Vol. 10


Face to Face with an Idol

1959; Osaka, Japan

For many years my great-grandparents traveled to Japan to pick and buy ceramic tiles for their business in Canada. One year they were approached by an important ceramic company and were asked if they were interested in representing its china dishes in Canada and the United States. Of course their answer was yes, because it could make them a lot of money. This firm was a leader in china dishes. They made a deal and a contract. My great-grandparents were invited to the house of the company’s owner — this was considered a great honor in Japan.

My great-grandparents were welcomed in his home. He was very polite, and much bowing was done. After finishing the polite chitchat, their host stood up and motioned for them to follow him. They were taken to a beautiful garden — as beautiful as the sunset — where a Shinto Buddha* stood.

As they went out, my great-grandparents were surprised by the huge ceramic statue. Looking at it was quite a shock. As they stood around, stunned and not knowing what would happen, their host stood in front of a huge urn of rice. There he took a large shovel, dipped it into the rice, and tossed the rice into the belly of the Shinto Buddha. He turned to my great-grandfather, smiling. He motioned for him to follow his example.

My great-grandfather looked at the shovel, and he looked from the rice to the statue. He refused and said, “No.” At that very moment he realized he had just come face to face with an idol.

Their host’s interpreter said, “You are doing a great dishonor to our Shinto Buddha. You must feed the Shinto Buddha. If you don’t, you will lose many millions of dollars.”

My great-grandfather could not believe what was happening, but he firmly explained to the interpreter that his religion does not allow him to serve idols. The interpreter could not believe it. My great-grandfather would rather lose a lot of money than feed the Shinto Buddha. My great-grandparents were sent outdoors. The contracts were immediately ripped up. At that moment they realized that they were in a unique position. They were witnessing, and were being invited to participate in, something rare that does not come along for many people. I feel proud of my great-grandfather for not feeding the idol.

Nechama Feintuch; New York, USA


* In Japan, the traditional Shinto religion is often blended with Buddhism.


This copyrighted story may be copied for limited classroom use or reprinted in an article about The Grannie Annie.


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