a poem by Kenji Miyazawa

This is an old poem that almost every schoolchild knows. Poet Kenji Miyazawa lived in Iwate Prefecture, which took much damage from the earthquake and tsunami.

Unbeaten by rain
Unbeaten by wind
Unbowed by the snow and the summer heat
Strong in body

Free from greed
Without any anger
Always serene

With a handful of brown rice a day
Miso and a small amount of vegetables suffice

Whatever happens
Consider yourself last, always put others first
Understand from your observation and experience
Never lose sight of these things

In the shadows of the pine groves in the fields
Live modestly under a thatched roof

In the East, if there is a sick child
Go there and take care of him
In the West, if there is an exhausted mother
Go there and relieve her of her burden
In the South, if there is a man near death
Go there and comfort him, tell him “Don’t be afraid”
In the North, if there is an argument and a legal dispute
Go there and persuade them it’s not worth it

In a drought, shed tears
In a cold summer, carry on
Even with a sense of loss

Being called a fool
Being neither praised nor a burden

Such a person I want to be

(Translated by Catherine Iwata, Rev.Fredrich Ulrich, Sophie Sampson, Helene Bartos, Minaeri Park, Mokmi Park, Yasuko Akiyama)
March 27, 2011

mix and match firemen

From far away these firemen looked like little specks when I first saw them in the village of Osawa in Kessennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. At the distance they looked like pallbearers carrying a large wooden box.

Up closer I wondered if they were Americans, because “USS Premble” was written on the backs of their jackets. It was the only article they had in common — none of their boots, gloves or helmets matched, although they belonged to the same brigade.

“The tsunami washed all their uniforms away,” explained their captain, who actually wore a complete uniform himself. His rubber boots had his name on them. The jackets came from an American rescue party that passed by. “There are 18 of us and we all made it. We’ve been working every day since, but none of them have homes to go to anymore.”

They deposited the box to the side of temple. It turned out to be the container for alms. Then they flashed a thumbs-up and took a cupcake break.