Monthly Service : January 13, 2013

Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day, Week & special, "Thanks," for attending today's service. This is our 2nd monthly service for January, 2013. I hope you are all in good health & excellent spirits.

We kicked off our New Year amid the awesome workings of Kami. As you know, we had our 2013 New Year's Day Ceremony on January 1st & were blessed with the beautiful weather. We had a plan to start our service at 1:00 pm, but the preparations for the New Year's dishes to offer Kami took a little longer. During that time we exchanged our new year's greetings with each other. We tried to begin at the appointed time, but it didn't work. I believe this kind delay also, was a divine arrangement. Everything was ready in 30 minutes as my daughter & her family arrived with the last of the food she'd prepared for our meal after the service.

To our surprise a young mother from Indiana & her three-year-old daughter joined us in this celebration. I'd sent a formal invitation to her but hadn't expected them to attend; because it takes more than one hours travel time in both directions. You can imagine the joy that welled up in me when they actually made it ... on time!

So 12 adults & 4 children gratefully witnessed this solemn & beautiful service together. After the service we enjoyed talking over Japanese traditional New Year's dishes prepared by my wife Kanako & daughter, Hiroko almost single-handedly. First we recited "Before Meal Prayer" & drank a cup of spiced sake to toast in the New Year & were then served soup with rice cakes, chicken, shrimp & vegetables, which are typically eaten in Japan during the New Year's holiday. Everyone savored the Japanese New Year's dishes & genial conversation to our hearts' content. The youngsters, of course, were romping around the tables, which I felt was Kami's joyful reminder to all us 'oldsters,' of New Year's Day Celebrations from years past.

The New Chicago Japanese American Association (NCJAA) held its New Year's Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 5. I am now serving as vice-president. About 80 people joined in the festivities including the acting Consul General of Japan, Mr. Hironori Sawada & his wife.

We also celebrated the accomplishments of Prof. Kimiko Gunji, recipient of high honor from the Japanese Emperor. She is founder & the former director of Japan House at the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign; & the associate professor emeritus of Japanese Arts & Culture, School of Art & Design, at that institution too. She is widely recognized as having made marvelous contributions to introduce Japanese arts & culture as well as being a steadfast promoter of mutual understanding & the development of tolerance for other cultures during her 30+ years of service at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As with our KC-CHI celebration, I led the "Before Meal Prayer" & proposed the following toast for the New Year:

"Happy New Year!
Thank you very much for joining us in our New Year's Celebration.
We wish all of you a happy, healthy & prosperous New Year, 2013!
Have you made any new year's resolution yet?

Then added: I'm sure that like me, all of you were shocked & profoundly pained by the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut in December. I have come to realize that it is the sickened & collapsing hearts of we humans that are causing the collapse of the heart of the world in which we all live. In response we must come to understand the vital importance of deepening our hearts each & everyday.

With this spirit in my mind; I wrote the following as my poem for the 2013 New Year as my resolution for the coming year:

As we clearly see,
The collapse is everywhere,
Our hearts break within.
May Kami & people be
  Fulfilled in this precious world!"

Then we recited the "Before Meal Prayer" & toasted a Welcome to the brand new year of 2013, followed loudly together by the traditional Japanese of Cheer, "Kanpai," saying, "May the New Year bring peace & happiness to the world!"

After attractive entertainments such as Koto, Chorus, Baritone, Indian Veena & Dance & surprise performance of Shamisen & Cello, we had door prizes. Kanako & I have been poor at drawing any prize. However this time Kanako drew the best prize. It turned out to be another of Kami's outstanding arrangements. It was a one-night stay at the Double Tree Hotel where we had our New Year's Celebration. Mrs. Gunji joined us in this celebration with her husband from Urbana-Champaign. It took two & half hours to reach here by car. So they decided to stay at the Double Tree Hotel for two nights. NCJAA had offered one-night stay for them. But they had to pay another night. So my wife, Kanako offered them her prize. Therefore they could stay at the Double Tree Hotel for two nights for free. They deeply appreciated Kanako's kindness.

During the celebration NCJAA presented Prof. Gunji a wonderful bundle of flowers as a gift in honor of her receiving the high honor from the Japanese Emperor. Later she gave that bundle of flowers to Kanako, because there was no place to water the flowers at the hotel room. We humbly accepted her offer.

When we got home, Kanako rearranged those flowers into two bases. One was placed between Kami's & Mitama's altars. The other was placed on the stand of the Mitama altar. On the right side of Kami's altar there was still flowers that Kanako had arranged for the New Year. The whole altar was surrounded by beautiful flowers. January 5 was the 68th year memorial day of Mr. Shinkichi Nishimura. As I often told you in my sermons, Mr. Shinkichi Nishimura owned the Lane hotel in Seattle before the war & several Konkokyo gatherings were held there. His wife, Mrs. Ume Nishimura was a church elder when KC Seattle was established in 1928. The Nishimura's were ardent believers in Konko Faith. Shinkichi-san had been hospitalized before the war began due to illness. In spite of that he often wrote a letter to his children, saying, "Please have strong faith in Kami and deepen your grateful heart to Kami."

He died on Jan. 5, 1945 in Seattle. Ume-san & her children remained to their Konko Faith even after they moved from the concentration camp to Chicago after the war. That is why I believe they are the foundation for our family to come to establish a church in Chicago.

With gratitude in our hearts we held Mr. Shinkichi Nishimura's 68th year Memorial Service in conjunction with the regular evening prayer service. I was greatly impressed with such Kami's arrangement to conduct this service. Through these wonderful arrangements of Kami, I realized the Mitama spirit of Mr. Nishimura was surrounded such beautiful flowers in the next world so that his Mitama spirit is greatly blessed.

We rang in the New Year with such marvelous workings of Kami. I now have great expectations of this year when we will celebrate the 130th Anniversary of our founder's spiritual birth in October. In order for Kami's wish to be fulfilled for this year I will do my best to deepen unbreakable peace & joy in my heart, whatever happens & no matter how difficult it might be. Thank you!

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