Day of Remembrance
The Women of the Camps
Yoshiko Kasuga (6/07) -"My Testimony" 私の証ー春日祥子姉記
Profile of Sayoko Yoshida (3/07)- “In Lent” 受難節に寄せてー吉田小夜子姉
Profile of Kumiko Bauman (3/07)- “My Testimony ” 私の証ーバウマン久美子姉私の証ーバウマン久美子姉
Profile of Mary Yamada (2/07)- “Following the veteran Christians” 信仰の先輩に訊くー山田メアリー姉
Testimony of Yoshinori Shiraishi (2/07)
Testimony of Larry Kern (1/07)- “Seeking a Pure Heart” 清い心を求めるーラリー･カーン
Testimony of Gerri Yoshida (12/06)- “Gratitude for Unlimited Blessings” 祝福への感謝ー吉田ジェリ
The life of Mrs. Asae Konokawa - "Tell Your Children & Grandchildren"
Testimony of Mr. Sangfoon Lee
100th Anniversary of JAUC in 1994
1994年100周年記念 - 三教会合同と新しい教会堂探索
By Fujio Saito
The U.S. Census figures for the year 1890 show that there were 2,039 Japanese in the United States. Most of the immigrants remained in the West working mainly on farms and for the railroads. The young men who came to New York were hired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to serve as cooks, stewards and kitchen workers on American battleships. In his autobiography, The Shinning Stars, Dr. Toyohiko Takami, a prominent pioneer Issei leader in the New York Japanese community, states that at the age of 17 he was appointed as chief cook on the U.S.S. Vermont. At that time there were 400 to 500 seamen in the area. When not at sea they lived in boarding houses run for the Japanese residents. Dr. Takami describes the seamen as a rough, heavy drinking lot. There was much quarreling and many fights between the drunken men. "It was certainly not a very encouraging environment."
In 1893 a young Japanese evangelist by the name of Kinya Okajima came to Brooklyn by walking across America from Portland, Oregon because he felt that it was his mission to preach the Gospel to the Japanese in New York and because he did not have the train fare. Dr. Takami writes about their meeting and that eventually Mr. Okajima started the first Japanese mission in New York in 1893 on the second floor of a house on Sands Street. Later the mission moved to 17 Concord Street and was known as the Concord Mission. In 1901 the Japanese Methodist Church was established in Brooklyn with $125 support from the New York Methodist City Society. In 1902 the Concord Mission merged with the Methodist Church and in 1920 moved to its home at 323 West 108 Street in Manhattan.
In 1897 Rev. Yoshisuek Hirose from Chicago established a boarding house at 52 Prospect Street in Brooklyn near the Navy Yard where he conducted Sunday services and Bible studies for the Japanese in the area. In time the Navy Yard stopped hiring Japanese and many moved to Manhattan to work in American households. Thus in 1899, Rev. Hirose moved the mission to 105 East 54 Street in Manhattan. Then in 1901 the mission moved to 330 East 57 Street due to increase in the number of boarders and it was named the Japanese Mission. In 1912, Rev. Hirose returned to Japan and the mission was left without a minister. At that time through the efforts of Rev. Earnest Atsushi Ohori, who had founded the Shudokai (Japanese Christian Association) in 1909 with the support of the Women's Board of Domestic Missions of the Reformed Church in America, encouraged the Women's Board to support Rev. Sojiro Shimizu, a recent graduate of McCormic Theological Seminary who was on his way to Scotland, as the minister for Japanese Mission. He was hired for one year but continued to serve for 35 years when he retired in 1948. In 1916 the Japanese Mission became officially the Japanese Christian Institute.
As described above, the Japanese Christian Association was formed in 1909 with the Rev. E.A. Ohori as the first minister. In the beginning the congregation met at the Bible Teachers Training School for Sunday services at Lexington Avenue and 49th Street and later in a room of the Harlem Reformed Church at 103 West 123rd Street. In 1927 the Church purchased the two buildings at 453 and 455 West 143rd Street. In 1929 Rev. Giichi Kawamata was appointed as assistant minister and succeeded Rev. Ohori who passed away in 1931. Upon the retirement of Rev. Shimizu, the two Reformed missions merged to become the Japanese American Church of Christ (Reformed).
