Catchy title?

In the past several years, as his dementia progresses, Dad is repeating many times how he broke his elbow as a young boy…  “Many times” like as in every four minutes.  No…every two.

I thought, “He doesn’t remember he ate like a horse ten minutes ago…  How can he remember something that happened 80+ years ago?”

Well, I just HAD to find out about his story…  and I did.


The story (which never varies) is/was he was playing “oninga”, or tag, with the neighborhood kids.  “There was nothing else to do then,” he would tell me.  They would end up in the yard of 正覚寺 – pronounced “Shoukakuji” – the Buddhist temple which is a hop, skip and a jump from his home.  No wonder he excelled in the triple jump at Nichu.

You can see a tiled roof on the tallest structure to the right of him.  That is 正覚寺.

The tiled roof of “Shoukakuji” can be seen behind and to the right of Dad in this 1948 photo.  He is standing alongside his childhood home.

For those who like visuals:

Satellite view of home and Shoukakuji, 2012.

He would tell me (over and over) that while playing tag, “…I tried to get away so I jumped on this big round stone then leaped up to a branch on big a pine tree in front of 正覚寺.”

Now that I know he did the broad jump at Nichu, I thought this jumping thing was therefore plausible.  (Did I mention I’m a writer for “Mythbusters”?)

“Trouble is, I jumped too far so my hands couldn’t grab onto the branch.  I slipped off the branch then broke my elbow when I hit the ground”.

OK.  So now, after “An Atomic Spark From a 1937 Yearbook“, I also know he excelled in the triple jump at Nichu.  Plausible.  (See…  More proof I am a writer for “Mythbusters”.)

To this day, he cannot completely straighten out his right arm.  It’s crooked.  He now tells this story to my youngest kids, Jack and Brooke…  Every four minutes.


On September 7, 2012, I had to know.  Off to 正覚時…  But unlike my agile father of the 1920’s, I was walking very gingerly.  There were four humongous blisters on my toes from walking in Japan and (from being tricked into) climbing Mt. Misen on Miyajima.

The sign at the entry gate, or “mon”.  Shoukakuji’s middle character is written with an old Japanese character.

Indeed, there was a Japanese pine tree, or “matsu”.  A huge one.  You couldn’t miss it as you walk through the “mon”, or gate.  It was so huge, the temple had steel braces installed to help hold these majestic branches up.

Steel posts and braces were installed to help hold up these ancient branches.

Off the to right, was the base of the tree.  A puny trunk in relation to the Goliath branches…  It was hard to believe at first this small trunk was the heart for this proud tree.

Then…  at the base…  was a large round stone.  Could it possibly be?  Plausible as we don’t know how long the stone was there…  Am I tough?

Masako and my son Takeshi stand next to the large round stone and pine tree made famous by my father some eighty-plus years ago.

But where’s the branch my father jumped for?  Myth: Busted!…  or so I thought.

Then we saw it.  Above my son Takeshi in the picture.  The base of a broken branch.  It was at the right height!  OK…  Myth: Plausible.

Here is the branch that Dad supposedly leaped for 80+ years ago…but fell and broke his elbow.

But conclusive proof was just beyond reach.  There was no evidence as to age of the tree or how long the stone was there…

Then, as if Aunt Shiz summoned him, the reverend of 正覚寺 came out…with his wife.  He was about 90 years old.  Almost as old as my dad but he still had his wits about him.  Thank goodness.

He told us he didn’t know my father personally…but that he played with Suetaro and Mieko, Dad’s youngest brother and sister!  He knew Suetaro well, he said.  He listened to Suetaro blow on his flute from the house in the evenings.

My Japanese wasn’t good enough so Masako stepped in…  She explained to the elderly reverend how my dad (her uncle) had jumped from a large round stone at the base of a pine tree here 80+ years ago and broke his elbow.

Masako is mimicking my father’s broken right elbow and his story while my son Takeshi and cousin Kiyoshi watch. Kiyoshi was pointing to the stone to supplement the story.

Unbelievably, the reverend said with pride, “The pine tree is about 400 years old…and that stone has been there for as long as I can remember.  It hasn’t been moved, either.”

