Thursday, December 10, 2015

January meeting: Working to Relate: Religion, Care, and Allienation in Japan - Michael Berman

Dear friends and members of the Fellowship,

    We have an interesting speaker scheduled for our first meeting in the new year. Please mark your calendars.

Sunday January 10

3:00 to 5:00 (join us for supper afterwards)

International House 国際文化会館(see their website for directions)

Michael Berman, researcher  (religious studies/anthropology) and Ph.d candidate at Univ of California, San Diego.

Working to Relate:  Religion, Care, and Alienation in Contemporary Japan.” 

A high number of suicides and the "lonely deaths" of people who die alone without family, along with  various issues associated with a dwindling birth rate have led many reporters to refer to contemporary Japan as a "relation-less" society

In this presentation, Berman  will talk about some of the challenges of working to relate to other people in contemporary Japan, including challenges that come from within the particular ways that people are working to care for each other. 

Peggy Kanada, moderator

Saturday, November 28, 2015

News of 50th Anniversary Gathering October 2015

(Belated Posting)

Dear members and friends of the Fellowship,

On October 11 the Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo celebrated its 50th year of holding meetings (now once a month)  in English with speakers, discussions and cultural events in the Unitarian tradition of inquiry, friendship and concern for social justice and world peace.


We had 30 people sign the guest book with Doreen Simmons our oldest member present and Gamini Chadrasebera (inter-faith proponent visiting from Colombo, Sri Lanka) as the participant who had come the farthest.


After opening remarks by the moderator Peggy Kanada, we enjoyed two pieces played wonderfully  by the young cellist Chris Gibson.


The Rev. Yoshinaga Kazumasa, of the International Buddhist Congregation ( Rissho Koseikai) offered the opening invocation prayers, and daimoku blessing in the Buddhist Lotus Sutra tradition. 


We followed with remarks  about the life of Betty Parker (who had just died in July 2015). She with her husband Bill had supported the fellowship for  decades.  While passing around photos we shared memories including of our moderators: microbiologist Mary Louise Robbins (left in 2002) and William Parker (chair for a second time 2003-8) as well as long time contributors like Chuck Roberts (d. 2013),  We observed in memorial a moment of silence. 


The Rev. Gene Reeves (Unitarian minister/teacher and former dean of Meadville-Lombard Divinity School at U of Chicago, long time participant in the Fellowship, as well as scholar and translator of the Lotus Sutra and one of the founders of IBC) spoke about the history of the Fellowship. 

He talked about  the fellowship's first chairperson, Kenneth S. Woodroofe (1909-1993), whose memorial service he helped to lead at Ikkoen, Kyoto. He mentioned about the ties of the fellowship to the few active Japanese Unitarians (now gone)  like "Free Religion" Imaoka Shinichi (d.1988) and Universalists like Chiyozaki-sensei (d.2003) and the Dojin  (Universalist) churches, at Meijirodai (where the fellowship met for a couple of  years while Int House was rebuilding) and  Kitazawa.


The MC added Robert Manley's story of meeting his wife to be Yoko at his first Fellowship meeting back in 1975 (they were unable to attend from Yokohama).


 She also related some of the information  that the Rev. Nezu Masuo recently had written to us-- about his early memories of the fellowship and ties of the founder of Rissho Koseikai, Niwano Nikkyo,  with Unitarians like American U Association leader Dana Greeley  dating back to the 1970's and 80's. 

These connections of inter-faith cooperation  and friendship continue to enrich our fellowship to this day--and  RK members joined us for the anniversary, including several  who had studied under Unitarian programs in the States.


While we did not have time to dwell on the biography of our first recorded chairperson (from1968), Woodroofe, we offered on this occasion reprinted copies of his small book of essays "What is Religion About?" (also now available on our web site) which includes  short accounts of him in the preface and afterword.

His motto, "Live, love,learn and laugh."


Doreen Simmons, Stan Yukevich and Chuck Olson spoke briefly about their participation in the fellowship. 

