Thanking my friend and peace teacher Takako Ichikawa
Three major defining moments for me to embark on a powerfully peaceful life path were meeting my friend and peace teacher Jun Yasuda in 1991, pursuing a t’ai chi lifestyle in 1994, and spending time with Jun Yasuda at her temple-pagoda in Grafton, New York, in 1996.
Around three years later, in 1999, a nun ordained a few years before came to Washington, D.C., to be resident at the local temple of Jun-san’s Nipponzan Myohoji order. She is Takako Ichikawa, whose last name apparently means “river city”, which is apt, because in Buddhism life is said to be like an ever-changing river. She exudes joy while pursuing the peaceful path. I enjoyed my occasional visits with Ichikawa-san, whether it was praying the Odaimoku — Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo — together, just talking, or enjoying seeing her interacting with ease and warmth with others, including the various peace activists who would descend on Washington, D.C.
Nobody in Sister Ichikawa’s order has ever encouraged me to become a Buddhist. That is quite a contrast from another local Buddhist temple that I visited during a long visit to Japan by Ichikawa-san, when the monk at the other temple in all grave seriousness told me that for me to pray at his temple, I had to give up any other religion I had. I never returned to his temple.
I kept returning to Ichikawa-san’s temple. Ultimately, she permanently returned to Japan, now at the small temple in her hometown of Hamamatsu. Fortunately, Ichikawa-san returns to Washington, D.C., around once a year, including for two weeks this month, after spending some time helping to build the peace pagoda in Newport, Tennessee. A visit to Jun-san’s New York peace pagodas is such a truly serene experience that my friend with a constantly rambunctious dog told me that one of the few times the dog was serene when awake was on their first visit to her pagoda.
On a recent visit with Ichikawa-san, she permitted me to interview her and to post the interview online. Her message is at once simple and powerfully compelling, including:
– Ichikawa-san was in her hometown of Hamamatsu when the earthquake hit Fukushima and its nuclear power plant in 2011.
– She is not sure what will stop nuclear power, but she does her share by praying at the Hamamatsu train station a few days monthly, which is several miles from a nuclear power plant.
– She chants the Odaimoku daily, Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo (which she chants at the end of this video), and feels the chanting and its words touch others’ hearts.
Thanking and bowing to Ichikawa-san.