I feel I have to say something about the terrible ferry disaster that happened recently in Korea.
Of course Korea and Japan share very much culturally and linguistically and even if politically things maybe difficult on a human level the two peoples are very close.
I come from an Mijakojima, an island in Okinawa prefecture, and of course for us the sea is both a blessing and a cruel mistress. We earn our livings from the sea but each year we pay a price in lost sailors and fishermen.
Maybe for this, I really share the feeling of loss our Korean brothers feel at this time. It is more than the feelings of sympathy one feels for anyone in this situation, because for the people of Japan and Okinawa prefecture, we can really empathies with our kin in Korea and their grief now as every year we share the same loss in a someway.
There is a brotherhood of the sea and before Ryūjin ( the dragon God of the sea ) we are all equal and united only love and fear.
My Island is famous for its reverence of the sea and the fellowship of all the people who en-trust their lives to Ryūjin by going to sea everyday
In fact the connection between Germany and Mijakojima comes from a time when a German ship was sinking in a storm and even if the sea was very dangerous the fishermen of Mijakojima went to rescue the crew and passengers. The Kaiser was so impressed by the solidarity the people of my island showed he built a German cultural center as a sign of thanks and when Billy Brant visited Japan he came to our Island to honor the people that risked their lives and those died saving the German crew and passengers.
Of course the culture of the sea is deeply part of all Island people, and so even if this tragedy has not directly affected our island, we really do share the grief of the people of Korea at this time.
The Korean ferry tragedy is even more terrible because of the number of school children lost.
Jizou Bosatsu is the manifestation of Buddha that protects children who have died and guides them to heaven. Every day since the news of the disaster I have attended my local temple and prayed to Jizou Bosatsu thank him for protecting the souls of the children. I am happy to say there has been many people ay the temple also praying for the children.
I remember the British poet John Donne and his famous quote at this time:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
As I watch the terrible pictures of TV of grieving families and see the the total wave of grief that is overwhelming Korea now I am reminded of the words of Queen Elizabeth after 9-11
Grief is the price we pay for love
All countries and all people love thier children and the grief that Korea feels now is something that I am sure we all feel. Their grief is measure of their love.
Now, in Korea ( and in Japan ) a song has become to heard often in the radio. In Japanese it is called Sen no Kaze ni Natte – Become a Thousand Winds, and was made famous by classical tenor singer Masafumi Akikawa. In Korean it is sung by Lim Hyung-joo.
Actually it is based on a British poem and was made into in song by the song writer Man Ara.
The English poem was called Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.
Here it is:
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on the snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Sen no Kaze ni Natte – Masafumi Akikawa)