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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2 0 1 4 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 65 pregnant. He was killed just two weeks after seeing the first photographs of his daughter. After the war, Mitsu trained as a schoolteacher, and when her daughter was three, began teaching at a local kindergarten. When the Pacific War began (the war Americans know as World War II) and American pilots began flying their interminable and devastating raids over Japan, Mitsu and the other teachers would take their students into bunkers every day as bombs rained down on the city. On the night of June 16, 1945, just three months before Japan surrendered, the entire city of Shizuoka was burned to the ground. Mitsu, like almost all Japanese of her genera- tion, had been brought up to believe—and had experienced it as a fact—that Americans wanted to kill her and her countrymen. How strange, marvel- ous, and probably disturbing then that by the early 1960s she would find herself living in the United States, the new wife of a Soto Zen priest stationed in San Francisco. A working Japanese Christian single mother would not have been able to imagine such a thing in 1940. Yet it happened. After the war, the schools of Japan were in ter- rible shape, most of them closed, their facilities destroyed. Civic leaders everywhere rushed to take care of this problem as fast as they could. In Yaizu, Shunryu Suzuki was keen to reopen the historically important kindergarten attached to Rinso-in. He had been told of Mitsu by a mutual friend and was determined to hire her to run the school, though she insisted she would not leave Shizuoka, and that, in any case, how could a Christian woman run a Bud- dhist school? But Shunryu was extremely persistent. He kept reappearing in Shizuoka again and again to ask Mitsu to simply come visit the school. Finally she agreed. One visit was enough to convince her to take the job. As for the Christian problem? “Well, at least you have some religion,” he told her. Shunryu visited the school daily, leading the children in chanting and Buddhist lessons. He and Mitsu became close colleagues and friends—two First calligraphy of the year— today again I write “beginner’s mind”