IN JUNE, 1958, when the revised education program of Kosei-kai was reaching its first stage of completion, I went to Brazil, where the local government and that of Japan were jointly sponsoring a festival that summer to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants. Prince and Princess Mikasa and Japanese representatives in the fields of politics, economics, religion, art, and sports were to attend. Kosei-kai had already been requested to make use of the merits and strength of religion to assist the immigrants to Brazil to be diligent and persevering; and when Motoyuki Naganuma and I were chosen to represent our organization at the celebration, which was to be held in both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, we decided that it would be an excellent opportunity to gain firsthand information on conditions in Brazil
For a long time, I had wanted to learn about the religious activities in other lands in order to use my new knowledge in the work of Rissho Kosei-kai. One of my most cherished dreams was allowing religion to serve as a way to establish peace and mutual good will among all the peoples of the world. In addition to visiting Brazil, I wanted to go to other countries in North and South America to examine cultural and religious life. I was convinced that the intangible harvest from such a journey would help Kosei-kai to move forward and would contribute to the forming of ties of peace among the nations of the world.
Our party departed Japan for Brazil on June 8, 1958. After passing through Hawaii and San Francisco, we arrived in Sao Paulo on the evening of June 11. From the very outset, we were busy. On the day of our arrival, we immediately attended a welcoming party held by the Sao Paulo Shimbun, a Japanese-language newspaper. On the eighteenth, there was a memorial mass at the Catholic church as part of the celebrations. On the twentieth, we visited a kindergarten, primary school, junior high school, and high school operated by the Catholic church; on the twenty-first, we attended a meeting of a local union; and on the twenty-second, we went to a meeting of Brazilian members of Kosei-kai. It was my first trip abroad, and everything I saw and heard was a new experience. Everywhere we turned we found warm welcome and considerate hospitality that gave me a deep admiration for the world that Japanese people had managed to build in another land. But we saw plenty of evidence of the sufferings and hardships the Japanese immigrants have had to endure.
On June 18, 1908, the Kasado-maru, the first immigrant ship between the two nations, arrived in Brazil with 781 Japanese on board. But in the first year, the coffee harvest - the major source of work and income - was bad. Japanese immigrants found it necessary to borrow money, and many of the debtors fled with the consequence that the reputation of the Japanese was bad. Further immigration from Japan was halted. By and large, the failure of the first immigrants was the outcome of ignorance about the Brazilian climate and way of life. But few of the early immigrants intended to remain in Brazil permanently. Many of them wanted to make quick, easy fortunes and return to live the high life in Japan. Lacking the spirit needed for pioneering, when they were forced to face debt and hardship, they faltered and later absconded.
After the passage of some time, however, immigration was once again permitted. This time, the Japanese who came to Brazil were burning to work and to make their adopted country their permanent home. They broke their ways into the dense forests. Living in crude huts , they felled the mighty trees; and sweaty and dirty, they suffered and worked to build farms with their own hands. Because of the labor they put into the land, the Japanese immigrants became deeply attached to their farms. And as they observed the newcomers' energy, industry, and ability to persevere, the native citizens of Brazil began to recognize the merits of the Japanese immigrants, who gradually came to enjoy a more stable way of life and greater trust from their neighboring Brazilians. Today people of Japanese descent occupy posts of importance in the agricultural, industrial, technological, and commercial fields. They are active in organizing and managing business and industrial unions, and they are numerous on state and city councils. Throughout the country, they have, and strive hard to deserve, the reputation of being highly industrious and completely trustworthy.
The experiences of the Japanese immigrants to Brazil have much to teach. For the sake of pioneering virgin land, the human being must take hoe in hand and break the ground little by little; but if his agricultural efforts are to bear fruit, he must have love for his task. Because he must battle against primitive conditions in a land that is not his original home, the pioneer is often beset with loneliness. His plight is in some respects similar to that of the active Buddhist. One must be patient and diligent in order to lead people into the ways of self-development and constant vigilance against laziness and error. Doing this through the Buddha's Law is the way of the bodhisattva. Just as the selfish and weak pioneer fails in his task, so it is impossible to make the Law of Buddhism blossom and bear fruit in the wilderness by means of self-interest and weakness. The early immigrants who went to Brazil in search of nothing but quick riches were frustrated and forced to flee, whereas those who went with steadfastness and firm faith braved the hardships of the forests and received their rewards in the form of flourishing farms.
It took the Japanese immigrants fifty years to establish a reputation for industry and good faith. It remains to be seen how long it will take Kosei-kai to be properly understood by society and the world. But my knowledge of the experiences of the immigrants made me deeply aware of the need for us to believe that the day will come when we are understood and that we must neither hurry nor be slow, but must walk together boldly and in a spirit of unity.
Brazil is a Catholic nation, which means that the social lives of the people are inseparably tied to religion and that everything the people do is influenced by religion. In the physical and the spiritual senses, towns and villages generally center on the church. Many of these buildings are architecturally and aesthetically valuable. The care lavished on the churches and the length of time - sometimes forty or fifty years - devoted to their construction indicate depth of religious feeling. As I looked at Brazilian churches and listened to their histories, I found my mind traveling to Tokyo, where, at that time, Kosei-kai's Great Sacred Hall was under construction. The plans had required numerous corrections and even complete redrawings.
