this Yamato Damashii

The term, ‘Yamato Damashii’ is a fascinating term used in Japanese history to describe the indigenous Japanese ‘spirit’. In the Heian Era, this term meant distinguishing a uniqueness of Japaneseness as opposed to the imported cultural concepts from the Tang dynasty of China. More recently, Japanese nationalists used the term as propaganda to inspire and indoctrine the ‘brave, daring, indomitable spirit of the Japanese people’ before WWII. It fell from favor after that. Interestingly, I learned somewhere in my studies, that the most pure Yamato Damashii exists in the Japanese who emigrated to South American countries, like Peru and Brazil where they were far less impacted by the Westernization of Japan after WWII.

The other night I was privileged to bear witness to a different kind of Yamato Damashii. It was brilliant. I am star struck and and proud. Proud of my ‘peeps’. I had been searching for a way to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Of all of the countries, this is the one that I speak the language of and know the culture. I had to do something! My heart was breaking by the minute. Then this amazing opportunity fell into my lap. To join the committee of The Sushi Chef Dream Team event. The dedication of absolutely everyone involved was unprecedented. In a month and a half, we pulled together quite the event. Somebody who knew somebody, who had once met somebody…yes, those were the kind of people that flew out of the woodwork to help in every capacity. Everyone worked tirelessly in the planning. Everyone just worked. Each individual humbly humbled by the person working next to them. It’s so hard to inspire people to rally around something these days without being skeptical. I know. I am, too. Who is the money really for? Who is working the hardest? Why is that person involved? What is their angle? What am I going to get out of this? There was something inherently different about this event. There was an unspoken truth to the willingness of every participant. There was a passion, a love, a deep-rooted breath that our ancestors blew into our lungs through the generations. Yes, it does still exist. That Yamato Damashii that was used to manipulate people for a different cause in a different generation, was apparent in it’s most modern, sparkly form on that beautiful night in Seattle. There was such beauty in the devotion of each participant, of each guest. A selfless need to put everyone else’s needs before yours. To elevate the person sitting next to you to a higher place. To glorify the group by sacrificing part of yourself.

I would like to send a huge shout out to my own peeps from my own hood of Bainbridge Island, who pulled out every stop to participate. Jay Matsudaira of TriFilms tirelessly pulled together an amazing, very inspired video of the pre-event and post-event. Hanz Araki graciously came up from Portland to lend his incredible talents of the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute, to mesmerize our attentive listening ears. You two are true super stars and I’m forever indebted to you and the rest of our peeps. Yes, people, the Yamato Damashii is alive in us. Our ancestors would be proud. I’m certain of it.

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