360 Days of the Cherry Tree

January 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm (Guest Post)

by Nobuyuki Kishi

When you hear the words “cherry tree,” I bet you think of the cherry blossoms. But those flowers blossom for only five days out of the whole year. And once the flowers are gone, people don’t pay any attention to the trees. Considering the number of days, however, you can say that the normal appearance of the cherry trees actually is without blossoms. Life is the same way: you go through beautiful times and not-so-beautiful times; you might even go through hard times. When your blossoms are gone, you see how people around you can leave you at the speed of light. People praise the beauty of the cherry blossoms and turn their backs once the flowers are gone. Sad, isn’t it? But you should remember to be the cherry tree itself, not the flowers. The tree that continues to stand tall and magnificent with its strong roots, especially when the blossoms are gone and people have left. This is why I admire cherry trees and compare life to them. They don’t say, “All my flowers are gone and no one is looking at me anymore, so I think I’ll collapse now.” You don’t see cherry trees do that. Those flowerless trees may seem dead and quiet, but beneath the surface they are full of life and energy. And they constantly grow stronger to let the flowers out again the following spring. Whether people admire them or not makes no difference to these trees.

When a person gains fame and social status in his youth and then loses that power, he may think that he’s failed for life. He then struggles hard to become successful again, to regain everything he’s lost, like trying to collect all the fallen flowers on the ground and glue them back on the branches. Some people might end up attempting suicide out of despair, but that’s because they have misunderstood something important: the cherry tree without the flowers. That’s the real you. Don’t be thinking, “This is not what I’m supposed to be.” It’s exactly who you are supposed to be. A cherry tree without flowers is still a cherry tree. I’m in my mid-60s now. When I was still around 45 years old and had ambitions for the New York Kishi Dojo, my mother became sick and I left the city for good to be home with her. Training here for twenty years has been rather quiet and lonely, and it’s quite different from the environment in New York. But now my Karate juniors and students come here to Shinjo from all over the world, just to visit me. My life hasn’t been so outstanding that I’m in any position to preach to others, and I understand that many youngsters long to have the cherry blossoms in their lives. But I want to tell them this: “Instead of focusing on blossoming, focus on rooting deeply into the ground.” And, “Stand strong and tall even when you have rains and storms in your life.” Japanese often describe cherry blossoms as graceful when they fall, but that’s not the only thing that is graceful. What’s truly graceful is the tree that lets the flowers go and focuses on growing its roots, trunk, and branches in order to become stronger and to live tomorrow.

From The Karate With No Name: Seeking the Wellspring of Karate in Japan

By Nobuyuki Kishi, as told to Takeru Fudo


Translation by Emi Mimura; editing by Susan Convery and Annie Gottlieb

Posted with permission

Sensei Nobuyuki Kishi was my karate teacher from 1974 to 1987, and a close friend of Jacques and me. While he returned to Japan for good two decades ago, his teaching continues to influence me, and his student Sensei Masahiko Honma is now my karate teacher in New York. ~ amba


  1. Icepick said,

    I slipped in a post after this one, but played with the timestamp to leave this post at the top. So don’t forget to scroll down.

  2. karen said,

    :0) i love all the posts here these days.

    This post is particularly poignant because- since the world is always divided into two kinds of people… this could be the perfect example of those who accept their limbs as they are and those who pine for the way things used to be.


    Our neighbor- whom i’ve mentioned here before as the man who had issues w/his sight and has diabetes- had a (mini)stroke yesterday. He called us- we went over and called 911(in that order- it should pro’ly have been reversed)- and he went for a ride to the hospital where he stayed in ICU for the night. I mention this because he is a man who lives in the past- always counting the many ways life was unfair and he was swindled, cheated and screwed out of all his hard earned moola. Which- to be fair- he was, many times. He drank and woo-ed the rest of time away: which leaves him w/many memories and today. He is also in his mid60s.

    [Maybe the world is divided… into those who count their blessings and those who can’t keep their fingertips from tracing their scars:0(. Unfortunately- the older we get and the more faint the scent of blossoms- the easier it is to look at the ground before us so we don’t lose our footing as opposed to the Heavens for their glories.]

