The Autobiography of Tsujita: Part 1 of a 10-part blog series

This digital transcription is a small portion of Usaburo Tsujita’s autobiography describing his time at Bok Tower Gardens in 1955 and is part of the Nellie Lee Bok archive. The Bok family employed Tsujita at the turn of the century, and he would later create the Peace Lantern as a gift to honor his mentor, Edward Bok. This historical account begins with his first visit to the Sanctuary accompanied by Edward Bok’s son, Curtis Bok, and his wife, Nellie Lee Bok.

Part 1

Edward Bok’s Grave

The next morning, accompanied by Justice and Mrs. Curtis Bok, I started from Hotel Chalet Suzanne in a car, Justice Bok taking the steering wheel. The car sped through many a vast orange field. Then, the Singing Tower began to appear about two miles ahead of us. It shone in pink colour high in the blue sky in morning sun light.

Ah, this was the Singing Tower at the Sanctuary on Iron Mountain, which I was going to visit. At the base of this Tower was the grave of the late Mr. Edward Bok, and I have come far from Japan to pay a tribute to this grave.

Turning off left from the highway leading to Lake Wales, we entered a red clay road. There were still orange fields on the both sides of the road. Oranges could be seen through thick green leaves in the literary orange colour. The orange fields here were far larger in size than those we used to see in the Izu district.

After many turns of the road, we arrived at the entrance of the Sanctuary. There were neat white-line markings in the parking lot to indicate the direction and position of cars. A well-experienced traffic officer directed the incoming cars to right and left.

There was a large parking place on either side of the entrance. They seemed very spacious and I asked the guard, “How many cards can you park here?” He replied, “400 cars on each side, or the total of 800 cars.”

Passing through the front yard, where many different flowers were blooming, we approached the gate. On the right side stone of the gate, a framed copper plate was fitted in and bore the following wordings:

The Mountain Lake Sanctuary

The Sanctuary is owned by the American Foundation, a non-profit corporation, created and endowed by Edward Bok to hold title to the Sanctuary and Singing Tower and maintain them. Mr. Bok bought the property, planted it, built the Tower and presented the Sanctuary to the American people for visitation. It was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge on February 1, 1929.

                Closely followed by Justice and Mrs. Curtis Bok, I entered the gate and went up the sawdust-paved gentle slope shaded by the thick foliage overhead. Camphor trees and other kinds of trees, the names of which I do not know, were growing thick here and there. The big azalea shrubs with white, red and purple flowers could be seen everywhere as if the entire mountain were covered with them. I was surprised to see that azaleas were growing so luxuriantly here in Florida, as I had in mind azaleas were a characteristic plant of Japan.

                When we passed through the dense wood, whose foliage was almost hanging over our heads, we came to an opening of green lawn, which commanded a wide prospect, and all of a sudden, the Singing Tower soaring majestically in the sky came into our view. Oh! What a splendid sight!

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