Flowers were  presented to thank the moderator who had (almost) no words for the surprise honor.


After some thoughts elegantly presented by Paul McCarthy we heard from several speakers at recent meetings  with a social action focus. 

This included Tom Eskildsen on JummaNet and his work for often persecuted tribal or minority peoples in Bangladesh/Burma and Kathy Matsui on NARPI's successful reconciliation and peace workshops this summer in Mongolia and plans for next summer in Taiwan. 

 Pauline Reich spoke about finding in Tokyo only our fellowship as a community to support her beliefs and activities as a progressive, feminist Jew and included  memories about  when she  lived in NYC and knew Unitarians and Buddhists working  to help  refugees. 


Finally, the Rev. Suzuki Katsuji talked about suddenly seeing  a golden  carp  leap in the pond near the Koseikai Great Temple this morning on his way  to our gathering.    He took it as a sign of congratulations and encouragement (perhaps from Kannon Bosatsu) to our Unitarian  Fellowship.

 He urged us to continue to work for issues especially nuclear disarmament and led us in a prayer for world peace. 


In closing, Father William Bulson from nearby St. Alban's Anglican church with little preamble gave us the Lord's Prayer, which resonated for many of us with an unexpected modernity by echoing our themes of social engagement, forgiveness, and gratitude in our individual searches for spirituality. 


We all made a contribution to the event, but Takamatsu Yasuyo and your moderator made larger donations to the Anniversary fund. 

Everyone is welcome to donate even now something extra, especially towards the book reprinting costs and future programs. 


Peggy Kanada, moderator

December 13 - Haskell Small, pianist and composer - A Journey in Silence

UFT December meeting:
Sunday Dec. 13 at 3:00pm
International House

Haskell Small, pianist (especially of 18th and 19th century music) and composer of contemporary music with spiritual themes, will talk about his new work "A Journey in Silence: Reflections on the Book of Hours."

He will play some recorded excerpts from his works. And with his wife (if we are up for it) will lead us in some Christmas carols.

Small will be performing at several places in Japan in December including Kumamoto on the 7th, out at the Kawamura Museum in Sakura (sold out on the 12th), in Tokyo on the 19th.

Born in 1948, he is a resident of Washington DC where he is head of the piano department of the Washington Conservatory. He studied in San Francisco and at the Carnegie Mellon University. He has performed extensively over the years.

Best wishes at this busy time of the year end season,

Peggy Kanada, moderator

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Speaker Change Nov 7 Dominick Scarangello - Mountain Ascetic Practice

Change of the speaker of the coming UFT Sunday meeting (Nov. 7)

3:00-5:00 at International House. (Room 402)

Our speaker will be Dominick Scarangello:
Mountain Ascetic Practice:walking in the footsteps of the Buddhas.

He will share photos of some of his experiences of shugendo and yamabushi, as well as some of his deep knowledge of Buddhist rituals and training especially in Japan since the 19th century.

3:00-5:00 at International House.
Open to everyone.
Light dinner afterwards for those who have time to join us.

Peggy Kanada, moderator

Monday, October 12, 2015

Nov. 8 "Different Kinds of Caring" Speaker Michael Berman

UFT November 8th meeting

Dear friends and members of the Fellowship,

Our November meeting is Sunday, the 8th.

The next speaker will be Michael Berman, anthropology Ph.d candidate in Anthropology at UC San Diego, and this year a researcher at Todai (in their Religious Studies department).
He will talk about "Different Kinds of Caring."

3:00 to 5:00
(with supper afterwards for those who can stay at the I House coffee shop)

Our usual place: International House (
Please invite a friend or acquaintance and tell them to
see the International House website ( for a map); near Roppongi and Azabu-Juban stations.

