Nohmen and Kokoro drive along narrow Kyoto streets packed with singular dwellings, for there have been few building regulations until recent years when Japan has become more and more prosperous. Some of the rickety structures and dilapidated older houses have been removed, and instead light, smart earthquake-proofed houses build in their place in a trice.
The hushed bicycle is the most favoured form of transport for local people, their riders fearless and determined to take the shortest route to their destination, which often means traveling the wrong way on one-way streets.
She answers, ‘Etto……Yes, perhaps. When I was child, I very quiet. I happy to be alone. Near my house, there was Christian church, kyokai. Every Sunday I enjoy going to ceremony, to sing a song. Then afternoon, school for children. What you call it English?’
‘Yes, it real pleasure. So peaceful, and people so kind to me. We read Bible and monk explain us story. Different story each week,’ she says.
‘Japanese not know religion, Nohmen-san. Not like you. We have no training. Most parents not know, too. There, kind and pure teachers help me understand good way to live, to be honest and sincere. I never forget. I so happy to understand human life better. I never feel alone when I there, and every time when I leave I feel happy because Jesus with me.’ She taps the pocket in her warm red jacket. ‘Jesus in my pocket they tell me. And I believe it.’
She smiles, and Nohmen is so touched by the image of this solitary archipelago child being able to listen to the teachings of a great master. It is well-known that Japanese of the twentieth century were often prohibited from practising religion, and that Christian missionaries were martyred in early times.
Buddhism for many hundreds of years, was exclusively for the noble and rich, not for lowly people. And sadly, its ethical and moral strong points were thought to have little connection with education, unlike the strong points of Christian morals in Christian countries. Buddhism was something separate from ordinary life, something of the mountains and the glamour of comparatively highly civilized China, which often barely touched the lives of lay people.
Kokoro’s moving story reminds Nohmen so much of his encounter with the sea turtle which brought him to Buddhism. It would seem that despite their birth in countries separated by space and time, despite their dramatically different cultures, they were both summoned by unlikely sources and were duly able to hear the truth, and to accept a need for remarkable spiritual teachers.
‘Ah! This is amazing Kokoro. Our lives converged even when we were children. It was all part of a bigger plan.’ Nohmen has never been so sure before that she is his soul mate.
‘Destiny, my love,’ he says, gently correcting her pronunciation. Kokoro goes on.
‘Later, when I maybe same age as you when you start university, I find Buddha, and our Masters. Then I become more happy to have Buddha in pocket and heart as well!’
‘Hmmm, you are lucky girl. Jesus and Buddha both in your pocket,’ he quips.
They happily weave their way through the maze of streets and up on to the main expressway to their beautiful temple sanctuary in the mountains. They are together and a part of all things in the vast Universe.