    He came home today- was actually dropped off at our place since he got the worst in an encounter w/black ice and his truck is in the shop. Not a good week. Did i mention it was in traveling back from a funeral for his Brother-in-Law? Nope- not a good week.

    He needs to accept the process of… life? Aging? Growth?
    He has spoken of suicide- how he will take care of things himself before he ends up weakened to the point of relying on someone. No humility. I find that very sad. Pride.

    What is the value of our being?
    If we become weakened- are we better off not burdening others w/caring for us? Caring. Loving.

    Speaking of loving… January 22

    Subject: In Defense of the Defenseless . Meet Walter Joshua Fretz – A Human

  3. mockturtle said,

    Nicely said, Karen! God bless!

  4. mockturtle said,

    And, re; WJ Fretz, I have seen miscarried human beings, too, and was amazed at their ‘wholeness’. In the 60’s movie, Alfie, the heartless playboy, Michael Caine, after having coerced one of his lovers into having an abortion, remarked with teary eyes, ‘I didn’t expect it to look like a baby’. But that’s what a fetus looks like. And that’s what it is.

  5. amba12 said,

    You remember this, I’m sure, Karen . . .

    That’s what an almost-5-month fetus looks like but it’s not yet what an 8-week embryo looks like (pro-life people always blur these two). That’s not to say that the one won’t grow into the other if left to its own devices. I think it’s a little dishonest to show this as a picture of an embryo, but more than a little dishonest to say an embryo is ever just “a blob of tissue.”

  6. mockturtle said,

    When I became pregnant in my senior year of high school my mother began making arrangements for me to fly to Japan for an abortion [illegal here, as yet]. To her, it was a ‘no-brainer’. I protested mightily and tearfully and my father sided [for once] with me. My young lover and I were married–rather briefly–and I have my lovely older daughter, whose delightful personality has enriched the lives of everyone who knows her.

    While I cannot condemn those who have chosen, for various reasons, the path of abortion, I would like to see more consideration taken before making that decision.

  7. Donna B. said,

    Odd how we got from cherry trees to abortion, but since we have… I must insert my opinion and experiences here.

    Though I consider myself ‘pro-life’ I do not want to see abortion made completely and always illegal. I’m pretty damned sure my life has been charmed in that respect and therefore I cannot appreciate the choices that others have been faced with. I would appreciate it if those of you whose lives have been charmed in other ways would not judge some of the decisions I’ve made in other areas.

    I never faced an unwanted or inconvenient pregnancy. I also did not have to deal with difficulty becoming pregnant or in using various methods to prevent it. However, I’ve known more women who want children and don’t easily get pregnant than women who have had abortions. These experiences cannot but taint my opinions.

    Both my daughters have resorted to fertility treatments to become pregnant. As a result, I have three lovely grandchildren and another one on the way. I have a stepdaughter who had an abortion many years ago, though she is now the mother of three delightful children. When she called to tell her father of her decision, I did the only thing I could — I offered to take her child and raise it as my own without judgment. And when she declined (she’d never even met me), I accepted that without judgment also. But it was damned hard. Her life has gone from somewhat chaotic to settled and she’s a good mother to the children she has now.

    That I still think of that baby as someone I’d like to have known, doesn’t mean I can say that she made the wrong decision — just that she made a decision that I could not have made. If she’d had that baby, there’s a good chance she wouldn’t have the three children she now has. It’s not up to me to decide which life is more important.

    Giving a baby to adoption isn’t always without pain either. One side of my family is not dealing well with the knowledge that we have a cousin we just learned about 60+ years after his birth. Though we know his mother’s side of the story, we don’t know his father’s. And… well, there’s an Oprah approved novel in there somewhere. Or a mystery/horror one. Depends on whose side you take.

    It is what it is and it was what it was. I’m going to do what is necessary for me, and so are you. Hopefully none of us will run afoul of the law — and that’s why I want the law to allow all of us as much leeway as possible.

    I do not, however, think that the law must allow women unlimited leeway simply because they have a womb. I see nothing wrong with prohibiting abortions after some arbitrary gestation time, though I will always side with saving the mother’s life if such a decision has to be made. That decision was made clear to me when we came far to close to having to decide which one would live… or lose both. We were fortunate, both lived.

