Wood Life Translation

Special Issue:  BACK  TO  BASICS
Bringing Nature Into Daily Life

Deep inside his heart, cherishing the teaching of Nature which he learned from the Native Americans, Tom Matsuda, a third generation Japanese American (Sansei), continues carving the statues of Buddha in a remote Japanese village.  When Japan was an agricultural country, people were not against Nature’s law and lived in harmony with Nature.  Not many people are aware that, despite the fact that (today) this is an economically giant country, there are quite a few people who choose to live, not just by going back to the age of things of Nature.  They are living in the present with the earth, pondering with anxiety the future of the World.  They are not typical farmers, but also include quite a number of former urban dwellers.  With the Southern Alps as its background, in an isolated lonely village.  The life style of one of them, Tom Matsuda (31 years old), reminds us of the revival of our lost rich spiritual happiness, despite being fortunate in achieving material wealth.  While living in a plain wood house eighty years or so old, built on a steep hillside, he cultivates the fields and carves Buddhas daily.  If one hears just as much, his life may sound like an apprentice’s pilgrimage at a struggling stage, but to the contrary, he seems only to be enjoying this with a song of happy melody.  Why?  Because, when he speaks about Buddha, his face shines with the happiest smile.

 Judging from his name, he is an American-Japanese born in the State of Connecticut, a third generation sansei.  He graduated from Art College, then continued to work on his art interests, mainly printmaking and painting in New York City in his twenties.  The meeting with Native Americans was the beginning of his coming to this remote village, not even known to ordinary Japanese.  In 1978, while visiting Boulder, Colorado, he met a Japanese from whom he learned of the Lakota Native Americans and thereby had an opportunity to meet them.  By chance he was able to participate in their “Sweat Lodge” ceremony.  Into a dome big enough to accommodate six or seven grown men and built of branches of Willow, they put red hot stones, pour water on the stones to produce hot steam, and with their bare bodies offer prayers and traditional songs to the Great Spirit and Mother Earth.  “I felt Nature”.  “I realized Human Beings are not strong”.  “Nature and Man are the same”.  “The interior of the Sweat Lodge is terribly hot, pitch dark, and while praying, you understand not with your head (thinking), but with your body”.  Slowly, slowly thus he spoke in Japanese.  “inside the Sweat Lodge it so hot, the suffering nearly makes one faint”.  This is similar to a ceremony which is conducted in Animism, when you reach beyond “thinking” you reach to the “Spirit”, and for the first time you experience bodily feeling.  Through this experience his life philosophy changed completely.  Thereafter he visited the State of Arizona, visiting the Navaho Tribe and Hopi Tribe, and then he spent a half year with the Navaho tribe.

He participated in the Peace March between Los Angeles and New York.  Then five years ago, he came to this remote village.  “Because my roots are in Japan” he said.  Actually he is an activist.  He prays for the country which experienced the Atom Bomb, and following the prophecy of the Hopi tribe he came to warn countries that posses the Atomic Bomb.  The carving of Buddha Statues seems part of his action which are his prayers.  It is very natural to him that he wants to live in this place.  In spite of being brought up in the American culture which is based on the value of materialism, after he learned from the Native Americans about reality and its soaring heights, no one can imagine he would ever go back to city life again.  From this humble mountain house, he will gaze at the world.