THE HEART OF KANJI: A smiling face is a good vaccine


笑顔 (Waraigao) means “a laughing face.” The first character’s top lines represent bamboo and the lines below represent a person who is laughing like a bamboo stalk shaking back and forth. The second character’s left side represents a face and the right side represents a head.

良 (Yoi or yoki) means “good or right.” This character represents a measuring box for measuring various items.

Happy New Year!

Waraigawo wa yoki bakushin. calligraphy and images by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

2021 was a very challenging year for everyone, but it was also a good opportunity to re-evaluate our lives. 2022 is the year of the tiger. The tiger symbolizes strength and perseverance in body, mind and spirit, and I hope we can be inspired to be like the tiger in the new year. There are many ways to train and practice strength and perseverance, but I’d like to share some interesting ways to stay strong and healthy.

The biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton is known for researching the power of laughter and appreciation.

“As you laugh, your brain secretes the building blocks of happiness. We all have the capacity to be healthy with the tools within us. When your brain secretes the happiness hormones, your whole body is positively affected,” says Lipton.

You may also know that even faking a smile can trick your brain into thinking you are actually happy. In turn, this can boost your immunity and as your mood improves, it can even spread to make those around you happier as well. Inversely, having a negative outlook on life can suppress your immune system and weaken your body, mind and spirit.

As scientific research continues to grow, we learn about more illnesses of the body and the mind, and are slowly understanding that sometimes the illness is of the body, mind and spirit. While experts are producing many drugs to cure these ailments, we must not forget that we carry many powerful antidotes within us. Prayer, meditation, laughter, spending quality time with friends and family, having good hobbies, eating healthy food and spending time in nature can be powerful ways to ensure we are resilient and powerful beings.

We can do these things alone, but doing them with and for others is just as powerful. See how praying for a friend or colleague changes your perspective on your own challenges, and grows your compassion for those around you. This peace and compassion has the potential to spread far and wide and create a greater feeling of acceptance and peace throughout our world.

Like the trillions of cells in our bodies, we can help each other for the greater benefit of the human race, the animals and plants around us, and mother Earth.

I hope you will take time to remember to smile, to be kind to others, to pray for your loved ones, to be mindful, and to laugh loudly and often in this New Year of the Tiger. So I tell you that our smiling face is a good vaccine.

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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