From: Volume 1, Issue 1, 2017
EOF: Makoto, thanks for coming on the show and taking time to talk to us about your new book “Silence and Beauty.”
Makoto Fujimura: Thanks for inviting me.
Sure, maybe before we get started on your new book … maybe you could tell the audience a little bit about the Fujimura Foundation and what it is about?
Right, so I have founded several organizations all under one nonprofit, which is International Arts Movement, and that’s been going on for twenty-five years. I began the Fujimura Institute as a part of that, and that was an effort to bring what we call “culture-care conversation” into the academia. We had several
projects under that collaborative project and then, quite recently, I joined Fuller Seminary as the Director of the Brehm Center. The idea was to combine what I am doing as an artist and the leadership that brings, through International Arts Movement and Fujimura Institute to partner with Brehm Center. So we will be hosting a Culture-Care Summit on February 12th in Pasadena. We do multiple projects; the upcoming Fujimura Institute project is on “Silence and Beauty.” We are going to be in Nagasaki where Shusaku Endo walked about to write, “Silence.” There is a museum dedicated to him doing an exhibit with a collaborative performance as well in the symposium there. So, there are ways of speaking into culture this way, and the Brehm Center, as a center of theology, worship, and culture is dedicated to such an integration as well.
Wow, that sounds like some pretty exciting and interesting activities.
Thank you for doing such things to bring awareness. Now to the book, maybe for those that aren’t as familiar with Endo’s novel, “Silence” and obviously haven’t seen the movie, since it is not out yet, perhaps you could tell the audience at a high-level overview of the subject matter it represents?
Sure.Sure, Shusaku Endo is a Japanese novelist, twentieth century — died in 1995, I believe. His first novel was a novel called “Silence” and it surprisingly became a best-seller, despite the fact that it talks about a very beauty it was troublesome past of Japanese culture, which began in sixteenth century. The novel takes place in seventeenth century Japan of two young Portuguese missionaries coming into Japan, which was forbidden. It was closed to Christianity and Christians were being persecuted by the dictatorial forces that consolidated Japan at the time. So, these young priests are fictional names, but they are based on true, historical figures and the tales of their capture, their torture. It is not an easy book to read, especially if you’re Christian, since it deals with persecution. At the same time, Endo is a highly descriptive, beautiful writer who told this universal story of post-war conditions. He describes these psychological traits of those who are traumatized by wars, and what is expanding — Ground Zeroes of the world. And His novel, “Silence,” became a national best-seller in Japan. When it was translated into English, it became a global best-seller to the extent that Martin Scorsese found himself fascinated by this story, enough to create what he has called his “life work” movie which is upcoming, either the end of this year or next year.
Yeah, right, I look forward to watching the m
ovie as well. I think the last I saw it, it was probably November, or something like that.
Yeah, we hope so. We are not quite sure, but Father Rodrigues is played by Andrew Garfield, Father Garrpe by Adam Driver and Father Ferreria, who these younger priests sought to find in Japan, is played by Liam Neeson. So this is quite the cast.
Wow … So, on to the next question. You were somewhat inspired by Endo. Could youelaborate how and why?
Right, and my encounter with Endo came very early. I read Endo in college, but I was not a Christian, and I had a little bit of a different take on it. When I went to Japan, I found myself drawn to Christ through my wife. As I was just baptized in Christian faith, I walked into a national museum near my studio, and along with seventieth century masterpieces of Nampa screens — they are very beautiful decorative screens — was this little dark room to the side. I went in and saw what looked like plates lined up in the display case, all nineteen of them, and found out that this was called Fumi-e, or stepping blocks of seventeenth century. The magistrates created bronze-cast plates with pictures of Jesus, or Virgin Mary and the Child on it, and they would line up everybody by the beach, and ask every citizen to step on these plates. The Japanese, being so highly visual and honest, they could actually tell who would be holding faith to Jesus. They would be arrested and sometimes tortured. This went on for two hundred and fifty years. So, what I remember about looking at these plates in person was that they were so smooth. You know, worn smooth that you could not tell what the image was about any more. And in the comments that accompany the exhibit, they mentioned Endo’s book,“Silence” and I recalled this book and went back home and read “Silence” in both Japanese and in English. Even though I was baptized in the Church, I call this my “True Baptism.” It was as if God was revealing to me what I was being baptized into — this history of persecution and trauma that, still, to this day, I believe, has had tremendous impact in the Japanese culture.
Right, absolutely. When you talk about them being truthful; you mean, they would notice even if they momentarily hesitated, then they would get arrested?
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