Meditations of My Heart
"The Meditations of My Heart" returns to Ka Hā A Ke Akua this month. In the months ahead this column will feature a series of meditations under the pen of Taka Harada, a General Member of Keawalai Congregational Church.
My Trip to Japan
The Land of Sakura and Mt. Fuji
It was an interesting group of six people as we gathered ourselves for the trip to Suruga, a sanatoria for leprosy patients. There were six of us traveling for the first time together. Included in the group was Jennifer, an employee from the Kalaupapa National Park. There was Pauline, daughter of Catherine, a patient of Kalaupapa. Val was a former Maui News reporter and Anwei, the wife of the former head of the Kalaupapa National Park. And then there was Hiroe, our interpreter for this leg of the trip.
I was not as excited as I should have been, but, I decided to keep myself open to whatever experience lay in store for us as a group. We were told that the trip would take approximately 4 1/2 hours from our hotel in Tokyo. At Suruga, we were to meet with patients and to share our experiences with them.
Suruga is located on hill overlooking a city. Across were mountain ranges covered with the morning clouds. The facility itself is quite large and still houses patients like they do in Kalaupapa. Our agenda for the afternoon was to meet with the Patient Council and later to join them in a visit to a cemetery.
The meeting began with an incredible story, one of many that we would be privileged to listen to as we participated in these listening sessions.
Mr. Koji Kaneda told a story that was repeated by others. He was born in 1930 and at the age of 20 was brought to Suruga. In six months, he was cured but he remained at Suruga. He later married and soon found that his wife was pregnant.
What was quite horrifying was that every man had to be sterilized in order to get married. But if they were sterilized, wives often still became pregnant. It happened to Koji and his wife and she was forced to abort the child. Patients were not allowed to have children.
When the Japanese Government overturned the Old Leprosy Law, investigations into the various aspects of activities going on in sanatoria revealed that all of the fetuses that were aborted were kept in laboratories throughout Japan.
One of thirteen fetuses kept at Suruga was identified as Mr. Koji Kaneda’s child. We visited the cemetery to pay homage to the cremated remains of Mr. Kaneda’s son whom he named Takatsu. The cemetery is strategically located above the sanatoria, overlooking the valley below. Amid the blooming sakura flowers is a memorial for all of the fetuses, including the thirteen named by their survivors. As we gathered at the memorial, a light rain fell as we lit incense and prayed in our own individual way.
The following morning, I walked up to the cemetery to meditate and to await the possible viewing of Mt. Fuji. As I reached the top, there was little of Mt. Fuji to be seen. As I stood there, I voiced a little prayer asking Takatsu to clear the clouds away. For the next half hour, an incredible thing happened as the clouds gradually lifted and before me was Mt. Fuji in all its glory and majesty. I penned the following as the clouds again hid Mt. Fuji from my sight.
I gaze upon your final resting place
So peaceful, yet so powerful
For the instant your life was taken on this earth
Little did they realize your immortal soul
Will rise and live again for all mankind to hear your message!
A message of intolerance and fear
The painful cry of a helpless victim
Violently taken from the warmth of your mother's womb!
You stand tall this day as I gaze upon you, Takatsu
You have finally become a boy and a person
You became a person for all to see
You became more than a fetus to me!
For every moment your story is told
You grow, you stand tall, you mature
You inspire, your voice is heard again
Over and over and over again!
Why is man so fearful and intolerant?
Why is man so scared and frightful?
When will we learn the lessons of the past?
When will we begin to trust one another?
So many questions arise as we see you
Your presence is still among us as a lesson
For out of open hearts and mind
You tell us in a small voice, “No more, No more!”
I stood where you lie
And saw the majestic Mt. Fujiyama
Your spirit, indeed, matches it’s purity and splendor
Your soul so pure and clean
Like the snow on top of the mountain.
I feel my own spirit lift high above
As I witness the unfolding of Mt. Fuji
Like the unfolding story of your spirit!
You represent the very spirit of this mountain
Takatsu, as people look upon you
Their awe and wonderment will soar
Like the birds I hear all around me!
And the fresh sakura blossoms all around
The quietness of this place engulf me
I am glad I am here this very moment
To feel and hear your story retold for all the world to hear!
Overwhelmed with emotions,
Takatsu's story will be told
as long as I live!