The Japan-America Society of Greater Austin (JASGA) enjoyed hosting many events for the community last year and has many more to come this new year. We hope that you will take the opportunity to enjoy them!
Setsubun (Bean-Throwing Festival)
"Setsubun ("seasonal division") is a festival held on February 3 or 4, one day before the start of spring according to the Japanese lunar calendar.
Around the 13th century, for example, it became a custom to drive away evil spirits by the strong smell of burning dried sardine heads, the smoke of burning wood and the noise of drums. While this custom is not popular anymore, a few people still decorate their house entrances with fish heads and holy tree leaves in order to deter evil spirits from entering.
In modern days, the most commonly performed setsubun ritual is the throwing of roasted beans around one's house and at temples and shrines across the country. When throwing the beans, you are supposed to shout "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" ("Devils out, happiness in"). Afterwards you should pick up and eat the number of beans which corresponds to your age.
As all traditional festivals, setsubun is celebrated in many variations throughout the country.
L Jane Rose
Ho Wun (Edna) Chan
Tomio Yamakoshi Petrosky
Johanna & Masaaki Kuwajima
Eri Suzuki & Steve Banasaka
The Japanese Monument at The Alamo
Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics
The University of Texas at Austin
February 1, 2012
I visited the Alamo in San Antonio for the first time soon after moving to Austin in1970. At that time, I was very much interested in the Alamo, since just before moving to Austin, I had seen the John Wayne movie The Alamo and was acquainted with the story of the Alamo and also such names as Davy Crockett and James Bonham. Since then, I have been there probably more than ten times.
On my first visit to the Alamo, I happened to find a small gray granite monument, about five feet high, deep in a corner behind a giant live oak tree in the courtyard there. You can see a photo of the monument and the inscriptions on it. On the top front, the English part of the inscription says,
「To / The Memory of The Heroes / of / the Alamo」
which is followed by a kanshi (a Japanese poem written using only Chinese characters). At the bottom are the words
「Professor Shigetaka Juko Shiga, Tokyo / San Antonio, Texas / September 1914」
The Japanese words inscribed on the left corner says that the monument was presented by Shigetaka Shiga in 1914. From these English and Japanese words inscriptions, I could see that the monument wass a gift from Professor Shiga given to the City of San Antonio in September 1914, commemorating the heroes of the Alamo. Shiga was a geographer, a writer, and a professor at Waseda University. On the back, it says:
「Stone / from the native province of / Suneemon Torii / The Bonham of Japan / in the province is Nagashino, / The Alamo of Japan」
Most of Japanese know the battle of Nagashino in 1575, in which almost all of the defenders in Nagashino Castle, besieged by Takeda Katsuyori's forces, died in a very similar manner as the heroes of the Alamo did. Suneemon Torii carried out a similar mission as James Bonham did at the Alamo.
Professor Shioga, who was a native of Nagashino, had heard about the story of the Alamo at a very critical time when anti-Japanese sentiment became very strong in California. He was very much worried about it and decided to dedicate the monument with the hope that that would help to promote the friendship between Japan and the United States, especially Texas. The kanshi inscribed on the front was composed by Professor Shiga.
Since 1914, the monument has been standing at the place where it was built. Even during WWII, the monument was not removed. I have heard an interesting story how some people in San Antonio tried to keep the Monument from being removed.
During the war, of course, there was a strong sentiment that the monument should be removed. But there were people even at that time who tried to defend the monument's presence. These people used the fact that on front of the monument a Chinese poem is inscribed. The defenders of the monument argued that the donor, unable to express his sentiments in his own language of Japanese, had resorted to Chinese, and since the Monument was in no way connected with the Japanese government and was not even in Japanese, no American should find it offensive. The defenders succeeded, so that the monument is still there.
2014, which is coming soon, will be the 100th anniversary of the monument. I am sure that there will be a celebration for that, and I am very much looking forward to joining it.
Dr. Takeshi Udagawa (Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Texas at Austin, and principal of the Austin Japanese school) is a theoretical physicist and researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. His achievements have contributed to the overall improvement of the status of Japanese researchers. His efforts to establish a fund to promote academic exchanges between the United States and Japan culminated in an exchange program with the University of Texas at Austin and Oita University in Japan that has greatly cotributed to the Austin Sister City program.