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Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori













Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori, descendent of a proud Samurai family, Hiroshima survivor, peace activist, poet and artist, in his own words ...

My life, since I was eight years old, has been a long struggle to understand the demise of my home town, the confiscation of my childhood, and the horrible indignity of a bomb attack that marked the beginning of the Nuclear Age. It has led me to finding peace in my heart, and becoming a man of peace.

Long ago I was lifted from the ashes of Hiroshima to find my way in the world. Before then my Father, a descendent of a proud Samurai family, dressed in a kimono emblazoned with the family crest, "Maru ni Tachi Aoi," of the "hollyhock" [Tokugawa Shogunate lineage], taught me patiently to live by the ancient code of Samurai. How important it was to him to make sure that he had correctly passed on to me the "Seven Codes of the Samurai", as he insisted that we must repay our debts to our ancestors by passing on to our children what we have received. On September 3, 1945 I bade farewell to my Father.

I became a "hibakusha" (a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing) leaving the charred cradle of childhood with a heart twisted by hatred, for a harsh journey toward manhood.  As a teenager, I immigrated to America, my youthful mind thinking it my duty to seek revenge for the destruction of my family.

Now a naturalized American citizen, my Father's teaching has become the touchstone of my life, enabling me to survive and setting me on the "Path of Peace" to the wisdom of manhood with an open heart of love and forgiveness.  I am now a product of two cultures -- traditional Japan, the nation of my birth -- and America, my adopted nation.

Looking back on the last 60 years of my life, my life-journey has not been what I expected; my final destination not exactly as I had charted it. But I am neither dismayed nor disappointed. The conflicts of my past shaped and redirected me. I now honor both the past and the present while expressing my love for two countries that both wounded and nurtured me. My life is like embroidery, many different lengths of threads, crisscrossing in many colors, adding to an iridescent tapestry of human dignity.

Although I was young and filled with anger, after many turbulent years both in postwar Japan and America, I had to search into the deepest chamber of my soul in my deepest anguishing hour. I realized that I had not only survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but that my Father’s teaching of the Seven Codes of the Samurai had kept my heart and soul intact, preserved the essence of who I am, and saved me from self-destruction! 

On August 5, 1985 I had a personal epiphany that changed my life’s direction. In a moment of anger, I suddenly remembered the dream about a white Crane and Butterfly I had the night before the bombing in Hiroshima. 

I would like to share the story of the crane and the butterfly, and my journey from revenge to forgiveness and peace, symbolized by folding an origami paper crane and transforming it into a butterfly. This story begins the night before the bombing, as I sat in a community bomb shelter with my family. I had a transcendent vision of the crane and the butterfly. In my vision, I was taken to see the white crane, Senba-zuru, as mighty as a thousand cranes, who talked to me of loss, survival and transformation. I was shown many of the horrors to come and also told that the keys to survival were to remember who I am and to follow the light within. At the end of the vision, I was horrified to see Senba-zuru perish in a giant fireball. But then, as I lay desolate, sobbing on the ground, I saw him return as a white butterfly.

In the aftermath of the bombing, I forgot this vision for forty years until August 5, 1985, while driving to a remembrance rally in San Francisco--a mushroom-shaped cloud formation in the distance brought the memory flooding back. A white butterfly flew into my car, gracefully landing on the dashboard. It stayed there momentarily, a fluttering pair of iridescent wings, recreating the symphonic melodies that I had heard on that night of the vision--then it flew out, soaring freely into the blue sky. At that moment, the weight of the past was lifted from my heart. Looking back, I realize that the crane and the butterfly had been guiding me like an unseen rudder through stormy seas of hatred and revenge to forgiveness to peace.

My spiritual journey, reconnecting with and reconciling my past with the events of history and applying this experience to the present, for the benefit of future generations, is my life goal. The message is clear and simple. At last, I come home to my real promise to my Father, a place called "PEACE through forgiveness" by letting go of my painful past. I can say at last I am now a man of "PEACE".

I was finally able to embrace my Father’s teaching, the Seven Codes of Samurai, which has allowed me, having gone through the darkest clouds of raging storms, to enter into the “eye of the storm”, where I am now able to see the world from a different perspective. I set a lifetime goal of helping future generations live in Heiwa: peace, with harmony and equality. At the Silkworm Peace Institute, a nonprofit organization I founded, we foster the message of hope, healing, cultural understanding, attempting to transform revenge and anger into peace and forgiveness to others.

