世 (Se) means “generations.” This character represents a trio of the character 十 or (10). 界 (Kai) means “world.” The top lines represent a rice field. The symbol in the center is a person and the bottom lines are divider lines.
平 (Hei) means “flat, calm.” The top line represents the sky and the bottom horizontal line indicates the ocean. The symbols between the two represent seaweed and roots.
和 (Wa) means “harmony.” The left side indicates a rice plant and the right side represents a mouth.
祈 (Inoru) means “prayer.” The left represents an altar and the right side represents an axe. Together, you can cut wood or plants using an axe and offer them to Kami/God on the altar.
World War II ended in the month of August, when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This year marks 75 years since the atomic bombings. In San Francisco’s Japantown, people prepared for a memorial ceremony to commemorate this moment in history. However, because of the lockdowns and restrictions due to COVID-19, the ceremony was held online.
Many perished during the war, but the late Rev. Fumio Matsui and his wife Rev. Fumiko Matsui survived despite their proximity to the violence and destruction. The Rev. Fumio Matsui was a member of the Kamikaze Tokkotai and was saved because he contracted a serious illness and was removed from the kamikaze military base. His wife, the Rev. Fumiko Matsui, was born in Kaua‘i, but moved from Hawai‘i to Japan when she was 15 years old. Since she understood English, she worked at the Japanese military headquarters in Hiroshima. On Aug. 6, she was on her way to work when the bomb was dropped. When Rev. Fumio heard this news, he felt a sense of hopelessness for his wife-to-be. Her family had searched for her, but had not been able to find her.
Rev. Fumiko said that after the bomb dropped, she found herself lying in a big building amid hundreds of other people who were dying, one by one from the radiation and blast exposure. She thought, “It will be my time to die soon,” but she heard a voice that repeated, “live, live, live.” She believed it was the voice of Kami and it gave her the mental power to not give up hope. Soon after, her family found her and she was reunited with Rev. Fumio. Her appearance had been damaged by the effects of the bomb and her parents were shocked. However, Rev. Fumio said, “I am not shocked by her change in looks. I am just so grateful and joyful to have found her alive and to be reunited with her.”
They got married and went to the Konko seminary school to become Konko ministers. When the opportunity was presented to go to San Francisco, they moved from Japan, and the Rev. Fumio Matsui became the third head minister of the Konko Church of San Francisco.
The Matsuis contributed a lot to the growth of the church, and in turn, positively impacted the wider Japanese and Japanese American community in the Bay Area. I am grateful that they were blessed to witness and survive the challenges of war so that they were able to share these lessons with us. I hope through remembering this suffering, we can work to prevent war and violent confrontations in the future. Let us work first on our own relationships with our family members, friends and communities so that this positive cooperation can spread to a global scale.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.