THE HEART OF KANJI: Water and air


水 (mizu) means “water.” This character comes from the splashing of water. 空 (kuu or sora) means “empty” or “sky.” This character comes from a big empty room or cave. 気 (ki) means “spirit” or “breath.” This character consists of two parts. The top part represents a person’s profile including the face, mouth and nose; the bottom part represents a rice plant that creates steam as it cooks. So, as we breathe in and out, our inner power or energy comes out through our mouth and nose.

I’ve been troubled by high blood pressure since returning from Japan last summer. The high blood pressure has lasted more than five months. Whenever I visited the hospital, my doctor would say my blood pressure was over 140. I began using a blood pressure machine to check my blood pressure myself and it remained very high.

calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

One day a few weeks ago, I had two doctor appointments, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The doctor said over the phone that if my blood pressure was still high, I would need medication. However, I didn’t want to take any medication.

I went to see the doctor in the morning and the nurse took my blood pressure and found it was over 143. I was very disappointed. I returned home and decided to drink a lot of water and began a breathing exercise for about 15 minutes. Afterward, I again checked my blood pressure. It had gone down to 126; I could not believe it.

I visited another doctor in the afternoon. Before I went to the hospital, I again drank a lot of water and practiced my breathing exercise for 25 minutes, which was the longest of my life. A nurse took my blood pressure and it had gone down even more to 110. The doctor could not believe the blood pressure reading. He checked my blood pressure again and it was 120, which was perfect. The doctor decided against prescribing medication for me. I was very happy. Ever since, I have been diligently drinking more water and performing more breathing exercises.

Through this experience, I learned water is not just H2O but rather the valuable blood of Kami’s/God’s universe. And the air is not just an invisible thing but rather a valuable life of the universe — which Kami/God shares every day and every moment. Now more than ever, I feel deep appreciation for having air to breathe and water to drink.

I would like to encourage all of you to drink a lot of water and to practice the breathing exercise.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and martial arts. He also gives spiritual counseling. He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563.

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