The Autobiography of Tsujita: Part 7 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.

The next morning, Justice Bok took me and Mrs. Bok in his car to the Sanctuary of Iron Mountain again to visit the administration office. The director, Mr. Morrison received us and spread on a table several newspapers, saying, “These newspapers are this morning’s.” The pages pointed to me had the big pictures of the stone lantern and myself in different poses such as where I was looking up the stone lantern or where I was just standing in front of it.

Under a heading “The Former House-Boy of the Boks Visiting the Tower to See Stone Lantern Which He Donated to the Sanctuary” or a similar heading, the articles each described in detail that a Japanese gentleman Mr. U. Tsujita, who donated the stone lantern far from Japan in 1955 in memory of his devotion and high esteem for Edward Bok, who had dedicated the Sanctuary to the American people thirty years ago, was now visiting this Sanctuary.

I thought that these papers would be very fine souvenirs and asked to send to Japan several copies together with the pamphlets of the Sanctuary. As there was some time before the noon, I made an arrangement to meet them in this office at noon, when we were to have lunch at the restaurant in front of the gate, and went out all alone.

I wandered about in the Sanctuary as my fancy dictated. I looked around the Sanctuary, watched the swans swimming in the moat and came to the stone lantern. It was Saturday and there were many visitors to the Sanctuary. There were visitors in groups of twos and threes in front of the stone lantern also.

All of a sudden, one of the visitors accosted me, “You are the gentleman whose story was in this morning’s newspaper. Aren’t you?” “Yes,” I replied as there was nothing to conceal about it.

“Very nice!” he said and extended his hand. I was touched and warmly grasped his hand for a handshake. As I was exchanging a few words with him, other people around there gathered about me and wished to shake hands with me one by one saying, “Was it you? Very Nice, very nice, indeed!” I was very pleased to make acquaintance with these strangers and exchange conversations with them with warm feeling, although it was only for a short time.

About seventy five feet away from there, the grave of Edward Bok could be seen. I offered my silent prayer for him and indulged in his many memories as I strolled around in the Sanctuary.

Suddenly the bells of the Tower began to resound. The handles of my watch pointed to noon. It was promised time that I should be back in the administration office. I thought that the office was located beyond the wide turf. I walked to that direction, but there was no building that looked like an office. I was bewildered. Farther beyond, there were about two houses that looked like a residence – perhaps the homes of the employees who worked in the Sanctuary. I approached and asked a lady in a house, “Could you tell me where is the office?” The lady kindly offered to take me to the office and began to walk ahead of me. I was told that Justice and Mrs. Bok were waiting for me at the restaurant and that I came to the opposite direction to what I thought. In a word, I had been lost. There may be no wonder since the Sanctuary is about twice as big as the Hibiya Park, and I wandered through the thick woods without any definite purpose as my feet carried me, deep in the recollection of the dear memories.

The restaurant was on the left side of the front garden outside of the gate. There was a store where postcards and souvenirs were sold.

As I was behind time, I hurried to the restaurant, where Justice Bok and Mrs. Bok were waiting for me. Smilingly they said, “Where have you been?” I replied, “I got lost as the place was so big,” and we all laughed loudly.

After the lunch I went to the souvenir store all alone and bought picture postcards and small souvenirs. Among others that I bought there were two tin models of the Singing Tower, which I thought were the suitable souvenirs for the grandchildren of some friends of mine. Later, when I came back to Japan and I was about to deliver them, I looked at their bottoms casually and found from the labels pasted there that they had been made in Japan. Naturally, I had a very ticklish feeling.

Impression of The Singing Tower Recital

At three o’clock of the same day, in order to listen to the recital of the Singing Tower. I followed Justice Bok and went into the dense planting of the left side of long narrow moat in front of the Tower, which as I mentioned before, reflected the inverted tower on the water. Going through a small wooden gate, we came to a lawn, where I found two chairs.

“Tsuda, take the chair over there. My father used to come here every-day and sit there and take delight in watching untiringly the progress of the construction of the Tower,” said Justice Bok.

I hesitated for a moment to sit in such a memorable chair, but I was deeply moved by Justice Bok’s kind consideration to let me site there and hear the recital. Again the tears of deep appreciation ran down my cheeks. I thought that it would be impolite to decline this thoughtful offer and so I sat in that chair. Justice Bok too the other chair besides me.

Again the memory of Edward Bok came back to me. He turned this vast land into a beautiful Sanctuary and complete this big Singing Tower. He watched the Tower every day as it grew higher and higher in the construction stage. What would have been his feeling? He must have been very happy. How can it be otherwise, when he was building this Tower with a sublime ideal not for himself but for the people.

Even I have a small experience myself. Once can be much happier when he gives to others than when something is given to him. I understand that the donation of the Sanctuary and the Singing Tower is included among the three biggest donations in the U.S.A. what a big delight and satisfaction it must have been to donate such a wonderful moment!

As I was trying to retrospect Edward Bok’s living days here, suddenly the music began to float from the top of the Singing Tower high above. The sound of the bells, high at some times and low at other times, strong now and faint then, enveloped the Sanctuary very soon and it was as if we were in a dream land of music under a large canopy of rhythm.

I, who have no knowledge of music, could not tell what music was being played, but I was completely carried away by the serene and sublime tunes. After several pieces were played, a new melody began to flow. A melody which every Japanese knows! It was “Kojo no Tsuki” (Moon over the Dilapidated Castle).

I never dreamed that I would hear such a Japanese melody here and I was really stunned. Hearing Justice Bok’s explanation that this melody was specially played for me, I could not help being grateful and again the tears of gratitude trickled down my cheeks.

It was a great favour that Justice Bok invited me, who had been a mere Japanese school-boy, far away from Japan to this Florida. As if he thought it was not sufficient, he moreover let me sit in the dear chair full of his father’s memories and also had a well-known Japanese melody played just for me. How can I help but be moved! The tears kept running down my cheeks and could not face Justice Bok squarely.

The visitors to the Sanctuary to hear the music that day must have been over ten thousand. They gathered in twos and threes wherever they pleased and listened to the music quietly.

The music of the bells would flow on the wind over the endless orange fields and over the lakes on all sides, it would give peace and pleasure to the villagers and the townspeople.