Posts Tagged ‘Omoiyari’

Images from Japan                                    

Man-made clouds hover

Over rice fields, paper cranes,

Green tea, once again.


Half a rice ball,wrapped in seaweed,

Is shared; steam from a tea cup

Rises to the cloud.

She lifts her chopsticks

To the hungry, while her stomach

Growls in hunger.



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The New Cloud from Japan

Charles Pellegrino ends all  his correspondence with “Omoiyari” and he has good reason to adopt this Japanese word.

Dear Frances:Omoiyari: To think of the other person first. The great hope is that such thinking becomes contagious. In America, a variation on the theme is called the “pay it forward” principle. (To think of others, to live in service to others, hoping that [rather than paying back a favor] each person will pay it forward to someone else.) Although it is an improbable hope, the hope is, nevertheless, that in unexpected ways, a ripple effect might reach into, and change the lives of people who might otherwise, perhaps as children in war and occupation zones, think there is no good in the world and otherwise grow up wanting to do something evil. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was one who lived by this principle. Dr. Nagai of Nagasaki and Sadako of Hiroshima – and Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori – are other examples. What’s important about this is that it does not leave all hope in the hands of government leaders around the world, but empowers even children to bring about change.

See you later,


…Charlie P

Dear Dr.Charlie:

Acts of “Omoiyari” have become the new cloud from Japan, not the fear of radiation, but inspirational stories of “Omoiyari.”   A Nisei friend of mine told me yesterday, “I am so proud to be Japanese after all these years.”

“Yes,” I told her.” Pearl Harbor took this away from us, it’s been a long wait.”

“Omoiyari” is already happening as seen from these stories out of Japan. frances

from Japan:

Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they  need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others.  Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of
birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

Last night when I was walking home (since all traffic had stopped), I saw an old lady at a bakery shop. It was totally past their closing time, but she was giving out free bread. Even at times like this, people were trying to find what they can do and it made my heart warm.
In the supermarket, where items of all the shelves fell, people were picking up things so neatly together, and then quietly stand in line to buy food. Instead of creating panic and buying as much as needed, they bought as little as they needed. I was proud to be a Japanese.

When I was walking home, for 4 hours, there was a lady holding a sign that said, “Please use our toilet.”

At Disneyland, they were giving out candies. High school girls were taking so many, I was thinking, “What???” But then the next minute, they ran to the children in the evacuation place and handed it to them.

My co-worker wanted to help somehow, even if it was just to one person. So he wrote a sign: “If you’re okay with motor cycle, I will drive you to your house.” He stood in the cold with that sign. And then I saw him take one gentleman home, all the way to Tokorozawa!

A high school boy was saved because he climbed up on top of the roof of a department store during the flood. The flood came so suddenly, that he just saw people below him, trying to frantically climb up the roof and being taken by the flood. To help others, he kept filming them so their loved ones could see. He still hasn’t been able to reach his own parents but he says, “It’s nobody’s fault. There is no one to blame. We have to stay strong.”

There is a lack of gas now and many gasoline stations are either closed or have very loooong lines. I got worried, since I was behind 15 cars. Finally, when it was my turn, the man smiled and said, “Because of this situation, we are only giving $30 worth gas per each person. Is that alright?” “Of course its alright. I’m just glad that we are all able to share,” I said. His smile gave me so much relief.

I saw a little boy thanking a public transit employee, saying, “Thank you so much for trying hard to run the train last night.” It brought tears to the employee’s eyes, and mine.

A foreign friend told me that she was shocked to see a looong queue form so neatly behind one public phone. Everyone waited so patiently to use the phone even though everyone must have been so eager to call their families.

The traffic was horrible!! Only one car can move forward at green light. But everyone was driving so calmly. During the 10 hour drive (which would only take 30 minutes normally) the only horns I heard was a horn of thank you. It was a fearful time — but then again a time of warmth and it made me love Japan more.

When I was waiting at the platform, so tired and exhausted, a homeless person came to us and gave us a cardboard to sit on. Even though we usually ignore them in our daily life, they were ready to serve us.

Suntory (a juice company) is giving out free drinks, phone companies are creating more wi-fi spots, 1,000,000 noodles were given by a food company, and everyone is trying to help the best way they can. We, too, have to stand up and do our best.

Whenever there is a black out, people are working hard to fix it. Whenever the water stops, there are people working to fix that too. And when there is problem with nuclear energy, there are people trying to fix that too. It doesn’t just fix itself.

While we are waiting to regain the heat in the cool temperature or have running water, there were people risking their life to fix it for us.

An old woman said, on a train: “Blackouts are no problem for me. I am used to saving electricity for this country, and turning off lights. At least, this time we don’t have bombs flying over our heads. I’m willing to happy to shut off my electricity!”

In one area, when the electricity returned, people rejoiced. And then someone yelled: “We got electricity because someone else probably conserved theirs! Thank you so much to EVERYONE who saved electricity for us. Thank you everyone!”

An old man at the evacuation shelter said, “What’s going to happen now?” And then a young high school boy sitting next to him said, “Don’t worry! When we grow up, we will promise to fix it back!” While saying this, he was rubbing the old man’s back. And when I was listening to that conversation, I felt hope. There is a bright future, on the other side of this crisis.

