The Autobiography of Tsujita: Part 2 of 8-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 2

The Tower was built of pink Georgia marble and Florida coquina stone. It was octagonal in shape and measured 205 feet in height. It was familiar to me through the picture in booklets, but this was the first time that I actually saw the Tower with my own eyes. I stood stunned at the sight of this great Singing Tower. Then Justice Bok held my shoulders lightly and made me turn to the right.

Oh, how dear! There stood before my eyes the stone lantern which I donated four years ago. By the side of the lane paved with sawdust and in front of a group of large palm trees, it was surrounded by small azalea shrubs and it was protected from mischiefs of heartless visitors. I could clearly read the following engraved words:

Memorial Gift
Presented to The Sanctuary
as a Tribute to
Edward Bok
by Tsujita of Tokyo Japan
January 1955

“What do you think of this site? It’s all right, is it not?” asked Justice Bok. “Very fine indeed! I am grateful to you for selecting such an appropriate spot for the stone lantern,” I replied.

Then, three unfamiliar gentlemen approached me with the smiling face. I found them to be pressmen who heard of my visit and came to have an interview. They put various questions to us, to which Justice Bok and I answered alternatively, and they took quite a few pictures of us. A photographer also came from Lake Wales through Justice Bok’s arrangement. He took several pictures of such poses as where I was facing Justice and Mrs. Bok in front of the lantern or where I was looking at the lantern.

The mountain where we stood is called Iron Mountain. It is the highest mountain on the Florida Peninsula with 300 feet above sea level. The Singing Tower was erected at the summit of this mountain. The moats with full water surround the Singing Tower. There is a small marble bridge on both sides of the Tower, and on the bridge there is a wrought iron gate. Usually the gates are closed and opened only to the special people.

Justice and Mrs. Bok and I entered the gate opened by the guard, crossed the bridge and came to the font of the Tower. I had heard that the grave of the late Mr. Edward Bok was in front of the Tower, so I looked around for tombstone but I could see nothing like those I used to see in Japan. Then, I looked at close to my feet, and there lay a flat rectangular marble stone in the lawn right in front of the entrance to the Tower. It is too far away from the entrance for a stepping stone, and there are planted violet-like flowering plants around it. This may be the grave, I thought, but I was not familiar with such type of the grave, I asked Justice Bok, “Is this the grave?” and he made a confirming nod. I was awe-stricken at this nod, for I was almost going to step on it. I had been informed that his corpse had been actually buried. I now believe that Edward Bok must be sleeping peacefully in the ground under this stone. This stone of a few inches width seemed a partition that separated this and the other world, and I could see no more of Edward Bok. All of a sudden, sorrow filled me.

I removed the strap of my camera off my shoulder, took off my spring coat, and laid them on the grass. I tidied myself, advanced to the side of the grave, clasped my hands in veneration in the Japanese style and prayed in silence for the repose of Edward Bok’s soul. I prayed that if there were spiritual communication, he might guide me to follow his teaching – “Wherever your lives may be cast, make you the world a bit better and more beautiful because you have lived in it.”  – which has become the family precept of the Boks, and I pledged to do my best to put it into practice.

Even during this prayer of a few minutes, various memories before his death came to my mind and tears kept running down my cheeks. My tears should not be seen by others and I tried to withhold them, but it was in vain and my lamentation kept increasing in density.

I pulled myself in a short time, wiped my tears and joined Justice and Mrs. Bok, who were waiting for me in the Tower. Then, I registered my name in the visitors’ book and climbed the Tower by elevator. After climbing to a considerable height, I was led to the small observation balcony through a bay window, which would hold only a few persons at a time.

What a wonderful view it is! The deep green orange fields dotted with blue lakes here and there all spread over under my eyes. One can realize how Florida abounds in lakes. Houses in towns and villages in white, red and blue colours could be see also in this panoramic view of a beautiful colour arrangement. One could command the entire state of florid in his view. Could it be cloud or sea that was laying beyond the horizon?

If one turned his eyes toward the foot of the Tower, there was a moat which encircled the Tower. Outside this moat, another moat forked out from the front of the Tower. The long narrow strip lying between the fork of moats resembled Florida Peninsula in shape.

Many kinds of tropical plants including palm trees grew luxuriantly around the moats. Light and dark green of these plants, various colours of other flora, blue water of the moats and the two white swans swimming gracefully there presented a harmony of colours, and it was just like an oil painting.

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