Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Prayer for Peace and Shelter

 -- Susan, every other Sunday

As I've mentioned before, for centuries the ume (Japanese plum) blossoms have been viewed as harbingers of spring--a welcome sight after the long and often brutal Japanese winter.

This week, I walked to En'yū-ji, a Tendai Buddhist temple three minutes from my home in Meguro's Himonya neighborhood. The temple is home to the oldest wooden building in Tokyo (more on that in a minute) as well as a lovely grove of ume trees. 

The entrance to En'yu-ji

En'yū-ji was founded in 853; the ume that line the entry walk and dot the grounds are not that old, though their position in Japanese history is even more timeless.

Ume (Japanese plum) trees at the entrance to En'yu-ji

I go to En'yū-ji every spring to see the ume, but this year, I visited with a heavy heart. Frankly, it felt unfair that I could walk in peace beneath the blooming trees while across the sea people fought--and died--in Ukraine to preserve the right to live, and work, in freedom I so often take for granted.

The Amidado - a post-war addition to En'yu-ji

Temples like this one have survived through many wars. The Amida-do hall shown above was constructed after World War II--a war that ravaged Tokyo in ways I hope the current conflict will not destroy Ukraine (though I fear it will).

The temple bell

The oldest building at En'yū-ji, the Shakado, enshrines an image of Gautama Buddha. It is also the oldest wooden building in Tokyo, and dates to the 16th century. The original thatched roof was replaced with copper in 1952, but aside from that, the building is original. It has survived disasters, wars, and human politics--and its improbable survival reminded me (not for the first time) that while the evil men do lives after them, the good is not always interred with their bones. Sometimes, monuments of faith, and hope, and prayer, survive as well.

The Shakado

I am not a Buddhist, but I stopped to pray at the Shakado regardless. I believe God hears, no matter where we stand, and that prayer is powerful. I know not everyone agrees with either statement, and I respect the rights of every person to seek, and find, the truth (s)he believes in.

I also believe in the sovereign right of persons--and nations--to live in peace, and without fear. And so, I prayed for the people of Ukraine, and for an end to war--both there and elsewhere.  

Ume blossoms at En'yū-ji 

When I finished praying, I walked among the ume, thinking of the many years in which their colorful petals opened, and fell, on wars, and famines, and people being terrible to one another.

Ume at En'yū-ji 

And I thought of all the years they opened on times of peace, when poets and artists could sit beneath their branches, look at the blossoms, and be grateful for the times in which they lived.

Ume at En'yū-ji 

I wish I could end this post with a good report about Ukraine - but as I go to sleep tonight, the fight continues.

So instead, I will leave you with an ancient Japanese poem, composed by an unknown hand, that appears in the Man'yōshū--a 9th-century compilation of classical Japanese poetry:


The plum blossoms
Are scattered by spring rains
--a savage fall.
On your travels, my darling
What hut provides your shelter?

I pray for peace, and shelter, for the people of Ukraine. May they have their peace, and freedom, soon--and shelter and protection as they fight. May they prevail before the flowers fall.


  1. Beautifully put, Susan. We all join you in this hope and prayer.

  2. I'm all with you and Michael on your prayers, Susan. May all our prayers be heard for the people of Ukraine and the world.

  3. Thank you Susan and all for hoping and praying for peace.

  4. Thank you so much, Susan, for this beautiful post. How I wish I could be there to pray with you again at the temples and enjoy the peace we found together.