Photo: NPO Gakudo Kofu President Takako Doi (front row, 3rd from right) and her colleagues standing in front of late Gakudo Ozaki's statue together with a U.S. delegation headed by Rachel Bohn, the 68th United States Cherry Blossom Queen (2nd row, 5th from right) which was in Ise City last May for a goodwill visit. Credit: NPO Gakudo Kofu. - Photo: 2016

A Japanese NGO Keeps Yuki Ozaki’s Spirit Alive

By Ramesh Jaura and Katsuhiro Asagiri

ISE | TOKYO (IDN) – Takako Doi is a warm-hearted, youthful and dynamic woman in her late sixties wedded to the cause of promoting educational and exchange programmes to foster international cooperation and friendship. She is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, and her mind, ears and eyes are open to the global community.

Doi is President of Gakudo Kofu, a not-for-profit organisation (NPO) launched in 2006 and tasked since 2010 with administration of the historic Ozaki Gakudo Memorial House supported by the Ise City, known as the ‘Holy City’ because it hosts Ise Jingu, the Grand Shrine, a Shinto shrine complex centered on two main shrines, Naikū and Gekū, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. Read in Japanese

As we could see for ourselves, thanks due to a guided tour arranged by Takako Doi in May, the shrine buildings in serene settings are made of solid cypress wood and use no nails but instead joined wood. The shrine buildings at Naikū and Gekū as well as the Uji Bridge that stretches across the Isuzu River are rebuilt every 20 years as a part of the Shinto belief of the death and renewal of nature and the impermanence of all things and as a way of passing building techniques from one generation to the next.

Doi and her NPO are keen to contribute to the values the Grand Shrine embodies and uphold the legacy of international peace and human rights for which Yukio Ozaki stood. Also remembered with his pseudonym ‘Gakudo’, Ozaki served in the House of Representatives of the Japanese Diet for 63 years (1890–1953), and is still revered as the “God of constitutional politics” and the “Father of the Japanese Constitutional Democracy“. Ise was his electoral constituency.

In 1994, with the aim to communicate the visions of Gakudo Ozaki (Yukio Ozaki), an organization called “Gakufu-kai” – with “Kofu” as its women’s division – was founded and it has since been engaged in grass root educational activities by organizing lectures and study sessions as well as international friendship and exchange programmes.

Explaining ‘Gakudo Kofu’, Doi says, while ‘Gakudo’ is derived from the pseudonym of Yukio Ozaki, ‘Ko’ originates from one of two Chinese characters, which constitutes the first name of Yukika Sohma, the third daughter of Yukio Ozaki, “who always gave us advice and inspiration for our activities”.

Gakudo Kofu organises close to the birthday of late Ozaki in December a memorial event titled “Festival of the birth of Gakudo Ozaki”, which provides the framework for lectures by researchers and other knowledgeable persons.

“We also organize events for children. We invite experts to talk to children about the future they would shoulder,” says Doi. “Experts include members of city council. This programme constitutes a platform for our activities enabling us to look back on achievements of Yukio Ozaki and thus get acquainted with his high ideals,” she adds.

With a view to conveying the spirit of late Yukio Ozaki to children who are the future not only of Ise City but also of Japan, Gakudo Kofu launched a ‘book report competition’ in 1994 for elementary and junior high school students in Ise and the surrounding area: by encouraging students to choose any book about the life of Gakudo Ozaki, write about it and submit the ‘report’ to Gakudo Kofu for review.

“We have so far organized 22 book report competitions,” says Doi. “In the first year, there were only 13 entries. By way of promoting activities supported by NPO Gakugo Kofu’s members and with the backing of local schools, the number of entries has gradually increased to a total of about 6,500.”

Best book reports are honoured with awards such as the ‘Mayor Award’, ‘President of the ‘Municipal Assembly Award’, and ‘Education Board Award’ on the occasion of late Yukio Ozaki’s annual birthday festival. This has become a major annual event in Ise City.

Ise is well known for magnificent cherry trees too. Cherry blossom trees along the Miyagawa river dyke in Ise have been designated as some of the one hundred most beautiful cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan. Ozaki Memorial House is located on the banks of the Miyagawa river. Several cherry blossom trees in the garden of the memorial hall, came back home from Washington D.C. where their ancestral cherry blossom trees donated by Yukio Ozaki were originally planted 100 years ago.

“Motivated by my wish to have children enjoy the cherry blossom season, which constitutes a charming tradition of Ise, and to have children feel the beauty and the grandeur of nature as well as think about people associated with cherry blossoms such as Yukio Ozaki and nurture their sense of love for their community, we have been organizing Sketching Cherry Blossom competitions for elementary school children. A growing number of elementary school children from Ise City is participating in such competitions,” notes Doi.

Taking a cue from the opportunity of a visit to Gakudo Ozaki Memorial House by a goodwill delegation including “the U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen” 21 years ago, Gakudo Kofu selected “Dogwood Queen” among participants from Ise and the surrounding area. “Dogwood Queen” was elected in Ise with a view to furthering friendship with the U.S. and was named after dogwood trees donated by the U.S. president to Japan in reciprocation for Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C. which had been earlier donated by Yukio Ozaki, the then Mayor of Tokyo.

Since 1998, six Dogwood Queens have been elected and they have visited Washington D.C. participating in exchange programmes with civil organizations, visiting administrative offices, and participating in the National Cherry Blossom Festival, joining a parade in the U.S.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of donating Cherry blossom trees to the U.S. the NPO headed by Doi accompanied by a Dogwood Queen, two Vice Queens, 3 Friendship Ambassadors, and one Goodwill Ambassador visited the U.S. during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in April 2012 and were welcomed warmly.

At the grand ball where the U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen is selected, Dogwood Queen (from Ise) is unveiled along with Cherry Blossom Princesses representing each state of the U.S. The U.S. Cherry Blossom Queens elected at this party during the festival have been visiting Japan every year and since 1995 Ise too. On such occasions, they also visit the Grand Shrine, call on the Mie Prefecture’s Governor as well as on Ise City’s Mayor, apart from visiting Gakudo Ozaki Memorial House and Mikimoto Pearl Island. NPO Gakudo Kofu has been acting as host organization for the U.S. delegation.

At parades during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in April in Washington D.C., Dogwood Queens and Vice Queens “From Ise Japan” march together receiving applause from people lining the streets.

Doi recalls that the NPO headed by her brought 24,000 paper cranes to participate in the festival during the Iraq war in 2003. “We are proud of this decision. Our activities came to be known in the U.S. and NPO Gakudo Kofu received certificates of commendation from many people including Presidents Clinton and Bush.”

Doi recalls that Gakudo Ozaki was 74 when he wrote in a poem: “On Life’s stage, always be prepared for the future.” She adds: “We, members of NPO Gakudo Kofu, with these words firmly in our mind, are determined to spread Yukio Ozaki’s message not only to the Ise City but also to Japan and beyond to the world at large for all future transcending time.”

Her dedication to promoting the Ozaki Spirit was duly honoured on October 28, 2016 when Tadamori Oshima, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Diet, who also chairs the Ozaki Yukio Memorial Foundation, bestowed on Doi a special certificate of appreciation at the Foundation’s 60th anniversary event at the Parliamentary Memorial Hall. [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 December 2016]

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

Photo: NPO Gakudo Kofu President Takako Doi (front row, 3rd from right) and her colleagues standing in front of late Gakudo Ozaki’s statue together with a U.S. delegation headed by Rachel Bohn, the 68th United States Cherry Blossom Queen (2nd row, 5th from right) which was in Ise City last May for a goodwill visit. Credit: NPO Gakudo Kofu.

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