In 1924 the Japanese Exclusion Act was passed and no further immigration was permitted from Japan. As a result the Japanese community in New York was stabilized. The immigrant parents established families, so that at the time of the outbreak of World War II the three mission churches were adequate to meet the needs of the community. However, on the West Coast the government uprooted all Japanese, citizens and non-citizens, from their homes and corraled them into ten Relocation Centers, a total of 110,000. In time the government allowed the internees to move out of the camps eastwards away from the West Coast. Many of the evacuees came to New York. In order to meet the needs of the newcomers it became apparent that the three small mission churches should merge and pool their resources to accommodate the enlarged congregations. Thus, in 1953 the three mission churches merged to become the Japanese American United Church. The three brownstone mission/dormitory churches were sold and in 1970 the United Church moved into its current building at 255 Seventh Avenue.
In 1952 the Walter-McCarran Immigration and Naturalization Act was passed which ended the Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924. It also gave citizenship rights to the Isseis for the first time. Although the immigration quota for Japan was only 185, it allowed the Japanese to immigrate to the U.S. again. Although most of the pioneer immigrants (Isseis) are gone, today the cycle continues and the United Church, a bilingual Church, continues to bring the Gospel to the newly arrived Japanese-speaking participants.
Day of Remembrance
In 1979, The Day of Remembrance Committee began its programs for the Japanese American community in New York City. Our focus was community empowerment and healing through events which enabled us to commemorate our history and our connection to each other.
We worked in the beginnings to gather strength to seek Redress and sweet justice. We commemorated the signing of Executive Order 9066 through programs where we could reclaim dignity, shed tears and tell our stories. There has been a joy in coming together annually to see old friends, make new relationships and reaffirm our ties to our unique and rich cultural heritage.
As the Redress movement has begun to resolve itself (though there is still work until all the injustices are redressed), the Day of Remembrance Committee moved to honor our own cultural heroes in our programs, passing on legacy and history to the younger generation. We are involved in oral history projects, creating permanent documentation of our New York Nikkei history through programs honoring different people and groups such as artists, journalists and long time activists in our community.
Today, on behalf of the Japanese American Community, The Day of Remembrance Committee gives heartfelt appreciation to the WWII Veterans. We honor you for your humanity, your personal sacrifice, and courage. We respectfully pay homage to your fallen comrades, and salute your service and valiant testament of character of behalf of your families and your community.
ディー・オブ・レメンバランス(Day of Remembrance)
2000年3月4日(土曜日)JAUCにてディー・オブ・レメンバランス「追憶の日」の団体が集会をもちました。 1980年から続けられているこの集会は第二次世界大戦で日系人が受けた体験を次世代の人々に伝えるためのものです。 今年は、その収容所での生活を、一世、二世の女性が家族のバックボーンとなり支えてこられたことに焦点をあて、 その方々に敬意を表す集まりとなり、この団体の訴えに耳を傾けるよい機会になりました。
Honoring the Salt of the Earth: Women of the Camps
By Courtney Goto
"Shoyu, otsukemono, umeboshi, teriyaki, shioyaki, dashi, miso soup..."
These are the salty flavors of my life, what I was weaned on, what my mother was raised on, and her mother before her. When I eat otsukemono with rice, I hear the stairs creaking, as Grandma goes down into the basement to find a jar of homemade otsukemono, the brown kind. Years ago, her mother used go down to her basement to get otsukemono, which she kept in a bucket of kasu. She'd pull it out of the salty mud each time she needed to slice some.
They were salty women, my grandma and great-grandma, raising families in a poor farming town in California. They were like many other nisei and issei women, who endured with their families a time when this country betrayed and imprisoned them. Deep within, they had the spirit to survive, a kind of saltiness that enables a person to suffer with dignity, to have patience, or to fight for justice.
The stories of women of the camps have been rarely told. Volumes have been written about the internment of Japanese Americans, but almost exclusively from the perspective of men - military men determining military necessity, men being detained by FBI, men volunteering for the MIS/442/100th Battalion. What happened to the other half of the people who experienced the camp years? Why aren't the stories of women remembered, recorded, and retold? Who are the women of the camps?
