August 3, 2017, the Top Global University Project Global Japanese Studies model unit organized an event featuring Ms. Hiromi Ito, a writer and poet who lives in the United States, at Waseda University’s Toyama Campus.
Ito has lived in California since moving to the United States in her 40’s. At that time, she moved to the United States with her children while still unmarried. “It was as if a shellfish without a shell was swimming across the Pacific Ocean.” She talked about the hardships of migration and the sorrow of being a Japanese descent.
In the middle of a lecture, Ito read aloud poetry in both English and Japanese. In the second part of the lecture, Ito, who is a master at giving life advice, answered questions gathered from participants from all ages. These included questions from students in their adolescence and in midst of job hunting and parents having difficulties raising their daughter, as well as questions on how to flee from unfair workplaces, what to do with the sense of distance with a father’s new lover, and how to deal with relics of a late parent. Accompanied by humor, Ito gave advice as she introduced her own episodes.
One participant asked Ito for advice saying that, “I am afraid of death because I let my mother die alone.” Ito responded, “There is no need to be afraid of dying alone. The media is only influencing us to think this way.” Ito denied the current trend on solitary death as a negative one. She also said that it is important to understand the phenomenon of death in order to overcome the fear of dying.
“We must think about death. What is death, how do we die, and why we are afraid of it. We should examine how people have been thinking about death through literary works and philosophy.”
Ito, who is also translating sutras, believes that religion was born from the fear of death. After the Q&A session, Ito read aloud a new translation of the Heart Sutra. Tension spread across the venue, which filled with laughter until then.
The event ended while leaving the audience in awe as if they were watching a drama in a theatre.