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­"Standing Among the Ruins of Takiyama Castle"

This poem was first published in Japanese
in the
Seikyo Shimbun newspaper
on January 24, 2000.

To my beloved Soka students
and members of the Student Division nationwide

In the far distance,
rising into the azure sky,
Mt. Fuji clothed in white.

Oh, Hachioji!
Place of music,
of poetic artistry.

One winter's morning
when the world was bright
with the sun's embrace
I stood with my wife
among the castle ruins.

Beyond the old Takiyama Highway
which runs beneath
we could see Soka University
--flourishing sanctuary of wisdom--
sparkling in the morning sun.

Soka Women's College,
graceful and elegant as a flower
glistened on an adjacent hill.

This historic place
nestled in tranquility
is remote from the bustling world.

Coming here,
one enters a peaceful, verdant realm
filled with life and beauty.
Gazing up at magnificent white clouds
one is in a world apart,
wrapped in transparent stillness.

Nowadays, the old water wheels
and thatched houses
are rarely seen
on Musashino plain.
Yet here remains, through untold ages,
this treasure house of nature's poetry--
the ruins of Takiyama Castle.

In the still, clear air,
a path strewn with fallen leaves
forms a tunnel through the trees,
and calls to the woods
with the loneliness of an orphan.

Along this narrow trail
which countless warriors
once traversed,
where soldiers once drank
in victory celebrations,
my wife and I approached the peak.

On both sides of the path
bordered by fresh, translucent green,
the unforgettable sight of towering trees.
Proud and composed,
roots steadfastly clutching rock,
they seem to proclaim a state
of calm, undaunted being.

A magnificent brocade,
woven of an infinite variety
of ever-changing flora,
blankets the slope of the rising hill.

The path, silent and resigned,
is strewn with blighted leaves.
Stirred by a gentle wind,
those still on the branches
flutter into a crimson blizzard.

The wood is silent and undisturbed
save for the occasional
purifying singing of wild birds.
Their shadows flash past
and the song of their joy of living
fades into the depths of the grove.

The bright sun
filtering through the treetops
shines upon each life,
caressing even the tips of leaves,
and a warm compassionate light
permeates the wood.

We reach the crest of the hill;
in the distance,
the clear waters of the Tama River
twined together like
silver threads.
A lone streak of cloud
stretches across the vast sky.

In bygone days the air was filled
with the raised voices of warriors
who marched along this path.

At times singing
loudly their victory songs.
At times exhausted
but filled with fresh resolve--
to fight once more today,
to defend again tomorrow.
The sound of a thousand suits of armor
gleaming in the morning sun:
Together, my beloved comrade in arms,
let us adorn our undefeated lives!

There were times when
all that remained were
deep sighs and silent footsteps,
when there were neither tears nor words.

There were also times
in this history woven
of life and struggle,
when comrades endured parting
on this very path,
one wrapping another
in homespun cloth,
carefully shielding
his head from above.

Here in these ruins
I envision the ghostly
figures of warriors
laughing, bustling, milling about . . .

In my mind's eye I see
the brilliant students of Soka University
frequenting this place through the seasons.
In spring
a drift of blossoms from
a thousand cherry trees.
In summer
the rows of tall green trees
unyielding and staunch.
In autumn
the rich symphony
of the insects' cheerful song.
In winter
contemplating life and truth,
the sturdy wood
a silver world mantled in snow.

Sometimes it is a jogging track,
the "Takiyama Castle course"--
where mind and body are forged
strong as steel.

Sometimes a studio
where young da Vincis
cultivate their artistic skills--
their works, already exhibited abroad,
winning the praise of their peers.

Sometimes this place
is a natural plaza where,
engrossed in dialogue and
oblivious to the passage of time,
friends forge lifelong bonds.

At times, this is a place
where young students
from around the world
gather joyfully,
linking hearts across the globe.

Sometimes it is a path
of contemplation and philosophy
imbued with the personal memories
of a troubled heart.

From the window
of Soka University's newly-built
Central Tower
the ruins of the castle,
surrounded by lush green,
are visible as well.

In my heart I am always
together with the students of Soka University,
walking where they walk,
pausing where they pause,
breathing the air they breathe.

And I offer words of respect
to the long-gone lord of the castle
for magnanimously embracing,
protecting and nurturing
the Soka students:
"Thank you for taking care
of my beloved sons,
my precious daughters!"

In times past,
this is a place where
countless battles raged.
Always the castle remained undefeated,
defiantly defended to the last
though often destruction loomed.
The Kanto region's foremost mountain castle--
without keep or cut-stone walls
but fashioned of natural valleys and cliffs.

In 1569--the twelfth year of Eiroku,
Takeda Shingen, marching on Odawara
to attack the Hojo clan,
made camp in Haijima forest.
From there he sent twenty thousand of his men
exhorting them to hold
a "festival of blood"
in Takiyama Castle.

Although those who defended Takiyama
numbered a mere two thousand,
Shingen's expectations were betrayed.
"Why don't they give in . . ."
"What's taking so long . . ."

The lord of Takiyama Castle, Hojo Ujiteru,
gave this command:
"Fight or die with this castle
as your pillow.
Do not allow the enemy to take
even a single step inside these walls!"

The general Ujiteru
was the first to rush forward
to meet the attacking foe.

A single force, two thousand strong,
rose in a high-spirited,
indomitable response:
"We'll protect this, our castle, at any cost!"
"We'll fight until the very last moment of life!"

The outer defenses were breached,
yet the soldiers held their ground
and launched a fresh attack
which thoroughly unnerved Katsuyori,
the famous Shingen's son.
Shingen, once thought to be invincible,
finally sounded the retreat.

