The Autobiography of Tsujita: Part 4 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 4

Fortunately, I was acquainted with that famous painter Mr. Sanzo Wada, from whom I had received many favours. I visited him one day and told him about my idea of sending a stone lantern to the U.S.A.  I showed him various pictures of Florida and asked home to draw the design of a stone lantern suitable to the Sanctuary. I added that Edward Bok was a man who had contributed a great deal to the cause of the world peace, and so it would be appropriate to cave some doves, the symbol of peace, at the centre of base of the lantern. Mr. Wada listened to my plan, and saying “It was a very good idea,” promised me his full-hearted support. I learned later that Mr. Wada had visited many temples and shrines in Kyoto and Nara to study about lanterns. Mr. M., who had been studying in Boston at the same time as I, then a professor at a university in Nara, kindly sent me a few sketches of stone lanterns at Kasuga Shrine. At last, a magnificent drawing was complete.

On the other hand, I had stated to find stone and a stonemason. I did not think that the ordinary granite stone would be suitable. I thought that a higher quality stone like “Aji-ishi” of Shikoku Island or “Nakame-ishi” of Ibaragi Prefecture would be better. The full height of the stone lantern should be about ten feet. I made inquiries at the stone merchants and dealers not only in Tokyo but also in Kyoto and visited there for that purpose. I obtained a quotation from a stone dealer in Sjikoku through a friend of mine. I found that with my budget I could make only a smaller stone lantern than I had been planning. Of course, a larger one could be made if granite stone was used.

I was at a loss. However, I thought that I should make a good one if I made at all, and it could not be helped if the execution of my plan had to be postponed until I made a sufficient saving. This postponement, however, involved a difficulty. Prices were going up due to the change of economic conditions, and I feared that the rate of price advance might be greater than the increase of my savings.

It happended about this time that I visited Mr. S., a stone mason at Makabe-cho, Ibaraki Prefecture, through the introduction of a friend of mine. Mr. S. listened without speaking a word until I finished my story. Then, he, “All right, I will do it for you. It is my honour, too, if my work goes to America. I will make it regardless of cost.” His eyes sparkled. I could notice his chivalrous spirit to do the job disregarding profits, and I got the impression that he could be depended on.

Later, I went to see the stone mountain belonging to Mr. S. I was told that there were many quarries that produced granite in Ibaraki Prefecture, but there were only three which produced “Nukame-ishi” stone, and I was taken to one of the three quarries.

After completing an agreement with Mr. S., I returned to Tokyo. Later, however, I visited a few times more accompanied by Mr. T. Ohnishi, an able pupil of Mr. Wada, to explain the drawing and consult about other matters. I am greatly indebted to Mr. Wada but at the same time, I cannot forget Mr. Ohnishi’s kindness either.

There is another thing that I am deeply impressed with. As implied before, the price agreed between me and Mr. S. was an especially cheap one, and besides he was to complete the job in three months. However, as I received no words when three months elapsed, I went to Makabe-cho again to find how the work was progressing. I found then that the carving of the stone was being carried out very precisely, and Mr. S. and his men were putting their whole heart and soul into the work.

According to Mr. S.’s explanation, no human being can stand many hours of such energy-devoting work at a stretch. If he were forced to do, his piece of work would lack vitality. Therefore, as soon as he noticed fatigue in his worker, he would order him to stop and gave him easier works. In two or three days, when the fatigue was relieved, the work was resumed. In carving the doves, the particular mason was given a leave to study doves in a shrine and at the same time to pray for the successful fulfillment of his work.

Thus, the completion of the work took twice as long as the contracted period, but it was at last completed, and I received a notice that the stone lantern was provisionally placed in Mr. S.’s workshop near Makabe Station. I went there at once to see it. There stood a stone lantern of the Kasuga style designed by Mr. S. Wada. It was ten feet high, and the hexagonal centre had the doves carved in six different poses. They looked as if they were coming alive out of the carving. The entire stone lantern was well balanced. It was really a piece of exquisite workmanship. If Mr. S. were an ordinary man of business, he would have finished the job, disregarding workmanship within the contracted period and collected the money. It was different with Mr. S. He disregarded time or cost altogether and put his heart and soul into the work for the sake of his honour. I was impressed by his spirit which is characteristic to the master artists, and at the same time I could not help be grateful to him.

I was told that as such a fine stone lantern was never made in Makabe, there were many visitors from the nearby towns and villages to see and admire it. It was not long after that the stone lantern was dismantled, packed and shipped to the U.S.A.

This stone lantern was now serving Edward Bok at his side on my behalf. My heart was full of emotion and I could not leave there for some time.

Posted in