Surviving and Living for Others

Do you know yourself and can you live more truly to yourself?

I am a survivor of Hiroshima.
At the age of eight, I buried my Father, Mother and four other family members. As a war orphan, I searched garbage cans to survive in Japan’s family-centric society. I was a reminder that Japan lost the War, and I grew up in an atmosphere of contempt, shame and guilt, fighting an icy society that shunned me, a fatherless child. A proud Number One Son of a samurai family, I vowed to avenge the death of my Father and I came to America to fulfill that vow.

My path from the ravaged landscape of Hiroshima to the present has been long, difficult, and shaped by conflict. Yet today, I express my love and gratitude for two countries that both nurtured and wounded me. How could this happen? Did a miracle take place?

My life story demonstrates how a heart twisted by hatred and revenge can be transformed to a path of peaceful wisdom and the essential work of healing human hearts. I survived by my father teachings, the codes of the Samurai. He taught me to know and be true to myself, and to live my life for the benefit of others.

What code do you live by?
Do you, or have you ever considered, living your life for the benefit of others?

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Words of a survivor of Hiroshima (Fukushima/Shogi, Part One)

Before the city of Hiroshima turned into atomic ashes, I was a rambunctious little boy of age 8, clothed in a “blue kimono”. I often stood and watched as grown-ups played a Japanese chess game called “Shogi”. What fascinated me was that each player took so much time before he made a “move”, as in a defensive or offensive relay mechanism, formulating strategies about which I had no idea. Each subsequent move, in turn, followed similar “patterns”. In my naivety, I understood the ultimate goal of the game to be the capture of the opponent’s “Oh`-san”, or King.
Several times I asked my Daddy about the game’s meaning and he finally responded to me. “Takashi,” he said. “In any situation, samurai always find a way to ‘live’.” I was somewhat flabbergasted, for the only thing that stuck in my heart was something totally unrelated, and his answer was completely unexpected. I thought he didn’t understand my question and I never understood the intended meaning of his answer.

In retrospect, I wondered so often whether or not my Father had some inexplicable sixth sense in his reply to my innocent question? As an older generation, we know, and you, the younger generation, should know a proverb of wise ancients which states: the mystical and legendary “mushi” (a small insect) will foretell the coming of a catastrophic event. Could it be? My heart filled with uneasiness being unable to understand what my daddy had said.

Then, only two days later… August 6, 1945… America turned the City of Hiroshima, Japan, into atomic ashes, plunging it into a totally “UNKNOWN” world never experienced by mankind! Four square-miles of the city were instantly buried under nuclear ash, suffering and death. There weren’t enough living to count the dead! But for me, the greatest loss was when I had to say to my daddy, who without my knowing it had foretold the day which forever remains in my memory: “So long…rest in peace!” I lost six members of my family, but I survived having been 1,164 meters—7/10th of a mile from ground zero of the bomb. Since I buried my Father, I never had the luxury of time to cry or worry what “tomorrow” might bring, to live with “what if/what might be” concerns, or fears and worries about death for the next 10 years, let alone 20 years, as many folks of Tohoku Regions are concerned. Surviving each day was the only thing there was to overcome!

Reflecting upon my long and difficult “path” from Hiroshima, I am able to say that my Father’s teaching of the samurai code and the principles of Shogi, which undergirded me, have caused, shaped and directed my life to where I am today! Life wasn’t easy, but something was revealed to me about hardships and struggles. I have lived through it, and how grateful I am for the gift of life.

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What the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Fiasco has to do with the Japanese Shogi-Game (Japanese chess)

Having reached the Second Anniversary of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants fiasco, the recovery or restitution by Japanese Government and Fukushima Power Company are totally unacceptable. While I urge the Government to be transparent and forthright speedy recovery and restitution for the victims, I would like to share the following series of articles from the eyes of a survivor of Hiroshima. Though the two disasters happened at different times and for different reasons, it is my desire to share my heart for those who are now struggling to live a “normal” life. How I lived in postwar Japan may be encouragement.

Takashi Tanemori
Who has become Urban Samurai

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Is It Still “An Eye for an Eye” ?

Dear Secretary General:

My name is Takashi Tanemori; and I am a survivor of Hiroshima.  My “Path” of Hiroshima taught me this most important lesson: Those who have lost the most in war are also the ones who have the most to gain—by putting aside feelings of revenge—learning to forgive by making peace with our own painful past. 

I discovered in forgiveness a rite of passage that a heart twisted by hatred and revenge can be transformed.  Forgiveness is the essential work of healing the human heart, for without it human hearts strangle and wither.

This inner-transformation through the practice of forgiveness is much more powerful than any war or atomic weapon in shifting the world toward peace.

The 66th Anniversary of the UN is a fitting moment for us to re-affirm our commitment to global peace in our lifetime!

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Are We Progressing or Digressing?

I have been witnessing “chaotic” energies among the Japanese over the unresolved Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant fiasco caused by the March 2011 earthquake. How painful it is to see countless people being evacuated and some shuffled around many times in relocation.

Yet, what I see in Japan reminds me of “monkey see, monkey do” mimicking of irrational decisions made in the United States after human error caused 1979’s Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident. Concerns then about nuclear power created “anti-nuke” citizen protests and governmental action to cool nuclear power and either denied or put in digression those programs.