Oh, the glorious
ruins of Takiyama Castle!
which the soldiers resolutely
protected as their very own.

Later, Ujiteru moved
to Hachioji Castle
and Takiyama, now deserted,
was swallowed by weeds and wood.

Centuries of seasons have passed . . .
the deep trenches
seem even now to hide soldiers
and the level courtyards
are untouched since that time.

It is just as it was
in those ancient days
when generals saw the moon reflected
in their sake cups,
and the skies resounded
with the beat of battle drums.

Those several hundred years
seem like a single day in this place
where history's churning has ceased
and turned all to a tranquil paradise
of flowers and green
breathing life, the future, peace.

These ruins of Takiyama Castle
and Soka University
are like friends, brothers.
The enduring bond
of the two adjacent green hills
will remain in history for all time.

On mornings
when the same sun smiled on our waking,
through evenings when we slept
watched over by the same constellations . . .
The same wind and snow we braved
and on sunny days
the same view of distant Mt. Fuji
we shared.

The fortress of past wars
has quietly watched over
a new-born fortress of peace.

Thirty years have passed
since Soka University's founding.
The ruins of Takiyama Castle,
have listened quietly
to the hammering sounds of construction
as the school steadily grew.
You have watched
the noble sight of youth,
of students tempering
mind and spirit,
making their way
out into the world.

Whenever they came to you,
you enfolded them in your gentle embrace
just as they are
--all their worries, sorrow and sufferings,
their joys, excitement and hopes--
giving a long, deep nod of assurance.

I once told the students:
We are one
in body and spirit.
No one can break our bond.

On another occasion I wrote:
I shall protect you with all my life.
Because that is for me
the greatest joy.

To open a path for you--
that is everything to me.

I wish to spend the closing years of my life
here in Hachioji
watching over and fostering the Soka students . . .
These are my true sentiments
which I have expressed again and again,
and I wish to spend
ever more time with you
here on the campus of Soka University.

I want to do anything
I possibly can for you.
Soka University is my life
and you are my eternal comrades,
through the three existences of past, present and future.

A giant tree begins
as a tiny seed buried in the dirt.
With all its might it draws nourishment
and develops a robust shoot.
With all its strength it pushes through the soil
and expands myriad roots
to bind it firmly with the earth.

This precisely is the way
for you to grow.
Break through the hard ground,
face the wind and frost,
dauntless, unwavering,
dignified and unrestrained,
always true to yourself,
higher, taller.

My cherished friends,
students of Soka University,
I urge you:
Be strong in the days
of your youth!
Be strong throughout your life!
Be unyielding, decisive in your strength!
For herein lies the key
to victory in all things!

Relentlessly study and learn!
Single-mindedly, determinedly
study and learn!
For herein lies victory
amid the harsh realities of life!

Never be defeated,
never wallow in self-pity.
Conquer your own mind!

A struggle with yourself--
that is the reality of your life
for the entirety of your life.

In all things,
bravely challenge the
task that lies before you
heroic in your quest
for wisdom and intellect.

Do not be impatient!
Do not retreat or fall behind!
Advance, simply continue
to advance! This is the way
of victorious youth.
All you need do
is advance on your own unique path
true always to yourself!

Each of you give form
to the founding spirit
in a way that is true to you;
let it shine from your life--
this precisely
is your mission,
which I trust you to fulfill.

When I envision you,
together and in solidarity
with my beloved members
of the Student Division
throughout the nation and the world,
actively engaged, dynamically contributing
on the grand stage of the new century,
further faith and conviction well up,
my hopes and dreams expand
without limit.

The Japanese cedar soaring into the heavens,
the beautiful ash with its shining trunk,
oak, beech, cherry . . .
On the hill of Takiyama Castle
hundreds, thousands of trees quietly stand,
each with its own rich uniqueness,
connected, moreover,
within the unseen web of life.

Your elder brothers and sisters,
with whom you share such deep bonds,
are struggling to their utmost!
Even as they are tossed about
by the rough seas of reality,
with love and pride they earnestly strive
to eternalize their alma mater!

More than anything,
it is this robust and brilliant spirit
that brings me, as founder, joy.

How my heart leaps with delight
when I learn
of the successes and achievements
of Soka Alumni.
How it pains me
to hear their sad news.
These are feelings known only
by the founder of a university.

My friends,
for all eternity
I will be together with you!
For all eternity
I will be your ally!

Time has passed,
clouds have drifted westward
and the shadow of the wood
has grown darker by degrees.

Beneath the dry leaves
where we tread
young seeds are sprouting
from the earth.
Young buds, small and firm,
enduring the coldness of the wind
and eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring,
peer from the branches of the trees.

Beyond the dignified trees
which form a triumphant arch
I see, bathed in the crimson sunset,
the Central Tower of Soka University
rising majestically into the sky.

In spring of the year 2000
again, the hills of Musashino
will be radiant with beautiful light,
a fresh abundance of green
colored by the drifting
petals of cherry blossoms
breathing new life to the world.

I wait for spring,
for the time when
my cherished Soka students
will soar into the skies
of the twenty-first century!
When we will celebrate joyously
our thirtieth anniversary,
and welcome fresh young scholars
to the campus of the third millennium!
And that is the time
when we send out into the world
a brilliant light of hope!

I await,
in happy anticipation
I will continue
to await
your growth!
your victory!
your glory!

Looking into the shining eyes of my
Soka students bravely embarking into
the twenty-first century

January 2000
Poet Laureate

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