Muho: I think in the beginning it was ok. It could be that he was looking up to him but that there was an unspoken stress as well. He was one of the original Watanabe students who made it easy for him to deal with Uchiyama’s people. The new students were unconditionally loyal, while the old ones would resist.
Edward: Was he particularly close to Watanabe?
Muho: I have the feeling he was not the very closest. There was another guy who was probably the closest. He was like a cult follower. He left after seven or eight years because there was a priest in Hiroshima who was building a new temple and needed a priest. He asked Watanabe if he could have one of Antaiji’s monks. So Watanabe said, of course choose whoever you want. He picked the top guy, the one closest to Watanabe. Watanabe let him go. For whatever reason, I don’t know.
If this guy hadn’t left, I’m sure he would have made him abbot because that was the person he trusted the most. He was also involved in Watanabe’s conflict with Miyaura much later on. He was often used by Watanabe as a communicator to Miyaura. He was my teacher’s senpai but age-wise and practice-wise they were not so far from each other. He wasn’t a super smart guy but he had a university education and could read books. He was a bit more intellectual than Miyaura.
Edward: How long was Watanabe in Hyogo?
Muho: He was here for 10 years after having been in charge of Antaiji for two years in Kyoto.
Edward: With Watanabe, why were the 30 people that moved to Hyogo expected to stay for 10 years?
Muho: It was just the philosophy from Uchiyama. Sit silently for the first 10 years, then another 10 years and finally 10 years more. That’s something he said at his retirement speech in 1975. But when Uchiyama himself became abbot of Antaiji, that was less than 25 years after being ordained by Sawaki. So you should not take those 30 years too literally.
A lot of Uchiyama’s students got transmission after four or five years. It wasn’t that they stayed with him for 10 years. Most left earlier.
But then there were others who stayed for 15 years at Antaiji. Some stayed for five years at Kyoto, then another 10 years at Hyogo. The Italians stayed for seven years or something. What monks told you when you came was: if you are serious about this, just sit silently for 10 years. But very few of the people who came here actually stayed for 10 years.
Uchiyama, Watanabe, my teacher, and myself, were the only people who stayed at Antaiji for more than 20 years.
Edward: There was also this nun Joshin Kasai.
Muho: She was at Antaiji for a very long time. She was Uchiyama’s senior in Kyoto but didn’t live at the temple all year round. Joshin was cooking during sesshins when Uchiyama was still abbot. Then she moved into her own house at the new Hyogo temple but was also still travelling. She was quite an independent spirit.
Joshin wouldn’t participate in samu or even zazen but did kesa sewing. If some of the monks had a fight with Watanabe, they used her house as a refuge – she was like a mother. Joshin was a strong character and would stand up to the abbot.
Edward: Other than Miyaura, was there anyone else who died at Antaiji?
Muho: Yes, there was a young Japanese novice who was going to be ordained but he was crushed in an avalanche before spring in 1983.
Edward: Why did Watanabe choose Miyaura as his successor?
Muho: Around 1986, Watanabe decided he wanted to go to Italy to bring Antaiji-style Zen to Europe. Some of his students had already left by that time. There were other people who were just small characters – subordinates. I think Watanabe saw Miyaura as the only one who could stand on his own feet. He thought he would protect the place.
So Watanabe left with his three Italian students in 1987 and only my teacher and two relatively young monks stayed.