On the brink

天満神社 Tenman Shrine

I roll down my car window and tell the guy to fill it up. His reply is, “Where are you from?” When  I tell him, “America”, he says, “Oh, Trump.” Even in tiny gas stations on the back roads in eastern Kyushu, the recent election has people talking.

Banjyo River in October

It’s been a hard couple months adjusting to this new reality. I spent the long weekend before the election at a Zen meditation retreat. I was certain that sensibility would prevail and was pretty shaken when I heard the results on the streaming news as I drove home from work. Since then I have been glued to the computer too many hours a day consuming news of the aftermath- the inane tweets, the absurd cabinet appointments, the blatant disregard of ethics, the despicable antics of the Republican zealots, and so on.

Deciding today that I need to start writing again to move forward and start some healthier thinking.

Fossil 2016 (Jiro Yonezawa)

The reaction here is disbelief. As long as I’ve lived here, I’ve only heard admiration and respect for America as a country that offers opportunities for all, supports freedom and justice, and a place where diversity is celebrated. Of course, there are plenty of negative images, too… too many guns and too much crime, unhealthy eating habits, wasteful lifestyles and inequality for the poor. So the rhetoric of Trump that is so narrow-minded, racist and inflammatory has really hurt the image of the US here. I hear murmurs of mistrust and fear.

People ask, “How did Americans elect him after all the terrible things he said?” I explain that he lost the popular vote and the electoral college system gave him the edge. Of course, the Russians played a role, but the fact is many Americans voted for him and believe he is fit to be president. People here are worried about war and frankly I am, too.

As an American living here,  I represent the US to people who know me  and see me on the street. I feel ashamed of the man who has been elected as our 45th president, but I am determined to fight for the true values of America and oppose anything and anyone who tries to attack or undermine those values. It’s difficult to be effective from afar, but I will be writing to members of Congress and looking for opportunities to engage in the struggle.

Akai Jizo 2016        selected for Nitten (Jiro Yonezawa)

The first action I’m taking is to write to the tourism agency in the town of Usa, Japan. They are holding an event to honor the new president as a way to promote tourism. Don’t think he’s the right guy to attract visitors.

Even though I’ve been thoroughly  preoccupied with this mess, other things have been going well. I’m still teaching part-time. Jiro’s been really productive and had a great show in Taiwan last year, has made a great connection in France and won the Grand Prize two consecutive years in the Japan National New Craft Exhibition.


My wish is for peace and around the world. Stay healthy and focused on the good.

Tom Na H-iu, Teshima Island by Mariko Mori