The Uechi World Mournes the Loss of a Great Karate Master!
At the end of mourning, there is still sadness, but it is a wistful sadness that is tempered by the happy memories that we still possess.
From Seizan (Gordi Breyette)And Sumako Matsuda-Breyette
Hello Friends, Students and Family,
I am sorry there is not so much time to write many individual responses to your messages and letters. However I want to share two photos with you from Sunday.
One is of the flower arrangement in the Zakimi Shubukan. The tied white bundle below Toyama Sensei’s photo is his burial urn containing his bones and ashes. After the funeral, it was placed in the tomb behind his home.
The other photo is of the Zankai seniors and family members who attended that day. Not all of them, but many of the principals.
Be sure to address any regular mailed cards, letters, or messages to “Naomi Toyama”, Sensei’s daughter who is handling all arrangements and procedures:
Naomi Toyama 956 Zakimi Yomitan-son, Okinawa 904-0301 Japan
Again thank you for your care and support in this sad time for the Toyama Family. The 49th Day after passing is May 28; anytime during this ensuing period is appropriate for letters or donations.
Deepest Appreciation from the Toyama Family and all ZanKyoKai members,
Seizan and Sumako Okinawa KarateDo UechiRyu ZanKyoKai Nagahama Shibu Dojo Okinawa Japan
Passing of a Master!
The Uechi world was shocked to learn of the passing of the most senior Uechi-ryu master in the world yesterday.
This from G. Seizan Breyette:
and Received today from Breyette Sensei:
Dear Friends, Students, and Family,
On behalf of Toyama Sensei and the Toyama Family, thank you for your wonderful, heartfelt messages. Without exception all messages were delivered to Mrs. Toyama and daughter Naomi, who handled this weekend’s family schedule. They were summarized at todays event for all to hear, but will be translated in detail during the next week or so. Yours was great and appreciated support in this time of loss.
Against all odds, Toyama Sensei battled his illness – he wrestled alone with his enemy for 11 years, fully 8 years beyond medical predictions. He opted to hospice at home, were he outwardly continued a normal life. He allowed no signs of his increasing illness, no show of weakness, up until the last moment. He was an active participant in Dan testing up to late February, and those who visited socially with him in that time saw no sign of weakness or tiring, departing his home believing he was still strong and healthy.
He didn’t simply pass away. His kata of life finished, he chose his time and bowed out with the quiet dignity and grace worthy of the great Master he was, in the comfort of his own home and in the bosom of his family. He wished to express “tenju wo mattoosuru” – living fully to the natural extent of his life. At the last, he had no regrets and was fulfilled.
The funeral was beautiful and smoothly run by Kitamura Sensei, the Buddhist Priest who officiated at our ground-breaking ceremony when the Nagahama dojo was built, and blessed the home and dojo after completion. His sonorous voice and beautiful sutra are tailored for the individual, and this time he and his apprentice gave an exceptional performance – he knew Toyama Sensei for more than 20 years, and had the deepest respect.
The final viewing was this morning (Easter Sunday) at 08:00. Toyama Sensei was taken to the crematory to begin the cremation process at 10:00, so there was a break of 3 hours. At 13:00 all Toyama Family members and closest friends and students returned to the crematory; along with the others, Sumako and I took one of Sensei’s bones and placed it in the burial urn. We then returned to the Toyama Home for the funeral ceremonies.
Sumako and I were among the senior guests at the closed family funeral which took place in the Zakimi Shubukan at 14:00, followed by the public funeral at 15:00. All then walked to Sensei’s tomb which is just behind his home.
Kitamura Sensei finished the ceremony and had the tomb opening closed up, and the members of the closed funeral service lit and placed incense before the tomb. Then all others placed their incense, and an afternoon meal was served.
To those who never met Toyama Sensei personally, it is a wonder and a comfort to the family to hear your words from across the world, telling how he impacted your lives in such positive and inspiring ways. Mrs. Toyama was deeply moved.
To those who either performed for him or just met him briefly, you know how his goodness and encouragement to do more and better touched us all powerfully. Most of you who visited the Zakimi Dojo are remembered by Mrs.
Toyama and Naomi-san. They are comforted and thankful for your words, and for sharing your heart with the Toyama Family at this time.
To those who are my students and who worked with Toyama Sensei under my direction or tested at the Zakimi Dojo, he soul-crafted our hearts and minds in a way no other teacher ever did or ever will. He gave instruction specific to our individual performances and spirits – such instruction extending to our lives as well as our karate. How we cherish those moments of simultaneous kindness and severity! He often told that he cannot teach his Way, he can only show and we can follow. On his last night he said “Don’t be sad – I only go ahead to prepare a place for our continued work”.
For those of us who spent considerable time with him in the Zakimi Dojo, the most eloquent and emotional descriptions fall short. Seeing and working with him daily, feeling the power of his instruction, suddenly “seeing the light” in a technique, laughing with his gentle humor over a cup of tea (it was a special delight to make him laugh), listening to his stories of Kanbun Sensei and his youth – all these made an everlasting impact on our lives.
We will feel his presence as we pass his street, see his home, or enter the Zakimi Dojo. That he will not physically be there in his dojo waiting for our greeting and to begin training is almost beyond imagination. Van Canna Sensei (Foxboro Massachusetts) expressed what we all felt, even up to this
moment: “I always cherished the thought that somehow Toyama Sensei might be immortal, infused as he was by the great Uechi spirit. And now, he surely sits by the side of his karate father, Kanbun…”
There are far too many equally eloquent messages from around the world to quote here. We thank you all.
Toyama Sensei was not a man who changed our lives; his impact hasn’t stopped, and he is still changing our lives. In this way, he has indeed achieved a sort of immortality.
Finally, I apologize that this response to all your gracious and well-written messages and cards that came so swiftly was not immediate.
Since Sensei’s passing we were all occupied with preparations, in-person meetings, carrying out Sensei’s wishes regarding today’s procedures, and receiving Sensei’s last guidance through the Toyama Family.
Traditionally the time of mourning is 49 days including the day of passing.
Every Thursday (or Sunday as an alternate) for the next 6 weeks Sumako and I will visit the Toyama home to light incense and breathe a prayer of thanks for knowing the man who impacted our lives in ways and depth beyond words.
We will be happy to offer a message to Mrs. Toyama and Family on your behalf anytime. If you prefer, you can mail directly to the address previously provided (care of “Naomi Toyama”), or send message via any other means or acquaintance available to you. Also, Sensei’s tomb is right next to his home; he expressed that all are welcome to visit him anytime.
I will write some personal messages to my own students, expressing some of Toyama Sensei’s sentiments and wishes in which they figure directly. But I wished to share a much more detailed description of the past few days with you who sent supportive messages.
On behalf of the Toyama Family and from the depths of our hearts, Sumako and I thank you. Please keep in touch and follow Zankai events as time goes on.
Best regards to all,
Seizan (Gordi Breyette)
And Sumako Matsuda-Breyette
Nagahama Shibu Dojo