Peggy Kanada, moderator of the Fellowship

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Invitation to 50 year celebration of the Fellowship

Let me invite you to join us in celebrating 50 years of the English speaking Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo.
Over the years many have come to meetings of our fellowship (usually the second Sunday of the month).
Maybe you will remember some of our great discussions with speakers like Gene Reeves, Charles McClintock, Tag Murphy, Vivek Pinto, Miriam Levering, Norman Havens or more recently Kathy Matsui, Dominick Scarangello, Charlotte Payne (on the eating of insects) and Bonnie McClure on Renga poetry.

Please join us to renew acquaintances and look to the future.

Sunday, October 11
International House (
国際文化会館) between Roppongi and Azabu-Juban stations.
Room 404.
The program will include cello music, a time for prayers (both of thanks and for our future), speeches by various people with memories of the fellowship.

We plan a luncheon at 1:30 in the downstairs fancy dining room (4,000yen) ONLY for those who wish to sign up.
RSVP needed for luncheon.

Peggy Kanada, moderator

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oct. 11 50th Anniversary of Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo

50thAnniversary of Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo


Please join us on Sunday, October 11, 2015


International House (国際文化会館)

RSVP needed only for luncheon (4,000yen) at the Dining Room of International House from after 1:00.


November 3 English Language Trip to Mt Minobe, Yamanashi


All (including families) are invited >>

English language bus day-trip to Mt. Minobe, Yamanashi.

November 3 (National holiday)

Ku’onji is the main temple of the Nichiren Sect and this is a chance to learn about the history of Nichiren (the great Buddhist reformer d.1282 ) who settled on Minobu in his last decade after return from exile, and whose tomb is here. We will use the ropeway to the top and also enjoy the Oku-no-in with its great views and fall foliage.

Sponsored by the International Buddhist Congregation of Rissho Koseikai.

Subsidized cost of 3,000yen covers bus, ropeway, lunch and entrance fees.

Meet at 8:20 (Horinkaku parking lot) return expected by 8pm.

RSVP (if possible by Oct 1st) required.

Tel 03-5341-1230  or

Bonnie McClure on Japanese Linked Verse

Unitarian Fellowship Of Tokyo  NEWS 9/2015


Recent Meeting: September 11

The speaker was our member, Bonnie McClure, graduate student in Japanese literature now studying at Aoyama Gakuin University. She introduced us to renga, or linked verse, the dominant form of Japanese style (waka) poetry in the 13—16th centuries. Very much a group effort where, at a social gathering of poets, contemporaneous short poetry was recited and recorded in turn under strict rules of linkage covering changing themes and vocabulary. One hundred stanzas in total were a common length. Individuality and self-promotion were frowned upon. She quoted various aspects of the poetics including a stress on the Buddhist understanding of “temporality” or mujō and quoted Shinkei  (a famous 15c. practitioner along with his student Sōgi) …”the poet must be practically nonexistent.” Here is a linkage of verses (in this case all by one poet) translated by McClure.



Geese cry upriver

from the village

where they send over the boat – Sōgi


The traveler crossing

over the floating clouds – Sōgi


It seems I have become

lost and tangled

in this world into which I was born – Sōgi



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

September 13 Linked Verse from Medieval Japan by Bonnie McClure

At our September 13 meeting, our long time member Bonnie McClure will talk to us about renga poetry.   Bonnie, who recently earned her Master's Degree in Japanese Literature at the University of Washington is currently furthering her work under a Ministry of Education scholarship at Aoyama Gakuin.

The dominant poetic form in Japan for some 300 years, linked verse or renga is now a largely neglected chapter of literary history. Composed in a group, renga was a social activity, the party game of its day. It can be thought of as a kind of poetic jamming. Techniques used to link verses were varied and sometimes quite complex; sequences are full of wordplay, allusions, and surprising transitions that can be both clever and profound. One of the representative literary forms of the medieval period, renga displays at times the contemplative mood and Buddhist influence found in much medieval literature. In fact, since it has a rule that no one thread or storyline can continue throughout a sequence―instead every new link has to change things up and move the sequence in a new direction―renga has been called an embodiment of the Buddhist concept of impermanence.
Everyone is welcome to the meeting on the fourth floor of the International House of Japan in Roppongi from 3 -5 p.m. Sunday September 13.   An early dinner or tea follows at the IHJ garden restaurant for those that would like to join.   Reservations for the meeting are not required but a 1000 yen per person donation to help cover room charge would be appreciated.
On October 11, the fellowship will be celebrating 50 continuous years in Japan.  The program will include a discussion of the history of the fellowship in Japan. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summary of February to May meetings