    I think I’m damned reasonable and I do not understand why everyone else doesn’t agree with me!

  8. mockturtle said,

    Odd how we got from cherry trees to abortion

    I guess it’s because some cherry trees never get to blossom. :-(

  9. amba12 said,

    I see nothing wrong with prohibiting abortions after some arbitrary gestation time, though I will always side with saving the mother’s life if such a decision has to be made.

    Well, I agree with you! (And I’m very glad for the good outcome of two lives saved.)

    I will always painfully regret the abortion I had. (I have to carefully explain to people: it isn’t guilt I feel, it’s regret. Jesus can forgive you and absolve your guilt, but regret is forever.) I also know that if I had been shown an ultrasound I would have been unable to do it — I didn’t really want to do it to begin with. Jacques was adamant at that time about not having children in our circumstances, which in turn were the sequelae of his trauma, and I wasn’t sure I was going to stay with him — in part because he didn’t want to have children! Ironies abound. But my circumstances were special, uniquely twisted (like all circumstances). Jacques’ mother had just died and I loved her deeply, to the point that I thought if there was reincarnation, I was probably her daughter — Jacques’ sister, who died in a Soviet prison camp a few months before I was conceived. And Sensei Kishi himself (maybe this is why cherry trees have led to abortion) said to me, “Jacques-san mother come your inside.” That child was the end of Jacques’ line. So it can’t be said to have been entirely “accidental” or even “unwanted.” Words I often recall in regard to our abortion are George Steiner’s “Wars kill a long time after, don’t they?”

    A pregnancy conceived in an act of emotionally unprotected sex (engaged in for reasons far removed from and oblivious to reproduction, which can include lust, insecurity, neediness, curiosity, violation, and more) strikes me as a very different and in some ways more difficult situation. I know that what I did was wrong (and for me! even though I understand why I did it), but I can’t judge what someone in that very different situation should do, and I can’t insist that they should see an ultrasound, even though I wish I had! (I later saw a very early ultrasound, live, with a friend who turned out to be miscarrying.) My disqualification to judge is deepened by the fact that I owe my very existence to abortion: if my grandmother hadn’t had at least two after giving birth to my aunt, she would have given birth to someone other than my mother. And there are other people in my family I love who would never have come to exist if someone else had. As I wrote in my essay, these choices change the very fabric of reality, because reality is woven of individuals.

    The third part of my essay, which I really need to finally get written, comes down to reducing the incidence of abortion by increasing the self-possession of girls and women, so that they take responsibility for their own sexual actions (which includes insisting males take responsibility for theirs). Abortion is a “choice” to be avoided “upstream” whenever possible.

  10. amba12 said,

    P.S. What I saw in the early ultrasound looked less like W.J. Fretz than like one of the “minions” in Despicable Me, but it had a heartbeat.

  11. karen said,

    I say w/much sincerity: i do not judge.

    That wasn’t why i brought up the connection of abortion &blossoms- or Cherry trees, generally. It was more a culmination(i don’t know if that’s the word for what i am thinking) of my feelings and conversations of the past week- and the fact that my son will be in Washington DC @the March for Life on Wednesday.

    I haven”t much time to talk- i’m late for my ~job~ … i just feel we are rooted w/in the womb- and the value of life isn’t so much how defined by how others value us- but, our innate value as humans created… dare i say, by our Creator- so many unformed words right now- and i have to go.

    There is so much more to life than simply ~living~. Another friend(70ish) is in a nursing home and my folks went to see him this afternoon. He cannot open his eyes, cannot speak and is fed through a tube. But, he can hear, can recognize others voices and squeeze hands- can breathe and beat w/in… i don’t know if he will get better, or if he will die. He had a stroke, too- before Christmas.

    The value of life- all life- seems to be worth less in today’s culture(IMhumbleO).
    Is it so surprising when it is legal to destroy from w/in the womb, barely rooted?

    Anyway- if mentioning this topic leads to the 3rd essay from amba– i am very pleased i connected these dots together. Family trees may be Cherry trees- who knows:0)

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