The Blade of Grass in a Dreamless Field

Only a few knew it existed;
No one knew its power;
The world would never be the same again,
Changing irrevocably and forever.
The six-hundred-year history of Hiroshima
Disappeared in the ashes,
On this Judgment Day, on this Morning!

(i)
Blameless souls forever vanish
on this morning, this judgment day.
Our silent cries, to heaven we appeal,
scattered like the ash of withered leaves.
Our ebbing souls
cling to that lonely sky;
we try in vain to escape this sea of flame.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my haven,
why has your life been sacrificed?

(ii)
The abounding sadness within my heart . . .
drowning my loneliness in tears of self-pity.
Four abandoned children;
wishing to feel our mother's love,
just once more;
if only in our dreams.
The heat of yet another long night lingers.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my home,
my tears run dry waiting for the breaking dawn.

(iii)
My soul is torn by this rage inside,
an orphan of war;
why does this make me feel guilty?
Why do my neighbors turn away
or, close their ears when I speak?
Bitterness poisons this innocent child,
I madly waste away.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my cradle,
I am waiting to die.

(iv)
Gathering remnants of my courage,
I stand alone in this notorious America, land of the enemy.
An outcast with slanted eyes,
I fall before the indifference of strangers;
sightlessly, they trample upon my dignity.
This life of anguish seems to be my destiny.
Praying for death, I endure time.
Oh, Hiroshima, once my comfort,
I am lost in dreams of revenge.

(v)
Budding leaves renew this tired place, this tired soul;
gently the rain is embraced by your love,
comforting this savaged heart.
A blade of grass emerges from the ashes,
and my heart becomes a light,
connecting me to heaven.
Living for one another, this is my path!
Oh Hiroshima, forever my love,
may my life become a bridge from you and others.

(vi)
At the dawn of the 21st century,
we honor this passage through darkness.
We must have the courage to enter
the void again . . . and again,
emerging with the gift of new life.
Healing only comes through learning to forgive
and making peace with our past.
Only then, will the wind whisper:
"Hibakusha, you have not lived in vain!"



Measure of a Heart

No one can Measure a "Heart"
by a yardstick or a scale;
nor can it be touched like a tender petal;
or inhaled like the fragrance of a rose.

No one can Measure a "Heart"
by a dazzling revelation of wealth;
nor by shiny golden trophies on the mantle;
or bronze statues in the city square.

No one can Measure a "Heart"
by the glittering lights on a Christmas tree;
nor by the number of gifts underneath;
or the extravagance they display.

A "Heart" cannot be Measured, but...
it is demonstrated in so many ways:

as hands that wash the feet of others
in a humble spirit;

as the hands that reach out to the lost
in a kind spirit;

as hands that lift the burdens of the afflicted
in a courageous spirit;

as hands that bandage the wounds of the injured
in a merciful spirit;

as hands that embrace the lonely
in a compassionate spirit;

as hands that visit the fatherless and the elderly
in a tender spirit;

as hands that feed the hungry and the feeble
in a loving spirit;

as the hands that wipe the tears of sorrow
in a sharing spirit;

as the hands that soothe the distress of the mourning
in a sympathetic spirit;

as hands that pray for supplication
in a selfless spirit;

as hands that touch the "heartbeat" of others...

No one can measure a "Heart",
for it is never still,
but like the flowing river,
is known only by its path.



Personal Journey

No one knew your purpose or destiny
As you entered into this world.
Safely cradled in the arms of mother,
You wonder to yourself "Who am I?"

As you journey through life...
From the cradle to the grave;
Climbing hills, crooked roads and deep water;
Your soul is forged, tempered by life's "fiery" trials.

Rain falls both good and evil;
Tragedy, a falling sparrow known only to the Maker.
Hearts fill with countless blessings-
Food, shelter, clothing and friends to be encircled.

Choose your friends and destination well,
Be a friend along the way, but do not hurry there.
You will arrive soon enough to spare the time.
Remember the back roads and forgotten paths.