This blog got behind in publishing meetings.   Afraid I was leaning on the messages getting out through the news letter and Facebook.

The next meeting will be June 14, see other post, but just to show we have been busy this year here is a summary of the last few meetings.

May 19 2015 Study Meeting

We had several new faces and welcomed Barbara (our month-long Unitarian visitor to Tokyo from the Summit Unitarian Fellowship in San Diego) on May 19, our most recent meeting of Tuesday afternoon informal gatherings to discuss Unitarian topics.

Our last discussion meeting in this series tried to sum up about Unitarians and Meiji/early 20th century progressive thinkers in Japan.
We are still wrestling with the question of why there is no Unitarian presence today in Japan--after a substantial impact of Unitarians in the late 19th century. We focused on a very interesting short sermon by Rev. Kuroda given to the Japanese speaking expat "progressive" congregation in Wash DC in 1963 who he had encouraged to join All Soul's Unitarian Church. "Religions of the East and West: Why Differences?"

All are welcome at any Tuesday meeting (--just contact your moderator to RECONFIRM time and date).
Our next sessions are planned for (Tuesdays) at 2:30 at my home near Ichigaya:
June 2
June 23
July 7
and July 21 (before a break for summer).

We will read the Fellowship of Tokyo's founder's short book (in English altho somewhere there is a Japanese version since these talks were originally delivered in Japanese it seems) : Kenneth Woodroofe "What is Religion About?

Peggy Kanada,
moderator of the Fellowship

May Main Meeting

Professor and author R. Taggart Murphy spoke to us of some thoughts in his book, Japan and the Shackles of the past.   (four major points, roughly paraphrased)

1.  Japan has never had a revolution of class against class in the Marxian sense.
2  Although the "economic miracle" was not a miracle it is critical in understanding Japan. 

It was rooted in the Japanese circumstances of the 1950's when Japan was prohibited from trading with Chia, traditionally its greatest trading partner.   To keep Japan alive, the US gave carte blanche to trading with the US with no reciprocal responsibilities, and Japan focused resources on dollar earning industries. This resulted in a surplus of dollars which were used to finance the U.S. including the "Reagan Revolution".

3. The source of Japan's zany culture is the contradictions that people live with, such as the central cultural concept of honne and tatemae, and the fact that everyone takes any job seriously and is totally reliable, whether the work is worth it or not.  And the acceptance of difficulties by the people (Shikataganai.)

4.  The country still matters both economically and strategically.   It is the world's third largest economy. Even more important than that, despite the move of much assembly and manufacturing to China and elsewhere, it is still the source of many critical components or sub-components of critical products.  35-40% of some Boeing airplanes,  critical for Apple Airbook, as was shown when 3-11 shutdown some critical factories having a worldwide impact.   It is a fascinating political laboratory facing early many of the problems of Western countries and doing quite well, so worthy of study.
April Meeting
on April 12:
International Buddhist Congregation from 10:30 jeld the annual Hanamatsuri, in celebration of the birth of the historic Buddha, Shakyamuni.
Several members attended the the ceremony of offerings, prayers, Lotus Sutra recitation, and an informative talk all in the English language. This was a wonderful and rare opportunity to experience Buddhism in Japan in English.
Place: Horinkaku and garden(Wada 2chome, Suginami-ku) Sponsored by Rissho Koseikai.