Issei women came to America, first at the turn of the century, then in larger numbers from 1915 to 1920. Most were picture brides, strangers to their husbands and strangers to this country, but full of hopes for a new life. The majority were disappointed. Most ended up sacrificing their own aspirations and labored to give everything to their children. From dawn to dusk, they worked the land, washed clothes, sold vegetables, and raised children, eking out a living. Over time, the issei women became as salty as their sweat and tears.
Some say that issei women survived by clinging to the ways of the old country, accepting the Japanese understanding of women's lot in life. For instance, many lived by the belief, Shi Kata Ganai (it cannot be helped). Such values may have helped issei women cope with the rampant racism against Japanese in this country before World War II. Though their marriages weren' t what they dreamed they would be, the unions did satisfy the issei woman's understanding of her role in society. And what they did not and could not achieve, they hoped their daughters would.
Nisei women were born with salt in their blood - born an American citizen entitled to this country's rights and opportunities, yet faced with hatred and humiliation because of her race, something that confronted her at school, at play, and at work. In addition, she inherited the sexism of two cultures, deeply entrenched in both traditional Japanese society and in America. She would expect more of her spouse than her mother. She would also expect a good education and a good job.
Nisei women were bridges between the traditional culture and the new. They understood both languages and the underlying assumptions of both cultures. They would pass on some valuable features of Japanese culture to their children, while struggling themselves to become fully Americanized.
When they and their families were imprisoned in concentration camps, issei and nisei women were torn from homes, schools, and loved ones. Husbands and fathers being taken away for questioning. Sons and brothers being sent oversees to fight for their country, many of whom would not return. Sometimes, it was the women who held their families and the community together, struggling to make life in camp as normal as possible. Some women volunteered for the armed services.
Years later, many women of the camps would overcome numerous obstacles of racism and sexism, becoming successful professionals, mothers, and leaders in the community. Some led the fight for Redress and other struggles for justice. Many women came forward and gave powerful testimony during the Redress hearings. Now in their 60s, 70s and 80s, many continue to educate students and community groups about the internment of Japanese Americans.
Women of the camps are the salt of the earth, unassuming yet as essential to us air and water. Many have gone, but those who are living have merely become saltier with age. It is strength and wisdom earned by hardship, that only they as women of the camps endured.
In March 1963, I married my husband, a Nisei, in Tokyo and moved to New York in May.
The previous year, my husband lost his wife, and he was left alone with two girls, one 2-year of age and one newborn. Though his friends kindly helped him, he was dismayed by this loss. At that time, I was working in a kindergarten, and I had a long-time wish to raise my own children in the future. My friends, who knew my wish, strongly recommended me to marry him, go to New York, and to help his children. The relatives of my husband also asked me to do so. Finally I made the decision. In New York, two of my husband’s brothers were living on the same street and kindly gave me support. In my neighborhood, the number of Japanese businessmen and their families gradually increased and they also offered help. However, my everyday life was a battle. The reality of raising children was completely different from the practicum which I took in Japan. I was deeply frustrated trying to figure out how to teach Japanese to the children while outside home everyone spoke English.
However, the most frustrating thing was the difference in values between my husband and I. I suffered terribly because I could not
understand his sense of value. Everyday, I cried to God “Lord, why? It can’t be! Help me!” If this took place in Japan, I think I would have fled from such a life. But God sent me to a foreign land far, far from my home. Now, I can understand that God gave me time to consider His love through such experiences, but at that time, I was just repeating “God, why?” everyday. Every Sunday, I sent my children to Sunday School at the Methodist Church in my neighborhood, while I attended the services. However, the messages were delivered in English, and I could not understand them. It was so stressful! There were many, many things.
Ater twenty years, God suddenly whispered to me. I thought that I could not understand my husband at all, but God spoke to me about him. He told me: “He (my husband) is the same as you. As you could not understand him, he suffered too because he could not understand you. He was patient with you as much as you were with him.” At that moment, my heart became much lighter. “Oh, it was the same situation with him.” Until that day, I had thought that I alone was a victim, and I did not have compassion. For what purpose had I gone to the church to learn the Words of God? I was so ashamed. Now I understand that, considering his background, it is understandable why my husband has such a sense of value.
As I review the paths of my life, I strongly felt the significance of patience. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (I Corinthian 10:13) When I was in trouble, I relied on these Words. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5- 6)
There are many other Words which supported me. Now I know that God has always been with me. Now I know why God paved my way to a foreign land on the opposite side of the earth from my home country.
