Experience of a Japanese War Bride
By Toshiko Caywood
[Excerpted from “Dawn’s Early Light” – A collection of SGI members' experiences.]
As a young woman in Japan, I witnessed the human tragedy of WWII. My family suffered both financially and spiritually as our country was being destroyed. Houses were burned to the ground. Many people had lost their lives and others had no place to live or any food to eat. My hopes and dreams of a happy future faded away. I believed that the only thing I could do was to leave Japan and start a new life in the U.S.
I met and fell in love with an African American serviceman. My family disowned me, but I vowed that I would stick with him no matter what. We married and I left for the U.S. with him with great expectations for a wonderful new life.
Was I ever mistaken! I felt lonely and isolated. The country was foreign, the way of life strange, and the people distant. We moved a lot.
I found out how much prejudice really existed. We could never find suitable housing. People were willing to rent to me, but quickly changed their minds when they saw my husband. Even the fact that we had an infant son did not change their minds. Over and over again we were denied the comfort of lodging and services. Sleeping in the car with my husband and four-month-old baby became a matter of course.
I began to feel sorry for myself. Throughout this ordeal I continued to follow my husband, but I had no hope for my future. We finally settled into military housing. I thought things would be better there, but prejudice existed there also. Even the local church members who seemingly tried to help, shunned me when I appeared at services with my family. My husband understood my suffering and put in a transfer to Hawaii where we believed we could live without the fear of prejudice.
I found the people of Hawaii much more tolerant of interracial marriages. But what was even more amazing was the encounter with three cheerful women who knocked on my door one day and confidently invited us to an SGI meeting. Convinced by their sincerity and with an expectation for a better existence, I received the Gohonzon in 1964.
Immediately my life took a dramatic change. Not only did the members warmly include me in their organization, they welcomed my whole family and encouraged us to be happy. They took painstaking efforts to teach me the basic practice of gongyo, daimoku, and shakubuku, and how to get benefit. I had never met people who truly cared about other people’s development or ultimate happiness. Within a few months, the feelings of loneliness and isolation were gone.
I learned to love activities and felt a deep desire to help others practice this Buddhism.
In 1973 my husband retired from the service and we moved to Portland, Oregon. Though he didn’t practice himself, he had always supported my practice 100%. But after moving to Portland, he started drinking and staying out all night. This caused me worry.
I threw myself into activities.
My husband left me. I could not believe that this was happening. I had no place to go but straight to the Gohonzon. Through the tears, I found a passage from the Gosho that reads: “Whatever trouble may occur, consider it as transitory as a dream and think only of the Lotus Sutra” (MW1, p. 147).
I determined to practice courageously with the attitude that I would never doubt the power of the Gohonzon. Although I struggled to support myself financially, to single-handedly take care of family affairs for the first time, and to adjust to living without my husband’s companionship, I felt incredible joy in watching members grow and do shakubuku.
My desire for my husband to return never changed.
One morning, around 3:30 AM, I awoke to the sound of a man’s voice coming from the living room. At first I thought I was dreaming. When reality hit, I became frightened. I went to investigate. My heart was beating faster and faster. When I got to the living room, I found my husband in front of the Gohonzon chanting Nam Myoho-renge-kyo. I stood there watching his back, remembering the many nights I had sat in front of that same Gohonzon crying and chanting for him to be protected. My prayers were answered.
I found myself kneeling behind him, somehow trying to harmonize my chanting with his, through tears of joy and deep appreciation to the Gohonzon.
My husband is now a group chief in our district. He has overcome many problems and received many benefits. He has stopped drinking and chasing women. He loves to do shakubuku. If any members have trouble convincing someone to practice, they just bring that person to my husband. He is so relaxed and confident about the Gohonzon, they just naturally want to join.
The happy sounds of discussion meetings have continued to fill my home with great fortune. Nothing brings me more joy than to see the members freely participate in activities for kosen-rufu.
spare nothing of myself in promoting this great Buddhism for the rest of