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NEWSLETTERS

AUGUST 2005


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 had described.
 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.

 

 

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