Dogen (道元) is the founder of the Soto Zen school, one of the three Zen schools in Japan. (Zen is a form of Buddhism.) About 770 years ago he founded Eiheiji, one of the two main temples of the Soto school. He’s considered one of the main contributors to the creation of Zen culture in Japan.read more
Hashimoto Sanai（橋本左内） (1834–1859) was born in Fukui, Japan, and in his life he was a doctor, a samurai (Japanese warrior), and a politician. He was one of the contributors to the creation of democracy in Japan in the 19th century. His reputation in Japan is high, and he’s especially admired in his home city of Fukui. His teachings and influence are deeply engraved in the DNA of the people there.read more
Wada Tsunashiro (1856–1920) was born in Obama, Fukui, Japan. In 1873 he got into Kaisei School, where he learned mineralogy from the German mining engineer Carl Schenck. (Kaisei School was the predecessor of the University of Tokyo.) In 1884 he went to Germany and studied mineralogy. In 1885 he came back to Japan and took a post at the University of Tokyo, becoming the first professor of mineralogy in Japan. He’s considered the founder of modern mineralogy in the country.read more
Akiyama Tokuzō(1888-1974) was a Japanese-French chef who served as imperial chef for the Taisho and Showa emperors. His life story was made into a novel and a TV series, so he’s popular in Japan.
Akiyama was born in Takefu, Fukui. He was the second son of a couple who ran a restaurant, and he was very mischievous when he was young. He went to live in a Zen temple when he was 10 because he admired a young Zen monk. There he practiced Zen meditation, chanted Buddhist sutras, and did religious mendicancy. However, he was forced out of the temple a year later because of his mischief. Then, he got interested in his family business of cooking.read more
William Elliot Griffis (1843–1928) was an American who taught physics and chemistry in Fukui. He also wrote a lot of books that presented Japan to the world. Thanks to his great achievements and character, he was loved by people in Fukui.
Griffis was born in America in 1843. In 1865, when he was 22 years old, he got into Rutgers University. At that time Japan was in a turbulent period. The nation had been closed from 1639 to 1853, and during that period it had rarely had diplomatic relations. However, in 1853 Japan had opened its doors and begun rapidly adopting Western culture. It was as part of this trend that Griffis was invited to Fukui when he was 27 to teach physics and chemistry.read more
The ginkgo, which is primarily known as a street tree, turns its leaves from green to yellow in autumn. It’s often called a living fossil because it’s one of the oldest tree species, and its existence can be traced back over 200 million years. It means that it coexisted with dinosaurs.read more
Throughout history, human beings have experienced a lot of infectious diseases such as the new coronavirus, smallpox, tuberculosis and measles.
Among all infectious diseases, smallpox was the first infectious disease that humans eradicated from the earth.
After overcoming a lot of difficulties, Kasahara Ryosaku was the first to introduce the smallpox vaccine into Fukui. His life was so dramatic that a novel called Snow Flowers (雪の花) was written about him.read more
Aristotle, an ancient philosopher, thought that the wind blew through the underground space and caused it to vibrate. These vibrations were earthquakes. It’s now understood that seismic waves brought on by the sudden movement of the Earth’s crust are the cause of earthquakes.read more
In 2013, Okakura Tenshin’s 150th birthday anniversary exhibition was held at Fukui Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts. I went there and saw the first edition of The Book of Tea and artworks by his students, like Yokoyama Taikan.
Tenshin was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1863. Since his father was born in Fukui, Tenshin always said that his own hometown was Fukui. He’d studied English since the age of 8, and he’d also studied the Chinese classics, like the Analects of Confucius, since the age of 10. He went to the University of Tokyo and studied politics, economics, philosophy, English literature, Japanese literature, and Chinese classical literature. read more
Zen is a form of Buddhism that developed in China in the eighth century. It was imported to Japan in the 13th century and soon became an important part of Japanese Culture. The essential principles of Zen are “transcendental wisdom” and “compassion.”
These days a lot of Western people practice Zen. For example, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computer, was known for this. He even thought about going to Eihei Temple in Fukui Prefecture to become a Zen monk. It’s said that Apple products have been influenced by Zen (in their simplicity, for example). read more