今から44 年前のこと、1963 年3 月、東京で日系 2世の主人と結婚式を挙げ、同年5 月にニューヨークに来ました。主人はその前の年に同郷人であった前妻を胃がんで失い、周りの人々に助けられながらも、2 歳と0 歳の女の子を抱えて困り果てていました。その頃、私は日本の幼稚園で働いていて、いつかは自分の子供を育ててみたいと願っていました。主人の状況を知った私の友達は、丁度良いからニューヨークに行き、助けてあげてはと薦めてくれました。更に亡くなった前妻のご両親や主人の姉にどうかお願いしますと頼まれて、一大決心をして主人との結婚、そしてアメリカ生活に飛び込んだのでした。
気がついたら子供たちは皆独立してそれぞれ家庭を持ち、私は年寄りになっていました。私は今自分の歩んできた道を振り返り、”耐え忍ぶ“ことの大切さを思います。「あなたがたの会った試練で世の常でないものは無い。神は真実である。あなた方を耐えられないような試練に合わせることばかりか、試練と同時にそれに耐えられるように、逃れる道も備えてくださるのである。」（コリント人への第一の手紙10 章13節）つらい時はこのみ言葉にすがりました。「すべての訓練は当座は喜ばしいものとは思われず、むしろ悲しいものと思われる。しかし後になれば、それによって鍛えられるものに平安な義の実を結ばせるようになる。」（ヘブル人への手紙12 章18 節）「私の子よ、主の訓練を軽んじてはいけない。主に責められるとき弱り果ててはならない。主は愛するものを訓練し、受け入れるすべての子を鞭打たれるのである。」（ヘブル人への手紙12 章5-6 節）
On the left-side wall in the sanctuary, there is a painting of Christ praying in the garden of Gethsemane. The title of this painting is “Christ – Still Praying for Mankind.” It was painted by Henry Yuzuru Sugimoto in 1978, when he was over 70. He painted and dedicated it to the JAUC sanctuary. Since being baptized in 1920, Henry and his wife, Susie Mae, had been very pious Christians. He left many paintings, but all the paintings reflect the spirit of Christianity even if they do not depict the direct image of Christ.
In this painting, Henry depicts his prayer for peace. In the left back, there is a cathedral and peaceful town. Beautiful flowers, small birds, a rabbit, and a squirrel are surrounding Christ, and they are the symbols of peace. In the right back, a mushroom cloud symbolizing the atomic bomb and people’s suffering in fire are vividly depicted. The message is clear: Christ is still praying for peace and welfare of human beings. Henry once said: “I hope that my art works contribute to the art society in the world and that they will be for the glory of God.”
皆さんは礼拝堂の左前方上のイエス・キリストがゲッセマネの園で祈られている絵画をよくご覧になっていると思います。この絵は”Christ ? Still Praying for Mankind” という題で、1978年に杉本ヘンリー譲画伯によって画かれたものです。同画伯が70歳を過ぎてからに日米合同教会の礼拝堂に捧げるために画かれた作品です。杉本画伯は1920年に受洗されてから奥様スージー・メイ姉と共に敬虔なクリスチャンであり、絵筆一筋に生きられた方です。多くの作品を遺されていますが、どの作品にもキリストの姿はなくとも背景にはキリスト教の精神が宿っています。
When I was 32, God helped me to survive a very difficult ordeal. At that time, I thought that the only way left to me was to die with my children. One night, I tried to strangle Keita, the eldest child. However, though he was just 6, he kicked off my hands with an unbelievable strength.
Next morning, I went to Aomori alone with plans to kill myself by jumping into the sea from a ferryboat, but my plan failed because all the doors to the deck were locked and watched by crews of the ship. When I was sitting totally powerless, I heard someone whispering to me: "I am with you. I am with you." Then I noticed why all of my attempts to die failed: "Lord, is it you? So you protected me! I am sorry for my attempts. Thank you Lord, thank you." Weeping, I returned to Tokyo.
Throughout the several years after this incident, I lived in poverty. My children suffered too. Because they could not study well and they were not living with their father, they were ridiculed by their classmates and even by their teachers.