Keep your destination in your heart
Like the fixed point of a compass guiding your ship.
Do not fear troubled visions and unknown harbors,
Never forget where your journey began.

Treasure your past, but seek out new and old
Venture out into strange sights,
Embrace ideas foreign to your own.
Such things are riches for the soul.

And if, upon arrival, you find that your destination
Is not exactly as you had chartered.
Do not be dismayed, neither be disappointed.
The journey itself is the true worth of your travels.

Think of all you would have missed,
If you had not journeyed, and reflect,
How stumbling steps have become a path.
Know that on this lonely road you have never been alone.

Discovering your pilgrimage through life,
Lies not in what path you traveled, who was with you,
Or how you arrived at journey's end, but
In who you come to be along the way!

Takashi\'s Dream

My Reflections

Turning my face to Heaven
I sense rather than see the endless blue.
Beyond the dancing leaves and soaring hawk.
Its immeasurable stillness reflects the wonder of all Creation.

Morning dew glittering in the dawn,
like precious jewels;
and twinkling stars echoing in the silent night,
like the songs of angels,

We gather the fruits of the earth,
till the barn is overflowing with bounty.
My heart fills with countless blessings--
food, shelter, clothing and friends to be encircled.

Looking back, I see how
my stumbling steps have become a path--
and how, on this lonely road
I have never been alone.

Kindness of many has been like a spring rain,
bringing new life to my heart,
as a "Blade of Grass" ever emerged
from the ashes of the Past.

I stand, amazed at my blessings,
grateful for the wonder!

Looking forward to even greater New Year



"The Artist"

Casting my "eyes" towards the rolling hills,
laminated by the white mystic-spells,
a sense of "peace" embraces the air,
like a mother cradling a baby.

Watching the sleepy rolling hills,
tenderly cuddled by the mid-day sun;
a mystic warmth disappearing in the air
enlivens the iridescent green below.

Seeing myself surrounded by the rolling hills,
my soul fills with irresistible lightness and wonder;
I stand, not alone,
touched by the "Artist"! 


Looking into Heaven
with
Love and Gratitude
on
Thanksgiving Day
November 23, 2006
by
Takashi "Thomas" Tanemori

Turning my face to Heaven
I sense rather than see
the endless blue.
Beyond the dancing leaves and soaring hawk,
its immeasurable stillness
reflects the wonder of all Creation.

**

Morning dew glittering in the dawn,
like precious jewels;
and twinkling stars echoing in the silent night,
like the songs of angels,
We gather the fruits of the earth,
till the barn is overflowing with bounty.

**

My heart fills with countless blessings:
food, shelter, clothing and friends to be encircled.
Looking back, I see how
my stumbling steps have become a path
and how, on this lonely road,
I have never been alone.

**

The kindness of many has been
like a spring rain,
bringing new life to my heart,
as a "Blade of Grass" ever emerging
from the ashes of the Past,
I stand, Amazed at my blessings,
grateful for His Wonders!


Dear Joy [nickname of THT artist Judy Jones],

Thank you for your kind words of our time together yesterday.  Momentary, I walked to the edge of street, watching you walking down the street in the rain toward BART Station.  Then, there was something in my heart welding, urging me to write…

I appreciate for your poem, as I was, too, spilling out what was in my heart. When I felt your heartbeat, as you have expressed, "Your neighborhood is like taking a walk inside a Norman Rockwell painting...something out of a storybook...the trees, brooks, all of it, idealistic." 

Your “Touch”, Gentle Rain, Connecting Me to Heaven

(1)

Watching your steps with rain coming down;
Your steps are skipping down the street,
Strolling through the Street, a picturesque of “Norman Rockwell”,
Joyous bouncing rain with your footsteps!

(2)
Watching your steps with rain coming down;
Your steps are skipping down the street,
Meandering through the charming “JOYOUS” path,
Cheerful dancing rain with your footsteps!

(3)
Watching your steps with rain coming down;
Your steps are skipping down the street,
Disappearing, no longer my eyes to behold
Seeing the rain washing your footsteps away!

(4)
Watching your steps with rain coming down;
Your steps are skipping down the street,
Waiting for the sunshine for “Tomorrow- Lane”,
Thanking for the “life-giving” rain, for us all!

The HyperTexts