Takafumi (Taka) Hirose was born in 1948 as a son of a Shin Buddhist priest in a small village in central Japan. It is the tradition of Shin Buddhism in Japan for one particular family to take care of a temple generation after generation. Being the first son of the family, in accordance with the tradition, he entered priesthood at the age of nine, which is the youngest age permitted, and started his training to be a full priest.
There is an old saying in Japan, “If you love your child, send him or her away on a journey.” The Medieval version both in Europe and Japan was the knight errantry. Even today, many Japanese tradesmen and entrepreneurs put their sons and daughters who are expected to take over the family business under the apprenticeship of some other tradesman or company for a number of years. German Guild system still maintains this practice. Today, in Shin Buddhism, this practice is replaced by universities and seminaries.
Unlike other children of Buddhist priests, Taka chose the destination of his journey to be the United States. In 1965, he transferred himself to Williston High School in North Dakota, where he started his junior year. It was still the post-war years with vivid memories of the War when Taka moved to North Dakota alone, where he was surrounded by thousands of warm-hearted Americans of Norwegian, Swedish, and German origins. There, he had an opportunity to attend a Scandinavian Lutheran church with his host family and was exposed to a very mild and open-minded version of Christianity. After moving on to the University of North Dakota, where he majored in political science, he became a member of a folk singing group called “Good News Folk” based at Christus Rex Lutheran Campus Center. This experience allowed him to take a deeper look at into Christianity. These first six years was the period of his first awakening and Americanization at the same time.
The second eye-opening event occurred when he was at Kent State University Graduate School. There, as a graduate assistant, he was assigned to the Center for International Studies. While he was there, the Center decided to initiate “Kent State Geneva” study abroad program, and Taka’s professor, Dr. Boleslaw A. Boczek, an international jurist and a Polish exile, became the director of the first two programs in the spring and fall of 1973. Taka was allowed to assist him in Europe. There, his professor and his German wife gave him a thorough introduction to the European societies and cultures. It was not only another eye-opening event for Taka but also a shocking event to find a world totally different from America.
After returning to Japan in 1975, Taka took a full-time teaching position at Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University, where he taught for the next forty years. The size of Taka’s temple’s congregation is small, and the priest has to make his own living. While at the university, he was involved in establishing the new Faculty of Foreign Languages, and in this connection, he set up a partner-university relationship with Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada. While he was taking his students to Canada for a semester of study there year after year, he was introduced to the British side of the North American history, which was considerably different from the American history he had known. This encounter with Canada and its multicultural tradition was another eye-opener for Taka.
In the meantime, he attended Shin Buddhist seminary and was ordained as a Shin Buddhist Teacher in 1985. Now retired from the university as Professor Emeritus, he still appreciates everyday events such as hospitalization and operations as his new eye-openers. His perspective reflected in this book and his preaching as a Shin priest emerges from the summary of his entire life.