When I was 40, I passed the admission exam of Aoyama Gakuin University. When I found my number in the bulletin board, I was so happy that I hugged and kissed the gate of the school. My acceptance encouraged my children very much. They thought: "If Mom could do this, we can make it too!" They helped with the daily chores so that I could go to the school after work. We three studied together for the final examinations. Finally, both of my children could enter universities. God transformed my children to diamonds, and even after that He added more blessings to my life.
I always pray "Lord, what can I do for You to express my gratitude?" I am currently dedicating 80% of my time and energy for work and 20% for God. Money-wise, my goal is to offer 50% of my income to God, but I have not achieved that yet. Sometimes, after offering, I feel "Maybe half of the amount would have been enough." So far I am offering 40% of them. From this year, I am serving as a member of the Board of Directors. I promise God to serve faithfully, always keeping this Bible verse in my heart: "Not my will but Your Will be done."
One of our most beloved church members, Mary Yamada, had her 94th birthday on Jan. 25th. Born in 1913, she grew up in L.A. until the age of 19. She went to University of Southern California for two and a half years to study premed and attended Bellevue School of Nursing in New York to receive RN. She continued her education at Teacher’s College of Columbia University and received BS in Nursing and MA in Guidance to be a School Counselor. During WWII, she volunteered for the army nurse corps for 27monthes. After the war, passing the exam, she became one of the first licensed high school counselors and worked for high schools until she retired at the age of 63 due to her mother’s health. Since then she has been enjoying her free life. She was baptized when she was 15 in L.A. According to her Sunday school teacher, she was the first Japanese Christian at the church. Her favorite Bible verses are; “I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121),” “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing (Psalm 100),” and “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful (Colossians 3:15).” Her life itself is a great testimony to us. “I don’t remember many things in my life, but I would say my life was not always easy. However God was always with me and I made it through those hard times,” she said with a smile.
私達のとても敬愛する信徒、山田メアリー姉が1 月25 日、94 歳の誕生日を迎えました。1913 年にロサンジェルスで生まれ、19 歳までそこで育ちました。南カリフォルニア大学で医学を勉強した後、ニューヨークのベルビュー看護大学に出席、看護婦の資格を取得。その後、コロンビア大学ティーチャーズカレッジにて看護の学士号、また学校のカウンセラーになる為のガイダンスの修士号を取得。第二次世界大戦では、看護婦として27 ヶ月陸軍に奉仕しました。戦後、テストを受け、正式な高校カウンセラーの第一号の一人となりました。63 歳で母親の健康の理由で高校を退職してからは今日まで自由な人生を送っているそうです。??洗礼を受けたのは15 歳の時で、当時の日曜学校の先生によると、その教会では始めての日本人クリスチャンだそうです。好きな聖書の言葉は、「わたしは山に向かって目を上げる。わが助けはどこから来るであろうか。わが助けは、天と地を造られた主から来る(詩篇121 篇）」、「全地よ、主に向かって喜ばしき声を上げよ。喜びを持って主に仕えよ。歌いつつ、その御前に来たれ。（詩篇100 篇）」、そして「キリストの平和が、あなた方の心を支配するようにしなさい。あなた方が召されて一体となったのは、このためでもある。いつも感謝していなさい。(コロサイ人への 手紙3 章15 節)」山田姉の生き方そのものが私達にとって大きな証です。「余り沢山の事は覚えていないけど、楽な人生じゃなかったとは言えるわ。でもいつも主が一緒にいてくださって、苦しい時期も乗り越えられたわ。」と笑いながら彼女は語っていました。 いつまでも主の光を放つ信仰の先輩であられます事を感謝。
My name is Yoshinori Shiraishi, but I am called Yoshi Shiraishi professionally.
I came to New York 20 years ago on March 30, 1987. I graduated from Mushashino Fine Arts University with a major in architecture. Subsequently I worked for Nomura Kogeisha, one of the largest designing companies in Japan. I was responsible for the interior design of Seibu Department Store and Parco. 20 years ago, I won the grand prize at an international design contest and soon after that joined an American design company owned by the head of the selection committee.
Ten years ago, I became independent and established Yoshi Design, NY, Inc. In Japan I have been involved with redesigning the interior of Ginza Mitsukoshi and am participating in the development of Tokyo Midtown Project which is located at the former site of the Self-Defense Force in Roppongi, as well as in the commercial redevelopment of Marunouchi. In New York, I have worked on Itoen-Kai Restaurant on Madison Avenue, and Doubletree Metropolitan Hotel.
