Meditations of My Heart

Tetsuo Sakurai & Unconditional Love

Toshizo Nagamine was born in the little village of Tsurata in the province of Tsugaru on the northern island of Honshu. He was born into a wealthy family but at the age of 15, it was discovered that he had leprosy or Hansen's disease. When he was incarcerated for a life of isolation, the shame and disgrace brought to his family made him change his name to Tetsuo Sakurai.

Today, at the age of 83, physically scarred from the ravages of Hansen's disease, he sat before us to tell us his deeply emotional story. The loneliness of isolation and the difficult decision to change his name so that people would not connect him to his valley of birth and his family was difficult to listen to. Adding to his already difficult life, he became blind and almost lost his voice when he was struck with a serious illness.

His sad story continued. What I heard from this soft-spoken and frail man broke my heart. He and Masako got married and found out that she was pregnant. She had to abort the child she carried for six months. Mr. Sakurai related how he held his breathing child for ten hours and how his wife refused to hold the child because she was so broken-hearted.

We were all so emotionally caught up in this story that even our interpreter had to stop as she tried to relate this horrific story to us. His wife died two years later of leukemia.

Mr. Sakurai converted to Catholicism. Here was a man completely at peace with himself and his God. There was an aura about him. This man was an example of how we exercise deep spiritual forgiveness and unconditional love.

Mr. Sakurai had an opportunity to go to the Vatican. He had a private meeting with Pope Benedict. His one request to "the Papa" was "to pray for the souls of those taken prematurely from this earth."

Mr. Sakurai was a man whose life was in darkness for over fifty years, yet he found true light and amazing grace in his soul to forgive those who did this most cruel and inhumane thing to him and to his wife, Masako. He found the secret of that most incredible truth of our time, the need for forgiveness and unconditional love. I discovered in this man the kind of spiritual maturity which caused me to stand in awe – to be so perfect in his love toward his ravaged body, his tormentors and neighbors, and his God.

The following morning, we visited a memorial where the name of his daughter is etched on stone as a witness to mankind. Markio, the name he had chosen for his child, was cruelly victimized by society. As we viewed this memorial, it literally bruised my consciousness forever.

I struggled with the knowledge of what was done to his daughter as I tried to gather myself to listen and observe all that was going on around me these past few intense and emotional days. I was moved by Mariko's story.


I met someone much like you the other day, his name is Takatsu.
Your story will live on forever as your story is retold over and over again.
Embraced by your loving father as his tears washed over your body
So overwhelmed was your mother's sadness and darkness of her soul
She could not find the strength to carry you!

Yet her love was so great but under such weight, it broke asunder,
We who are privileged to share in such intimate spirit.
We are spent emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually
So beyond our comprehension, yet sadly we try to understand
As we see so much discrimination dominating the human spirit!

The fear of fear that overcomes our sensibilities and our humanity,
The convenience of not facing up to our individual responsibilities,
Your story hopefully reaches the depths of our souls and consciences
Each time we hear your story, we vow not to let this happen again!

My prayer is that you will give us the strength to overcome our hesitancy,
Somehow, this indelible experience will push us forward to act
That a memorial in our minds and hearts is visible to those around us
For sadness may turn to victory as your message is shared from this day forward!

* * *

Your parents were innocent victims who were punished for having an illness they had no control over. As innocent people, they bore the brunt of punishment as our Christ who died on the Cross. May God use your story to give wisdom, compassion, courage, and grace to eliminate all hatred and prejudice within each of our lives.

Taka Harada
July 2007
Mākena, Maui

Past Meditations:  June 2007