in the light of natural disasters. My sympathy goes out to all my friends who live in Japan and the countless number of people there who have been affected by this unprecidented and horrific event.