In the past 20 years, I have traveled altogether 200 times between New York and Tokyo. I am now the Japanese designer in the States who is responsible for the greatest total designed space.
As I was preparing for my wedding, I realized I wanted to become a baptized Christian. On November 22 last year, we were happily married as Christians at a church in Guam. My wife, Mariko, has been a Christian since her college days. But I grew up in a typical Japanese family that had a Shinto altar and held a funeral in Buddhist style.
When I was 20 years old, I traveled through Europe by myself for two months. I was overwhelmed with the sacred atmosphere of Westminster Cathedral in England and the Vatican. (I traveled to 46 countries and am aiming at 100.)
I attended the baptism classes conducted by Rev. Suzuki for five weeks and was able to learn the essentials of Christian faith and was baptized at JAUC on November 12, 2006, surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ. It was truly a moving experience.
I will be a father in February. With the help of Christ, I pray that our home will be filled with happiness and love.
I miss a feeling that I had at JAUC. It's been two years since my lung transplant and I have not attended church services on a regular basis because my immune system is suppressed. At JAUC, simply by participating I was often left with a sweet feeling inside. Because of that feeling I found that it was easier for me to look inward in devotion, but without an active church life I've encountered dry spell.
There is a novel called "Robinson Crusoe" about a man who was marooned on an island. In the book he says he was busy with common sense activities all day and did not spend time looking upwards or inwards. As a result he was left with a certain stupidity of soul without desire of good or conscience of evil. I've noticed the same stupidity of soul increasing in myself.
A man at rehab told me that he counts his blessings until 3 am, so I attempted to copy him with limited success because it felt like a dry exercise. Then I reread the passage in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God". I began to be more sensitive about the impurities in my heart and to pray for help in dealing with them. I have found that if you have a purer heart, you will see God more when you think about your blessings. As a result I am starting to get some of that sweet spiritual feeling back that I used to have at JAUC.
It’s hard to have an attitude of thanksgiving in the midst of a family crisis. It is much easier to feel sorry for yourself; bitter, angry, hopeless, helpless. I grimly faced the Family Budget Worksheet to request additional financial aid for their exorbitant tuition for my son’s last semester. Tax forms, pay stubs, receipts for every expense lay strewn around in untidy piles. Due to illness, surgery and home recuperation, Peter, my husband, has worked 14 days this year. How many jobs and auditions have I turned down to go to the hospital, clinic appointments, pharmacy for and with him? Yet God’s light shines in our darkness. As I added up the pay stubs I was surprised to learn that instead of earning less this year, the total Yoshida family income is greater this year than last year. The Lord in His mercy has provided all that we needed when we needed it. Like manna it arrives neither early nor late; it is never too little nor too much. God’s grace has not been dependent on my actions or attitudes but is due to his abundant goodness and love for each one of us. He will never leave you nor forsake you. There is nothing that I can do to earn his providence. All He asks is a humble and grateful heart, a willingness to repent of our sins of doubt, ingratitude; and our desire to share this good news with others that they may see the same hope of salvation for all people. To God be the glory!
The life of Mrs. Konokawa ---"Tell Your Children & Grandchildren. . .
"Tell your children and grandchildren that there is someone who always gratefully remembers Mr. Konokawa. A long time ago, Mr. Konokawa taught me about self-sacrifice, not through words but through deeds ... For children without a mother he was just like an angel. He cleaned the dirty house and washed the soiled sheets. In crisis he was always there. When father became ill, and at his death he was there. At the time of burial he was there and held me... When I was seven I lost my father... but I inherited the most important thing from Mr. Konokawa... He taught me that Jesus is always with me and I am lonely no more."
Mrs. Miyeko Takezaki, the youngest of Rev. Fumio Matsunaga's four children, sent these words to Mrs. Asae Konokawa in 1986. Mr. Konokawa inspired by the words of Jesus, "There is no grater love than this; that a man should lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13) in 1919 at the age of 29, left a successful career with Morimoto Co. in Vancouver to come to New York and care for Rev. Matsunaga and his children, as the Reverend had lost his wife to divorce and was himself dying of cancer.
