Note: Rinban Katsuya Kusunoki shares a series of articles written by his father, the late Rev. Tatsuya Kusunoki, head of the family’s temple in Nagasaki, Japan.
Episode 8, A memory of the late Katsuji Yoshida
The late Mr. Katsuji Yoshida was an A-bomb survivor who spoke about his experiences. Mr. Yoshida said, “Regardless of one’s principals and ideology, we spontaneously do whatever we can for peace. It is peace activity.”
Rev. Tatsuya Kusunoki has never ever forgotten these words.
He first met Mr. Yoshida in his high school days when Rev. Kusunoki visited his house to conduct a memorial service.
He sat at the household obutsudan (family altar) and chanted a sutra. After that, he turned around and faced Mr. Yoshida. The next moment, he looked away from Mr. Yoshida’s face. [Mr. Yoshida] looked like a monster; his face had been burned because of the A-bomb. Rev. Kusunoki was scared to look at Mr. Yoshida, so he avoided seeing him after that.
Thirty years later, he visited Mr. Yoshida to conduct another memorial service. After the service, Mr. Yoshida told him about his horrible A-bomb experience. For the first time, [Rev. Kusunoki] heard Mr. Yoshida’s story and his wish for peace. Rev. Kusunoki regretted his attitude because, until then, he had judged Mr. Yoshida only by his appearance. They became good friends and often drank together. In 2007, Mr. Yoshida gave a talk at Kougenji on his experience using drawings on cards. Mr. Yoshida passed away in 2010. Rev. Kusunoki presented his Buddhist name: Annon-In Shaku Katsuji. Annon means peaceful and tranquil. In is an honorary posthumous title. Shaku comes from Shakyamuni Buddha. And Katsuji is his first name.
Rev. Kusunoki always talks about Mr. Yoshida when he gives talks about the A-bomb and peace. He says, “Mr. Yoshida’s words are related to the Buddha’s teaching. He was just like a Bodhisattva who sincerely practiced peace activities.”
Episode 9: Handing down the wish for peace to Dharma school kids
There is a baby Buddha statue halfway up the mountain where the Kameyama Shachu Museum, connected with Ryoma Sakamoto, is located. Rev. Tatsuya Kusunoki erected the baby Buddha statue in commemoration of the birthplace of Kougenji’s Dharma school, Hikari Kodomokai.
Hikari Kodomokai is the oldest Dharma school in Nagasaki. Rev. Monshin Ecchu founded the Dharma school and Tatsuya’s older brother, Rev. Tetsuya Ecchu, succeeded their father in taking care of it. After WW2, Rev. Tetsuya Ecchu gathered children who were poor and had lost their parents and taught them reading, math, and mountain climbing skills. Rev. Tatsuya Kusunoki took over for his brother in 1957. He said, “I learned from my brother that a Buddhist temple is not only a place for funerals and memorial services, but also for accepting people and sharing people’s feelings.”
Every Saturday night, students of all different age groups from kindergarten to high school come to the Dharma school. More than one hundred children used to come and now ten to fifteen children still attend. Every year when August 9 approached, Rev. Tatstuya talked about his memories of the A-bomb. He wanted to tell the students that the A-bomb is a weapon that could cause all human beings to vanish from this world. His wish is to hand down the stories of the A-bomb from generation to generation, just like the tales of old Japan.