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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
64 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 1 4 After a while, when she tired of English, she went on energetically in Japanese, with one of our group translating. When asked how she kept so fit in body and mind, she replied, “I walk around the neighbor- hood every day for an hour. I make sure to say hello to those who live alone.” She mentioned in particu- lar the school next door for children who “can’t go to school”—she visits them every day, bringing small gifts and good cheer—and the businessmen’s board- inghouse on the other side, where many men come and go, staying only for a day or two. At the end of her visit, a traditional children’s song about spring bubbled up from her memory. She continued to sing as she strode out of our sight to her waiting car and driver, her crisp white hip- pari and matching white pants hardly making a sound as she glided away. Her sudden absence left the room somehow sadly empty, though the group of us filled it well enough. For years in America, teaching tea ceremony and Japanese ways was her practice. Now, apparently, it was kindness. The long life of Mitsu Suzuki (she turned one hundred on April 23, 2014) is an unrepeatable marvel. Spanning the changes and disasters of one of the most spectacular centuries in history—one in which East and West have been struggling to meet and understand one another—the winds of time have blown her back and forth across the ocean. Beneath her sweetness, one senses the stoic tough- ness she possesses not so much because she was raised to it but because it was required of her. She was born in Shizuoka City in 1914, at the height of Japanese militarism and competition with the West. Her mother died when she was eleven, leaving Mitsu the woman of the household. At nine- teen, dissatisfied with the conventionality and cold- ness she found in Japanese Buddhism, she converted to Christianity, becoming a member of the local Methodist Church. In 1936, at twenty-two, she married Masaharu Matsuno, a naval pilot. When war broke out in 1937 between China and Japan, Masaharu went off, with Mitsu seven months Shunryu Suzuki with his family at the Haneda Airport in 1959 before he departed for San Francisco. Left to right: daughter Yasuko Oishi; her husband, Iwao Oishi; Suzuki Roshi’s sons, Otohiro and Hoitsu; Suzuki Roshi; Mitsu Suzuki; Mitsu’s daughter, Harumi Matsuno. PHOTOcourtesyofsanfranciscoZencenterandcrooKedcucumberarchives(cuKe.com) Valley temple bell— with the last ring a new century