This is the story of Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori, the descendent of a proud Samurai family, who survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast to become a peace activist, poet and artist, in his own words ...
My life, since I was eight years old, has been a long struggle to understand the demise of my home town, the confiscation of my childhood, and the horrible indignity of a bomb attack that marked the beginning of the Nuclear Age. It has led me to finding peace in my heart, and becoming a man of peace.
Long ago I was lifted from the ashes of Hiroshima to find my way in the world. Before then my Father, a descendent of a proud Samurai family, dressed in a kimono emblazoned with the family crest, "Maru ni Tachi Aoi," of the "hollyhock" [Tokugawa Shogunate lineage], taught me patiently to live—the ancient code of Samurai. How important it was to him to make sure that he had correctly passed on to me the "Seven Codes of the Samurai", as he insisted that we must repay our debts to our ancestors—passing on to our children what we have received. On September 3, 1945 I bade farewell to my Father.
I became a "hibakusha" (a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing) leaving the charred cradle of childhood with a heart twisted—hatred, for a harsh journey toward manhood. As a teenager, I immigrated to America, my youthful mind thinking it my duty to seek revenge for the destruction of my family.
Now a naturalized American citizen, my Father's teaching has become the touchstone of my life, enabling me to survive and setting me on the "Path of Peace" to the wisdom of manhood with an open heart of love and forgiveness. I am now a product of two cultures—traditional Japan, the nation of my birth—and America, my adopted nation.
Looking back on the last 60 years of my life, my life-journey has not been what I expected; my final destination not exactly as I had charted it. But I am neither dismayed nor disappointed. The conflicts of my past shaped and redirected me. I now honor both the past and the present while expressing my love for two countries that both wounded and nurtured me. My life is like embroidery, many different lengths of threads, crisscrossing in many colors, adding to an iridescent tapestry of human dignity.
Although I was young and filled with anger, after many turbulent years both in postwar Japan and America, I had to search into the deepest chamber of my soul in my deepest anguishing hour. I realized that I had not only survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but that my Father’s teaching of the Seven Codes of the Samurai had kept my heart and soul intact, preserved the essence of who I am, and saved me from self-destruction!
On August 5, 1985 I had a personal epiphany that changed my life’s direction. In a moment of anger, I suddenly remembered the dream about a white Crane and Butterfly I had the night before the bombing in Hiroshima.
I would like to share the story of the crane and the butterfly, and my journey from revenge to forgiveness and peace, symbolized—folding an origami paper crane and transforming it into a butterfly. This story begins the night before the bombing, as I sat in a community bomb shelter with my family. I had a transcendent vision of the crane and the butterfly. In my vision, I was taken to see the white crane, Senba-zuru, as mighty as a thousand cranes, who talked to me of loss, survival and transformation. I was shown many of the horrors to come and also told that the keys to survival were to remember who I am and to follow the light within. At the end of the vision, I was horrified to see Senba-zuru perish in a giant fireball. But then, as I lay desolate, sobbing on the ground, I saw him return as a white butterfly.
In the aftermath of the bombing, I forgot this vision for forty years until August 5, 1985, while driving to a remembrance rally in San Francisco—a mushroom-shaped cloud formation in the distance brought the memory flooding back. A white butterfly flew into my car, gracefully landing on the dashboard. It stayed there momentarily, a fluttering pair of iridescent wings, recreating the symphonic melodies that I had heard on that night of the vision—then it flew out, soaring freely into the blue sky. At that moment, the weight of the past was lifted from my heart. Looking back, I realize that the crane and the butterfly had been guiding me like an unseen rudder through stormy seas of hatred and revenge to forgiveness to peace.
My spiritual journey, reconnecting with and reconciling my past with the events of history and applying this experience to the present, for the benefit of future generations, is my life goal. The message is clear and simple. At last, I come home to my real promise to my Father, a place called "PEACE through forgiveness"—letting go of my painful past. I can say at last I am now a man of "PEACE".
I was finally able to embrace my Father’s teaching, the Seven Codes of Samurai, which has allowed me, having gone through the darkest clouds of raging storms, to enter into the “eye of the storm”, where I am now able to see the world from a different perspective. I set a lifetime goal of helping future generations live in Heiwa: peace, with harmony and equality. At the Silkworm Peace Institute, a nonprofit organization I founded, we foster the message of hope, healing, cultural understanding, attempting to transform revenge and anger into peace and forgiveness to others.
Related pages: Sandy Hook Poems, Aurora Poetry, Columbine Poems, Courtni Webb's Sandy Hook Poem and Possible Expulsion, Darfur Poems, Gaza Poems, Haiti Poems, Hiroshima Poems, Holocaust Poems, Nakba Poems, 911 Poems, Trail of Tears