Dr. Pellegrino’s reference to Takashi Tanemori   book, “Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness” appears in one of my blog posts. I also posted reviews on two of Pellegrino’s books.

Shikata ga nai….Gaman….Omoiyari

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The following emails exchanged between Charles Pellegrino and myself are posted here to update you on the latest on The Last Train From Hiroshima. The new edition of the book will be published in four foreign countries as of this writing.

Dr. Charlie,

I’m still in Hawaii, had a successful lecture tour and have lost my voice so will return to Sacramento on Tuesday, a quiet person.
Hawaii tends to isolate you from all the ills of the world. Let me hear some good news from you.
Do check my newest blog and maybe it’ll entice to you to think of Hawaii someday to escape from it all.
I’m anxious to know how the foreign printing is going ….
Thinking of you,

Dear Frances:

One of my mentors on my first book (Darwin’s Universe, the book that got me in all that trouble in New Zealand almost thirty years ago) – was Clair Edwin Folsome, one of the people who invented the field of astrobiology, at the University of Hawaii.  And of course, a word that got this family through my work in the ruins of the World Trade Center came from Hawaii – Ohana. There is a second word I hope my children will also strive to live by: Omoiyari.

Tuesday I am on my way to Japan, on special invite. I will be meeting with Steven Leeper ( Dir of Hiroshima Peace Movement)  and several other new friends, and a few old ones. I am, for the first time, attending both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki ceremonies (and I fear I will not be able to keep my eyes dry in either place).

The second edition of the book, with the new story arcs and with the bomber crew perspective on the Hiroshima mission complete, is the version that will go out as all foreign editions.
While in Japan, I will be meeting with more survivors – to whom the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings is of extreme importance, and some are now telling their stories for the first time. Aware that there are biological time-bombs ticking away in the tissues of many of the exposed, they want to get their warnings to the future out because they are not sure they will be around for the 70th anniversary.

So, this week, I begin work on the third edition of a book that is only seven months old. This will be the next English edition – if, in fact, one is allowed. I have heard through a colleague from one of the crewmen on the Hiroshima mission, who has read the first edition, and who is – aside from my error about the Necessary Evil’s flight engineer and a bit of false testimony – approving of how I wrote about the crews and the cities, and agrees with the message that we must use the past as best we can, to teach us that these weapons must never be used – ever again, for any reason.

Omoiyari, Nyokodo, Ohana,

– – Charlie Pellegrino

Dr. Charlie,

Please burn an incense or burn a candle for my Hiroshima ancestors when you are there. I believe all the spirits will embrace you and will end the journey of grief and all will be well hereafter. I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking of you in Hiroshima. Karma, my dear Dr. Charlie. good Karma.

from the land of Ohana, take good care. frances

Dear Frances:

I will burn incense. Are there names of family members that you want written on a floating lantern or spoken.

In Nagasaki the name I will carry with me is Eiko, who is only a very short part of my book, and whose story – a child so badly burned that her mother ran away and abandoned her – that I looked up with tears when I read it in Dr. Nagai’s “We of Nagasaki” and told my oldest daughter I’d just come across something so horrible that I could never put it in a book. Ashley was 14, and she told me that Eiko’s story perhaps more than any other told of the horror of the bomb, and said, “Dad, you must put it in your book.” The children get it more than the adults. They are in many ways smarter, as Masahiro Sasaki has observed, and as I am still learning.

Today, Dr. Nagai’s grandsonson does not know where Eiko’s grave is and does not think anyone knows. He has said he is almost completely unfamiliar with her story, and evidently it was only very rarely spoken about. Certainly, he did not want to talk about it – – another example of the cracks that the atomic bomb makes in the human spirit.

See you later,
– – Charlie P.

Dr. Charlie, if you could say both my parents surnames. Takahashi and Kakugawa, that would be a blessing. Thank you. With Ashley in our next generation, my hope is renewed for the future.Have a safe and beautiful trip.


Dear Frances:

I sent your ancestors’ names out on a floating lantern last night, near the Hiroshima Dome while Yuji Sasaki (Sadako’s nephew) sang his prayer Inori  (now a very popular song here in Japan).  The morning ceremony was not what I expected. As the ringing of the bell approached I was anticipating solemn music from the orchestra; but instead it was a continually and ominously building tone that conveyed the approach of something horrible (they chose music directly reminiscent of Godzilla’s approach to Tokyo, in the original B&W film) – and one of the main images it conveyed for me was the three planes closing in from the west, as the clock ticked down toward 8:15 AM –  and then,  the long seconds of silence as the bomb fell, followed finally by children ringing that huge bell. I knew the names of too many people, and the distances they had been from me, and in which directions, 65 years ago to the moment. One of the most emotionally exhausting moments imaginable.

We must, all of us, do whatever little we can to make sure the world never sees another hypocenter.

None of this has been about the past and who did what to whom, all those years ago. It’s about a future that must be avoided, if we are to have any chance of building a world for tomorrow’s child that is worth having.

– – Charlie P.Dear Frances.

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