Those of us connected with the building of the Great Sacred Hall examined the architects' drawings with the utmost attention, but I felt that there were still things to be learned from such venerable religious structures as the ones I examined in Brazil. Each time I visited a church, as I looked up at the steeple, I thought, "To make the Great Sacred Hall even closer to perfection, we ought to incorporate the good points of buildings like this one." Motoyuki Naganuma would observe my pausing at such times and would ask if there was anything wrong. I would then smilingly explain that each time I stood in front of a church my mind flew back to Tokyo. Indeed, virtually everything I saw and did on the trip to Brazil recalled Japan and Kosei-kai to me.
In the evening, Catholic priests in Brazil drive in automobiles through towns and villages in outlying districts to preach and carry their teachings to the people. No matter how remote the area, these priests engage in their work gladly and without complaining. Even small children are educated in religious sentiments, and the seeds sown in these young minds grow and produce increasing interest in religion throughout Brazilian society. I attended mass in Brazil five or six times, on Sundays and on weekdays; and I was impressed with the presence in the congregations of people of all ages and social classes.
I was especially interested in the choirs of small, white-clad children who took part in services. Participation by the very young is highly important because the ideas and the memories implanted in the mind of a human being at an early stage in development remain throughout life. The child of a poor family that joyfully works for the good of others in an atmosphere of light will grow into an adult of generosity, with a great capacity for understanding. On the other hand, the child from a strife-torn, unharmonious home is unlikely to grow into a cooperative, altruistic person. Clearly the influence of the environment on the child helps determine the direction in which the personality grows. And this explains the difference between the adult raised in a religious setting and the adult from a home in which religious matters are thought to be of no consequence.
I saw shortcomings as well as good points in the state of religious affairs in Brazil. For instance, there is no other religion in the nation that can rank on a par with Catholicism. The people therefore must often yield to Catholic authority, and many of the ceremonies of the church have become excessively formalized. Nonetheless, the Brazilian custom of training young children to take part in religious observances has something to teach us.
Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city, especially when seen from an airplane that is just about to land. The deep blue of the sea and the modern buildings ranged in front of gentle, green mountains surrounding a white crescent of beach create a picture of great loveliness. The statue of Christ standing with outstretched arms atop Sugar Loaf Mountain off the shore is one of the things justifying the description of Rio de Janeiro as one of the three most beautiful ports in the world.
Motoyuki Naganuma and I frequently commented on the immensity of Brazil. Unlike Japan, where many kinds of scenery are to be seen at once because of the smallness of the islands, Brazil has vast stretches of unbroken plains and virtual seas of rolling mountains. Nor is this surprising, since Brazil occupies nearly half of South America and is about twenty-three times the size of Japan. It ranges in climate from the tropical rain forests of the Amazon Basin, near the equator, to the temperate zones, around 32° south latitude, where frosts occur in winter. Perhaps nothing gives a Japanese a more overwhelming feeling of being in an unknown world than standing on the banks of the Amazon, which waters an immense tract of land along the roughly 6,400 kilometers from its headwaters to the point at which it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. On the sixth of July, my party and I crossed the Amazon at its mouth, where it is impossible to see from one side to the other.
As we stood watching the great flow of green water, my mind went back to the rivers in the part of Japan where I was born. My birthplace is a small village in the mountains. The sloping land is covered with terraced agricultural fields. In winter, rivers, mountains, fields, and farmhouses are covered with a thick blanket of snow. The local inhabitants have no choice but to sit indoors most of the time, waiting for the return of spring. In Brazil, for thousands of years, the sun has beat down hard on the unpenetrated rain forests. Not a single snowflake has fallen there. Yet, though the climates and ways of life are different, the inhabitants of both lands share a common humanity. The peoples of Brazil are various: there are peoples of black, white, brown, and yellow skins. There are people of Italian, German, Arabian, Persian, and Japanese ancestry, as well as the native Indians and people of Portuguese descent. But no matter what our skin color or national background, all of us are insecure and confused when we must combat loneliness, sorrow, and conflict, all of which are part of the human predicament. Only religion - only the True Law - can save human beings from this condition. In this sense, the people living in the mountain villages of Japan are exactly like their fellow human beings in the hinterlands and rain forests of Brazil and exactly like all other human beings everywhere. The only thing that crosses all boundaries of nation and race to bind the hearts of human beings together is religion. This thought glowed in my mind as I traveled about under the skies of foreign lands. I have always believed that this is true, and while I was in Brazil I was even more strongly convinced that I am right.
On leaving Brazil, we traveled to Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile. On August fourth, we went to the United States, where we visited Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; other parts of California; and Niagara Falls. Then on August twenty-second, about two and a half months after our departure, we arrived safely in Japan. Many members of Rissho Kosei-kai came to welcome me home at Tokyo International Airport. Their greetings and the feeling of being home again made me warmly happy that I was born Japanese and that I enjoy the support and companionship of many fellow believers in Buddhism.
That night, my wife prepared a home-cooked meal of typically Japanese vegetables, spinach in sesame sauce, broiled fish, and sake. "How does Japanese food taste after such a long time away?" she asked me. I told her that it tasted delicious and that I was happy to be home in our fine country. Luxurious food in handsome restaurants is good, but the tastes and smells of home-cooked vegetables touch the heart. And nothing seems to quench the thirst of a Japanese as well as sake. I enjoyed all of those good things that night as I sat quietly telling my family of the experiences I had had in other lands.
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