At the regular April 12 meeting,
Speaker: fellowship member Stan Yukevitch will talk about Simone Weil.
 3 February 1909 – 24 August 1943) was a French philosopher, Christian mystic, and political activist.
March Report:
On March 8 several from the fellowship joined our member Miriam Arai at Ohmae's building near Yotsuya station for the documentary movie showing of GAIA II.
Another showing of GAIA IV (this one definitely with English
subtitles) was held at the same venue on Sunday afternoon April 26.
The upcoming movie like GAIA II is from Tamura's series of eight GAIA movies --that are essentially interview documentaries with leading activists, scientists and thinkers of our generation who focus on our interdependent web of existence-- our world. The April showing will included Lovelock on the theory of gaia, Nakanen on happiness, and Jane Goodall on environmental conservation and her work with gorillas in Africa.

February  Report
A very challenging meeting  February meeting: February 8, 2015 Charlotte Payne (Oxford and Rikkyo Universities) Entomophagy (the eating of insects--from traditional food cultures to feeding the developing world to entrepreneurs.   Charlotte, who has studied bug consumption in both Japan and Africa shared with us the opportunity to try shochu soaked wasps and silk worm larvae, which at one time was a common source of protein for silk workers, although not all regions enthusiastically participated.   Most of us gave them a chew.

Sorry for the sloppy catch-up.  Will try to keep the blog more up-to-date in the future.  One more meeting June 14th before our two month summer break.


June 14th - Teaching Peace - Kathy Matsui

Our next Unitarian Fellowship of Tokyo meeting will be Sunday June 14th

3:00 at International House (near Azabu-Juban and Roppongi stations)

If you can, please join us and the speaker for dinner afterwards in the I house coffee shop from 5:00 until 7:00.

Our speaker, Hawaiian native, professor at Seisen University, Kathy Matsui, will talk about her many activities of "teaching peace."
Important themes in her work include non-violent conflict resolution, social justice and the empowerment of women, and the role of historic memories in reconciliation. She was worldwide president of International Association of Liberal Religious Women for 8 years until
2014 and continues to be active with such groups as OxfamJapan.

Peggy Kanada, moderator

Monday, January 5, 2015

Jan. 11 Speech: The laity can’t really practice or can they?

Dear friends and members of the Unitarian Fellowship


Date January 11, 2015 

Time: 3pm

Venue:#402 of International House of Japan.

Our speaker:  Dominick Scarangello

            (A scholar of early modern Japanese Buddhism and religion)

Title of the speech:

The laity can’t really practice or can they?

The history of the early Meiji period Buddhist ‘church’ movement.

‘In the early 21st century, Buddhism is commonly seen as an egalitarian faith that offers practices such as meditation for all and holds the promise of Buddhahood and liberation for both monastic and lay alike. However, this was not always the case. Even in many strands of Mahayana Buddhism, living an active life of Buddhist practice was once thought to be the prerogative of renunciant monastics.

In this presentation I will talk about the early to mid-Meiji movement to develop lay soteriological teachings, creeds and practices from the traditions of Japanese Buddhist groups that had historically privileged renunciant, ascetic practitioners. In addition to eludicating an understudied episode in Buddhist modernism, I hope that the history of this movement will also provide context for understanding successful Buddhist lay movements that developed later in the 20th century.’


Dominick Scarangello

Coming meetings - Jan. 11: Laity, Feb. 8: Insects, March 8: Peace

Dear friends and members of the Unitarian Fellowship,


January meeting: January 11, 2015  at #402 of International House of Japan.

Our speaker will be Dominick Scarangello (scholar of Shugendo, International advisor to Rissho Koseikai). [Topic to be announced]


February meeting: February 8, 2015 

Charlotte Payne (Oxford and Rikkyo Universities)

Entomophagy (the eating of insects--from traditional food cultures to feeding the developing world to entrepreneurial new businesses)


March meeting: March 8, 2015

Kathy R Matsui (Seisen University)

Tentative title-- NARPI and Successful Peace Education Initiatives


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