Ken and Bill's Excellent Adventure
XI. Toko-ji Temple
Among the coolest things Ken and I did together was a talk about the Vietnam War to the congregants of Toko-ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Amakusa. 
Bill and Ken's Presentation
Ken & Bill giving a talk on the Vietnam War to the congregants of
Toko-ji Zen Buddhist Temple, Amakusa, June 2011. (SA)
      Five years ago, at the request of Morinobu Okabe, 31st priest of the 350-year-old temple, Ken and I had translated and adapted a poem by the late Shinmin Sakamura, which Okabe-san makes available free for visiting English speakers (along with the original in Japanese for Japanese speakers).

Morinobu Okabe, 31st priest of Toko-ji Temple. (SA)
Here’s what we came up with:

The sun comes up each morning in silence;
the moon disappears, but nobody sees.

Flowers dance by the roadside unnoticed;
birds twitter sweetly, but nobody hears.

People don’t stop to consider what matters.
People work hard all their lives to achieve

a dream of success that will make them happy:
position or power, fortune or fame—

until they are old and they realize too late
that the beauty of living has passed them by

while the river travels alone to the ocean,
the wind sings alone in the tops of the trees.
After the talk is concluded, it’s party time! Ken & Bill, standing, share a toast. (SA)
      When the priest heard that Ken and I would be in Amakusa, he asked Ken if we could give a talk about the war—its history and our experiences—to the supporters of his temple, most of whom know nothing about the war.  Beneath a huge banner written almost entirely in Japanese, of course, except for “Bill Ehrhart” and “Kazunori Takenaga,” we spoke for about an hour to an attentive audience of 50 or 60 people, after which we all sat down to a multi-course feast washed down with beer, sake, and another Japanese specialty called shochu.
(Background phtoto by SA)
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