THE HEART OF KANJI: Help one another


相 (Ai or so) means “each other.” The left side of this character represents a tree and the right side represents an eye. Together, your eye looks at a tree with deep care. This can also represent the deep care we have for others.

与 (Yo) means “give.” This word is a form of giving something with your hand.

Aiyo kakeyo. calligraphy by
Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

The meaning of “aiyo kakeyo” in the Konko faith is explained through mutual reliance or working together. Our faith tradition started in Okayama, Japan, and because of that, “aiyo kakeyo” is a common expression in Okayama Prefecture. Mutual reliance can be explained as two people carrying a heavy item together. Back in the day, people in Japan would get a long pole and tie a heavy item in the middle of the pole. One person would be on one side of the pole and another person would be on the other end of the pole. Together, they would lift the pole and put it on their shoulders so the weight would be evenly distributed. If you’ve ever witnessed a giant mikoshi festival shrine being carried by many people, you can visualize aiyo kakeyo.

It is powerful to see how something so heavy can be lifted with the help of so many. Everyone’s spirit and attitude takes on good energy. Likewise, when we help each other, our attitude is very important. Instead of expecting something from others, one can instead think, “I want to help or give to others unconditionally.”

In terms of our relationships with others; many feel that it should be even, half and half or 50 percent and 50 percent. However, this is rarely the case when we have our relationships. Problems sometimes start when one gives too much and the other person doesn’t give enough. I try to always put more than 50 percent and not expect much in return. Likewise, if we take 100 percent responsibility in everything, we cannot blame anyone. My life and relationships with others changed for the better when I started to put my 100 percent efforts into my relationships. I used to compare myself to others or had many expectations from others. By changing my attitude, I was able to have a happier life.

When my wife, Alice, was eight years old, her father passed away. Her mother had to raise her five children by herself. There were times when food was sparse at dinnertime. Alice suggested they say a prayer. While they were praying, someone brought them some food.

Now, we are facing very tough times because of the virus. My wife recently said, “This time, let us help others by giving something.” So we started to cook and deliver food to people who live near us and also help others with their shopping.

I feel that aiyo kakeyo can be used in so many ways. During the pandemic, I feel that helping each other is the truth of the universe. Our human race has been able to survive for over a few hundred thousand years on Earth because of the spirit of aiyo kakeyo. Let us follow this truth of the universe.

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). He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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