The following letter was written by Seiji Koga
in the year 1806
, 6 years after Koga's honorable return to his native city of Fukuoka
. Koga left his native home in 1763. In 1790 he enrolled as a student of languages
at Keio. In the interim, he appears to have spent some time in China
, as suggested in the letter below by his referring to his stay in the inland city Qi Xian
, and possibly also in Europe. The letter exemplifies the passion Koga had, at the time and also earlier in his life, for translation and letters. Koga's interest in Buddhism
, which did not find expression in his formal writings until some years later, is revealed as having been a lifelong devotion, and perhaps the pursuit to which Koga dedicated himself most completely.
My Honorable Teacher Kubota,
You wrote to my family house many years ago asking where I was, and why I did not return your last visit.
For this I apologize to you, again, and with only true lips. As I explained to you recently, my reasons for leaving must remain under a cloud, or a blanket, or some other veil.
I have been back in Fukuoka for six years now, Japan for many more. That I did not write to you upon my return to our newly-Christened* land is inexcusable. But do you know the feeling of a heart's devoted journey? There are times, when a soul's question becomes a serpent in the heart, it walks around inside of us, and stops our breathing, sometimes we die, and it is only the wiggling of the snake that revives the rhythyms of our breath, and saves us. It is at times like these, and they are rare and not all individuals know them, but I know you do, my master, that one must make choices that cannot be right. Sometimes, my master, and I do not know if you ever understood this, there is nothing good that a person can do. Sometimes, we can only make injury. This is what I now know as true suffering. Master, you taught me Samurai arts well. But there are things a Samurai does not know. There is no thing that all men know, nor is there a man that knows all things.
I have seen you many times since my return. Never have I spoken to you of my journey or of my years away from Japan. Indeed, I would be surprised if you ever knew that I had left Japan. Now this knowledge I give to you freely.
When I left, my departure was immediate. I spoke only to my brother of my future absence, and I left my mother with only a glance in her dreams. I had a crisis of being, master. I bent not with the grass, but fought against it. I almost cracked, in the middlepoint of my soul. I sought confirmation for my own life. I know that you saw this in the weeks before I left.
I spent a number of years in Qi Xian.* Here I studied blacks and whites, circles of colors, and the simple forms of flowers.* I read the works of Qiu Chujee.* I understood them only after many years of intense focus. At first, I could not read them properly, not understanding the language in which they were written. It was at this time that I first truly understood the problem of translation. I located, with the help of a small astrologer, numerous handwritten pages of the thought of Chujee and his master. They were written in my own language. But they were so much indecipherable symbols. The words failed my eyes. I was blind, but reading. So I learned to read Chujee, all the while working on my own translation, which I have now completed and give to you as a gift for reading this letter. Many years ago, Master, I read Chujee in the way that the sun is breeding flowers. I read Chujee in the way that the river is seeking the shore. I read Chujee in the way that the bird is flying with harmonic grace. Still, for many years I crashed myself against his wisdom.
In the last moment, I was saved from the sea in which I was drowning. I woke up in a new world. Everything was light. Master, I felt a true understanding of peace in the center of my soul. My being was glorious. Being, is-ness, the reality of the self, the consciousness, happening, arriving, is all a project of love and laughter. Master, I feel this now in my soul. I hope that you do too.
Honorable Kazuo Kubota, please forgive me for the transgressions of my soul. What I have failed to do in this life, where I have not been a true friend to you, where the truthfulness of God has crippled my hand before writing letters to you, I have errored. I have errored, I wish, only in so many ways that I have in other lives been a fortunate son of yours, or a lover, or a fair competitor of go. K'ung Fu-Tse wrote of friendship, "The honest man is often in the company of his friends, and by the grace of their friendship, his virtue blossoms." Master, my virtue has grown because you are my friend; that growth is infinite.
I write to you,
1st * Koga's phrase "newly-Christened land" is a referral to the conversion of the Japanese emperor to Christianity in the year 1781.
2nd * At least, it is most probable that Koga was referring to the town of Qi Xian, near the large city of Zhengzhou, China and not far from the Shangdong province where the learned Qui Chujee (see next note) was known to have resided. Koga's script might also reference the city of Kisen in modern North Korea, but this is unlikely--the town is historically known as Huich on.
3rd & 4th * "Blacks and whites, circles of color" might be a reference to Taoist symoblism. The master "Qiu Chujee" that Koga refers to was a famous Taoist priest, and disciple of Wong Chongyan.
5th * The referral to K'ung Fu-Tse (popularly known as Confucius) is probably to this text from his Analects. "The superior man on grounds of culture meets with his friends, and by their friendship helps his virtue" (Book XII, Chap. XXIV).