One cannot deny mankind’s technological progress over nearly six thousand years. Ours has been a path from “KNOWN” to conquering or discovering the “UNKNOWN”. When faced with difficulties we should give ourselves the opportunity for progress, by solving challenges. A shining example is NASA’s space shuttle program, having progressed from the Challenger disaster to its targeted final flight in July 2011.

In Fukushima, two months have passed without “clear” vision towards solving the accident scenario nor finding a replacement for nuclear power as an electrical energy source. Sadly, an increasing number of Japanese are “blindly” following Japanese Prime Minister Kan’s decision to shut down the Hamamatsu Nuclear Power Plants. There’s similar sentiment toward abandoning the entire national nuclear power program without addressing a progressive vision for the future. This saddens my heart.

Given Hiroshima and Nagasaki and events since, the Japanese people understand the dangers of nuclear power and have moved from “unknown” to “known” in gauging its risks. Can they truly afford to throw away progress in harnessing nuclear power?

Takashi Tanemori,

A survivor of Hiroshima

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KQED 2011 Asian Pacific American Heritage Heroes

Tanemori-san was one of four Asian-Americans in the Bay Area honored May 4, for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. He received a KQED “Local Heroes” award for his efforts to resolve conflict and promote peace. The event was recorded and was presented as a thirty minute program on KQED, Channel 9 on May 22 and May 23.

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Blooming Cherry Blossoms – Sign of New Life and Hope in Tohoku

Having emerged from the atomic bomb-ravaged landscape of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, I was awed by the magnitude of devastation in Japan’s Tohoku Region by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. They caused a cascade of catastrophe and unimaginable tragedy at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants and the local community. Yet, my heart rejoiced immeasurably for the immediate response from folks like you to offer the Japanese disaster relief!

Beyond the media-circus creating unnecessary fear and panic, this is for me the greatest moment in our history since Japan rose from the atomic ashes. It is the moment of truth: the test of the true Japanese character!

Rays of hope shine from the dark cloud hovering over Tohoku. NHK has shown two compelling images against the background of devastation: a branch of cherry blossoms– the symbol of Japanese spirit and dignity – and a tiny, frail plant peeking out from ruins to show its “smiling” buds.

These offer me proof that spirited new life is ever emerging! They remind me of a Shakespearean quote: “How far that little candle throws his beams!  So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”

Be strong and courageous, as we gaze upon majestic Mt. Fuji from any point on its circumference: “Prosperous Samurai Mountain; so it is your life!”

Takashi Tanemori

A Survivor of Hiroshima

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Japan’s Quake, Tsunami, and Radiation Risk

How should we respond to a disaster?

Sharing my heart, as a Survivor of Hiroshima, for the first time since the earthquake struck the Tohoku Region, followed by the Tsunami, I cried two mornings this past week watching the images from Japan. From what I saw, it is beyond human ability to fathom what must be in the hearts of these survivors! Yet, my tears were NOT because of such horrific devastating images, nor “fear”, nor panic of a possible Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant “meltdown” or fallout!

I saw images of survivors caring for others, sharing their true heart: “OMOIYARI” and “AMAE”. I call them the true spirit of the “Urban Samurai”, the spirit my Father instilled in me when I was 8 years old as the “truth” or guiding principle, before he succumbed to radiation poison in Hiroshima! As he told me, “No matter what, know who you are and live for the benefit of others. Then we all benefit”.

The suffering Japanese folks are resilient and their spirit cannot or will not be broken. They are like the bamboo groves, which bend over to let a whirlwind pass –then return with dignity to an upright position!

Reflecting my “path” from Hiroshima, how often I was challenged when I struggled to rise from the ashes of Hiroshima. I believe that we (Japanese) are like ‘DARUMA’, “Nana-korobi-Ya-oki”: even though we fall down 7 times, yet we rise again on the 8th time!

Seeing the spirit of the Samurai – “Omiyari” and “Amae” –  demonstrated by these survivors, makes them truly national treasures. You could justifiably state they are precious jewels of humanity.

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Documentary Trailer

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Reminder for The Year of the Rabbit, 2011 – Live a Happy, Victorious Life

Would you be willing to stand — even alone — to be true to yourself, honoring your heart, in thought, words and action, regardless of consequence or outcome?

Most Japanese make a pilgrimage to Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples on New Year’s Eve, and at the 108 ”kane” (bell) strikes of midnight, they make Resolutions! In Japan, some say a resolution is like pouring water on a duck’s back – it rolls right off. Others say a resolution is like a chameleon, showing your “true” colors when facing life’s hardships.

The rabbit hops or leaps, always forward, never backward. Its hind legs are longer than its forelegs, so it actually runs faster uphill than downhill. The rabbit runs “UPHILL”, and excels, when it faces an unexpected, unfavorable situation. The significance of the “Year of the Rabbit” lies in what we do with it…

* In Japanese culture the “Year of Rabbit” depicts the essential character of human activities requiring a “LEAP BY FAITH”. This action “by faith” is always a move forward.

* When you are challenged by hardship or difficulty, your true character appears and is tested. Consider that only “when piercing wintry winds shake off all leaves, creating ghostly hills, do we know the Japanese black pine tree and cypress to be evergreen!”

Are you able to join with the hare, running uphill battles to live each day; and at day’s end, be able to say “I know who I am and was true to myself!” What resolution have you made in the “Year of Rabbit” to help make the world a safer, more peaceful place?

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