My father and Tatsuo

21 April 2018



I am aware only of the veil of water spilling down dark rocks.  The rhythm of water sways to the right of the base of the fall.  Bubbles process on the water’s surface, towards the swamp iris.  Bubbles skirt the small marble lantern which contains the Flame of Peace.  Green and gold lichen carpets each of the four corners of the lantern’s roof. Each corner tilts upwards to ward off evil spirits. Its four legs are sturdy Samurai warriors, alert in the water.


The lantern.

It is the memory of the space of gardens.

It is the silence of a bell not sounding.


I imagine the monastery of Toshogu Shrine and Abbot Saga San.  In 1990, the Flame of Peace was brought from the monastery in Tokyo to Wellington.  On 24 June 1994, the Abbot carried the Flame of Peace to this place. The danger of carrying flame.  Did he contain it in cupped hands? Or in a vessel?  Or in his heart?  Probably in his heart.  That is where he would burn for peace.


There was a house full of fire in a village of fire in August 1945. From a small, shy flame, a young soldier lights the charcoal in his body warmer. For twenty-three years this flame continued to burn at a Buddhist altar in his village. Then the flame was carried in his body warmer to Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo. This is Tatsuo Yamamoto, the soldier. I think of his body warmer made of metal, the comfort of smouldering pieces of charcoal. I think of fire and home. Then I think of my father and Tatsuo.


Two young soldiers

Two different sides

Two countries







I picture my father. Dad was reluctant to welcome a Yamaha piano into our home, when they came on the market after World War Two.  The small pond reveals memories of photos. Dad wears his khaki shirt, collar up, and clear, direct gaze into the truthful camera.  That must have been before the troop ships left New Zealand.  No one could look so untroubled after a war.  A cousin later told me that when Dad returned home after the war, he wouldn’t leave Grandma’s house, even to buy bread.  Then, one day, the small girl from next door took Dad’s hand and together, they walked to the shop.  This is my father who wouldn’t eat rice.


While I sit in the Flame of Peace garden, I wonder what the monks in Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo are doing at this very hour.  Are they processing in quiet ribbons of prayer around and around a Zen garden?  Or perhaps they are burning small sticks of incense and the air grows fragrant and energised with pleas for peace.


I want the pond to tell me what is important. But I hear nothing.  I wish the Flame of peace would speak. I move to the left side of the curved pond.  Close to the thin, yellowing bamboos.  Because I am standing in a different place, the sound of falling water changes and plays new music in my ears.  What I hear depends on where I stand. It is the same with gestures of peace.


© Anne Powell