Then the wife said that a number of years ago, the branch had broken off but it was very long.  Then after it broke off, “…a swarm of bees made a home inside.  We had to seal the crack unfortunately,” to account for the mortar on the branch.

Was his story a myth?  Busted?  Plausible?  Confirmed?

Myth: Confirmed.

Dad wasn’t imagining ANYTHING.  His memory is intact from that time.

Mission accomplished.


But to end this fun story, we had my Aunt Shiz’s interment the next morning.

The reverend’s son was the officiant.  Glorious.  The circle of generations continues.  And he brought along one more piece of treasure to the interment:

The reverend’s son brought this gift for Masako and my Dad.

A photo of the majestic Japanese pine tree covered in snow.


There are souls in this tree, too.

Oh…  I was kidding about Mythbusters.

24 thoughts on “正覚寺”

  1. First, your father is absolutely adorable.
    Third, I LOVE THAT YOU AND YOUR SON AND COUSIN touched all of this history.

    Don’t you think, that touching the actual places and pieces of our family’s lives is an incredible experience?

    That tree is beautiful. I appreciate the care and concern humans have shown this majestic tree.

    Beautiful story and fantastic history investigations.

    (Regarding your dad’s memory… when I started working for Adult Protective Services I asked my boss about long term and short term memory problems. It sounds like your father’s short term memory is most affected. This means that all of the memories from the past, imagine them being put on an index card and stored in the filing cabinets of your father’s memory. They are written, they are stored. His long term memory seems unaffected. But the short term memory, what happens “now” is not written on those cards, and not stored in the filing cabinet. So he can pull out the stored memory cards. But the new ones are not being written. Does that seem familiar to what happens with your dad?)

    1. Thanks, Chatter Master… once again. 🙂 And yes, I understand that is what is happening. My daughter (Punkie) has said it to me many times. You see, I am forgetful like my dad. 🙂 Runs in the family.

      You fulfill a very important role in our society. We need folks like you… even with black belts under your belt.

    1. LOL. But I guess what you are trying to say is, “Gee, Pop. Thanks for walking all the way to Shoukakuji with four painful blisters on a humid day…up a hill…both to and from…and finding a fun way to tell us”?

    1. Well, he was imprisoned in one of those camps when the atomic bomb was dropped so all he told me was what Grandmother Kono, Aunt Michie and Masako repeated to me. Other than that, I’ve verified most of what he described about going to Nichu. The items I cannot extensively verify is what he said he did while in the California and Idaho camps.

  2. My dad was the same way, grin. He’d forget what happened 5 minutes ago but remember everything about his childhood in detail… and tell me over and over and over… BTW, included a note in my post today about the only Japanese pilot to bomb the lower 48.

    1. Ah… Fujita? Indeed, if my memory serves me correctly, he conducted two bombings and survived. Even his own family was unaware of his mission until much later in life. I will read it tonight! Sounds cool…

  3. Call it what you will, there is life force in trees and all that’s around us. Loved this story, Koji.
    As to the telling and reminding, I’m going to suggest that the kids have a little fun with their grandfather and provide alternate endings for his true story of how he came to have that injury as well as alternate endings. That would be fun!

  4. Great Post!!!! My coffee cup scale of 1- 3 where three is excellent, I rate this one at border-line 4!!!!! I can relate to your Father’s dementia. My Mother-in-law is experiencing advance stages…. Take Care My Friend and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

    1. I’m sorry to hear of your mother-in-law’s status. It is difficult, for sure. You know, our medical wizardry has enabled humans in advanced societies to physically live longer but without mental faculties keeping up, I just feel there is a morale imbalance at times. What is the answer – if there even is a question…

  5. Great investigating! It is interesting that this episode in your father’s life holds such significance. Dementia is so difficult for everyone, including the family! I think it’s just wonderful that you wanted to track own the truth of the story! I am enjoying your family research very much! 🙂 Debra

    1. Thank you, Debra. Out of coincidence, I visited my father again today with pictures… and guess what? He repeated the story again but this time, I surprised him with…these pictures!

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