Mrs. Asae Konokawa always humbly pointed away from herself to the testimony of Jesus in her late husband. The Holy Spirit always points away from self to Jesus. Mrs. Konokawa was like the presence of the Spirit among us. Let us honor her by telling the story of a women who lived humbly by the Spirit, always pointing to the testimony of Jesus in others, to our children and our grandchildren.
From the Japanese American United Church in the City of New York
This Twenty-fifth day of April. Anno Domini 2000
Rev. Nathan Brownell
Please contact JAUC for more inoformation about "Blazing the Way - A short biographical sketch of the Life of the Rev. Mr. Fumio Mtsunaga)" written by Mr. Harry S. Konowa.
(Student of Union Theological Seminary)
I was born in a Christian family. My grandfather was a pastor. And my father became an ordained minister when he was over fifty years old. Going to Church on every Sunday has been part of my life since my childhood. I enjoyed my church life by meeting my friends and singing hymns. However, one question had always remained with me. Because of this, I felt distance between Christianity and my self. The question was deeply related to my ethnic background.
I am a third-generation Korean in Japan. Koreans in Japan are products of Japanese imperialism. Because of Japanese colonization from 1910 to 1945, Koreans were forced to come to Japan. From 1910 to 1918, the Japanese government deprived Korean farmers of their lands. As a result of this, many farmers went to Japan in order to survive. From 1939, the Japanese government forcibly brought Koreans to Japan and other places to work in industries and mines. In 1945, when Japan was defeated by the Allied Powers, the were over 2,100,000 Koreans in Japan. Many of them went back to Korea soon and approximately 600,000 stayed in Japan for some reasons.
Since the beginning of their community, Koreans in Japan has been suffering from Japanese discrimination. Today, although Koreans in Japan are getting accepted by Japanese society, they still encounter discrimination and prejudice. For instance, they are frequently refused jobs and apartment leases because of their ethnic background. Faced with this discrimination, many Koreans in Japan feel compelled to use a Japanese name, instead of a Korean name, in order to hide their Korean heritage.
Fortunately, I did not experience harsh discrimination because I lived in a place where there were many Koreans in Japan. But I always felt tension toward the Japanese society because I heard and witnessed my people's sufferings. My mother, a second-generation Korean in Japan, often told me of her bad experiences in her childhood. For instance, she was often bullied by neighbor children with a scornful phrase, "Korean, go back to Korea (Chosenjin, Chosen Kaere)"! Probably, some of you have had experiences similar to my mother's. Suffering stories such as my mother's made me as a question of how Christianity could respond to the sufferings of Koreans. I even thought that if Christianity failed to give Koreans in Japan a vision for their liberation, it was nothing but the religion of oppressors.
Unfortunately, I could not find an answer for the question in my churches. My pastors preached about the gospel nicely. But their message did not touch my heartstrings because they did not connect the gospel with social justice and how Koreans ought to be in order to end social evils. Afterwards, I was given the answer by participating in a national young adult association of my denomination.
When I entered the university, I started participating in the young adult association. In the group, we shared our experiences as Koreans in Japan. We insisted that we had to struggle against social injustices with Christian faith. Yet, what I was most impressed with at the group was their interpretation of Jesus' cross. According to them, the cross of Jesus is a symbol for being what we are. Further, to bear our own cross means to struggle for being a Korean in Japan. For instance, bearing cross is "coming out" as Koreans in Japan for those who hide their Korean background. Thus, in our context, it is impossible to be a Christian without affirming our wounded Korean-ness and without fighting against social injustice. Here, Korean-ness and Christianity are interrelated in my faith. This realization was the gospel for me because this would solve my question of how Christianity can respond to the sufferings of Koreans in Japan. And this was one of the factors that made me pursue the study of Christian theology.
I want to bring up two things, which I learned from theological education. First, great Christian forerunners like Paul and Martin Luther King Jr. understood gospel in their social context. This brings me to a conviction that my experience regarding gospel mentioned above is not unacceptable. Second, I have to listen to other's understandings of gospel. By so doing, I can go beyond my tiny understanding of gospel and enrich it. While not forgetting these things, I want to work for realizing a genuine reconciliation among human beings with my Christian faith.
January 23, 2000