I was born the second daughter of the Tomita family in Tomé-Açu, in the Brazilian state of Pará. My parents had crossed the ocean from Yokohama to Brazil on the Japanese emigrant ship Argenchina-maru in 1963. They settled in Tomé-Açu, in the highlands of the Amazonian jungle. Just before
their first harvest of pimenta (a kind of pepper), my father died of liver
cancer at the age of twenty-six. My mother was just twenty-five at the time,
and was left with three children: my brother, five years old; my sister, two;
and me, just six months. Farming virgin land was much too hard for my
mother by herself, so she decided to go back to Japan. However, shortly
after the ship sailed, she handed her wallet to her five-year-old son and committed suicide by throwing herself into the sea. Following our mother’s
death, we arrived in Japan safely, thanks to the help of many people.
My brother was taken in by relatives on our mother’s side in Tochigi Prefecture, and my sister and I were taken in by our paternal aunt’s family
in Saitama Prefecture. I was raised by my adoptive parents, but when I
entered junior high school, I was taken in by another uncle’s family. I felt
sorry for myself, unable get over the feeling that my parents had abandoned me in childhood. This state of mind lasted for years.
At the age of twenty I married a young man and, like my mother, before long I gave birth to three children. After several years of marriage,
my husband and I had an opportunity to own a home, exactly what I had
wished for. At my aunt’s suggestion, I went to the Chichibu Dharma Center
of Rissho Kosei-kai for the first time to receive advice about the direction in
which the new house should face. I met the chapter head and the area leader and told them about my childhood and how I had grown up. They
listened intently and urged me to join Rissho Kosei-kai.
Right after I became a member in 1995, the Chichibu Dharma Center
marked its thirty-fifth anniversary, and I was assigned the responsibility of
sharing my spiritual experience during the ceremony. On this occasion, Rev.
Masuo Nezu, a former vice chair of Rissho Kosei-kai’s board of trustees,
who had been invited to give religious guidance at the Chichibu Dharma
Center, kindly sent my manuscript to the Brazil Dharma Center beforehand.
On the morning of the ceremony, I received a fax from the Brazil Dharma
Center saying, “We, your brothers and sisters of your birthplace in Brazil,
always watch over you and pray that you will carry out your important
responsibility during the ceremony. Please come back to Brazil someday to
pray for your parents to rest in peace.” I remember how moved I was to
realize my good fortune in having such encouragement from sangha
members on the other side of the planet who hardly knew me.
After that I had a chance to meet Rev. Yoshikazu Mori, a former
minister of the Brazil Dharma Center, at Rissho Kosei-kai’s headquarters in
Tokyo. He looked at a receipt in Portuguese found among my father’s
belongings and said, “Your father bought cans of baby formula every time
he traveled a long distance to shop. At that time it was difficult to get baby
formula on a plantation in the jungle. Even in such a difficult situation,
your father took many days to get to Belém, which was very far from
That impressed me deeply, and my heart went out to my parents. I
had an immediate opportunity to install a focus of ancestor appreciation at
home, and was overjoyed to be able to venerate my parents personally
through chanting of the Lotus Sutra. Then I became involved in the practice
of leading and guiding others to cultivate our minds in the light of the
Buddha Dharma, because I wished to share the teachings of Rissho Kosei-kai
with others. Since the time I was made head of the chapter wives group,
like-minded members of the group have offered me mental and spiritual
support. Now two of my “children in the faith” have received the focus of
Five years ago in 2005, when the Chichibu Dharma Center celebrated its forty-fifth anniversary, we welcomed Rev. Norio Sakai who came to give
us religious guidance. He is now an emeritus member of Rissho Kosei-kai’s
board of trustees. I had a chance to talk with him about my personal history.
After that, Rev. Sakai traveled to Brazil and when he returned he brought
me some soil and seawater from the area near where my parents are buried.
This helped me renew contact with my brother. We had been out of touch
for nearly twenty years, and we three siblings could finally meet again.