Christiane Kromer, who drew the illustrations for the recently published
book God the Parent’s Blessing and has also been a student at TCI
for five years, visited Tenri City in April. She wrote about her visit
in Tenri, and although some time has past since her trip, we would like
to share with you her thoughts.
So filled with impressions, colors and friendliness
by Christiane Kromer
Trying to pick just the right date to arrive in Japan when the cherries
would be in bloom while snow storms were reigning past my window in Brooklyn
was very, very surreal. How surprised was I then, when three months later
I was met at the train station in Tenri by a smiling and excited Masako
Okui and several other people from Tenri and whisked off from there strictly
to the blossoming hills of Yoshino! The printing of the book God the Parent’s
Blessings had been finished just in time for Oyasama’s Birthday.
Masako had carried several boxes of it (I don’t know how) from New
York to the place where it had been written by Moto Nakayama.
As the illustrator of the book, I had also been invited for the
celebration. Masako, who had translated Mrs. Nakayama’s text into
English and closely worked with me on the creation of the book in New
York, now took care of me perfectly. So in the morning sun of April 18th,
I was part of the stream of people that slowly moved towards the Shinden
[Main Sanctuary] from all directions. I was excited to be introduced to
so many people in black happi whom Masako recognized as soon as we passed
the entrance. I was eager to practice my Japanese, happy to be so warmly
included and absolutely sure that I missed the right angle and duration
of each bow I made. There were so many aisatsu [greetings] that I almost
forgot to get a good first impression of the Shinden. It was a strange
feeling because I had drawn it before! In one illustration in the book
you can see it, bathed in the first rays of the rising sun.
Looking at numerous photos together back at TCI in New York, my
Japanese teacher had helped me figure out exactly which building you would
see from which side while standing in the Western part of the Shinden
facing east (which allows you to see the morning sun). Bit by bit, a three
dimensional map of the sanctuary complex began to form in my mind. While
explaining the layout, Hanae-sensei also told me about the calm, peaceful
feeling one has when passing in a circle from the Main Sanctuary through
the passage way to Oyasama’s Sanctuary and back, and we both made
the wish to one day go there together.
Now, being here in Tenri, I already seemed to exactly know my way
around. Everything was exactly as I imagined, only the liveliness, the
countless giggles, shouts and aisatsu before the service were something
that no photo could convey. Apart from Oyasama’s Birth Celebration,
I also took part in the Women’s Association Convention the next
day. There I finally met my beloved teacher Hanae who had just a few weeks
ago returned from TCI in New York to prepare for her wedding.
After I was introduced to Aki, her soon-to-be husband, she showed
me the beautiful, traditional house in which she would be living with
him. In my mind, I quietly reversed my pact with my classmate Rina to
kidnap Hanae and bring her back to New York. She really belonged here.
She was beautiful and aglow in the midst of Tenri. Our wish came true
and she showed me the Shinden. We actually made our way along the whole
circle and were filled with the same wonderful calmness and peace she
At the point from which “I had drawn” the illustration,
I stopped and gasped: there was the tree, there was the stone lantern.
. . all the roof tops in place. And yes, I took a photo. My visit in Tenri
was so filled with impressions, colors and friendliness that it is impossible
to describe them all. I got to see the beautiful countryside around Tenri,
was invited to an old traditional house, was treated to exquisite dinners,
enjoyed my first karaoke outing and also met another former teacher of
mine, Amano-sensei, who taught me an important lesson in pachinko.
On my last day in Tenri, a visit that Masako had just faintly hinted
might be possible to be arranged, actually took place: a visit to the
residence of Moto Nakayama. Because I had worked through her text of God
the Parent’s Blessings intensely before I tried to interpret them
in my drawings, I was already familiar with her “voice.” Of
course it was an incredible event for me to meet her in person.
I want to give thanks to all people in Tenri for their generosity,
hospitality and kindness. I am grateful for the chance to illustrate God
the Parent’s Blessings. Traveling to Tenri City and hearing responses
of the people for whom the illustrations were intended was an important
experience for me.
Now I am in New York, studying Japanese and hoping that I will be back
in Japan soon. . . Maybe by then, Hanae will read from God the Parent’s
Blessings to her own child.