PMGenesis: Chapter 22

Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)


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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
Pre-conscious World
Local Patriotism
Wimbledon in Wartime 
Pastoral Peace
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
Student Revolt  
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
A Scholar's Paradise  
To and Fro in Japan  
Words, Words, Words  
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
Lost Years  
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
Two International Conferences  
Catholic Shakespeare  
Last Words  
Bibliographical Afterword  















 Tree on the Coast, N. Devon
















 Dog at Salisbury





















  A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward











     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward










Shakespeare the Papist by Peter Milward 











 Mystical Journey, the autobiography of William Johnston, S.J., author of Mystical Theology and many other works on mysticism








 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.








All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 



























Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier


Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan














22. Lost Years


    Looking back over the years, I find that I have had many strange experiences but nothing so strange as my experience of the period as a whole.  I mean especially the period of twenty years between the mid-1970s, after my return from my annus mirabilis of 1973, and my retirement from my teaching position at Sophia University in the mid-1990s.  Let me put it like this.  One day in 1988 I was approached by the editor of the Sophia journal named Sophia and asked for a contribution on the history of the university to a special volume commemorating the 75 years from our foundation in 1913.  This was published the following year 1989 under the title, The Future Image of Sophia University, and my contribution of some twenty pages (in small print) was simply entitled “The History of Sophia”.  When I asked the editor why he had chosen me for the task, he told me there was no one else who could carry out the task at such short notice, since they were in a hurry to bring out the volume.  Fortunately for me, several volumes of the university archives had just been published, and by making full use of them – though my command of German was rather limited – I managed to complete my article well within the deadline.  Anyhow, what I found in the course of my research was that the really interesting part of the history of Sophia was the early period up to and just after the end of World War II, in a word the period preceding my arrival in Japan.  I discovered that from the time of our foundation in 1913 – when the university received formal approval from the Ministry of Education and could go ahead with classes from the spring of that year – till the outbreak of war there had never been more than 300 students, though the first university building had been designed for 500.  Then after the war it took some time for us to recover till we could count as many as 500 students.  During the 1960s, however, we steadily climbed from 1,000 to 2,000, and our fame as an international university grew with our growing numbers.  As for my little history, which was the first of its kind, I found it was only interesting so long as I wasn’t here.  Then once I came on the scene, all interest seemed to evaporate and, as Shakespeare says, to “melt into air, into thin air”.  I recalled the Latin saying, “Post hoc, propter hoc” – “After this, because of this?”  Could it be that my presence was somehow responsible for this declining interest, and a consequent blight on the university?


   Now I have found the same phenomenon at work in the period of twenty years leading up to my full retirement from Sophia University at the statutory age of 70.  Those years were so full of one thing and another, of teaching here, there and everywhere, of writing endless books and articles, of giving special lectures up and down Japan, of going on tours to England, Europe and the Holy Land, of supervising the activities of the Renaissance Institute and Centre, of running my catechetical course for the Katsuragikai, of attending functions of the various societies to which I belonged or which I had helped to found, that hardly one thing stands out from among the others, especially as all the time I remained basically in one place.  What is more, I am very bad at keeping records of any kind, and I can never remember what I did in one year or another.  In my memory everything becomes confused with everything else.  Only latterly have I been keeping a kind of diary, which is useful in the short term, but when I have to look for the precise time of something that happened in the more distant past, it is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.  One of my troubles is that I keep everything, in case it may be of use in the uncertain future.  I never throw anything away, and so I can never find anything.  Everything is inextricably mixed up with everything else. 

   Then what happened to me after 1975?  It was the year I published two of the manuscripts I had completed in my annus mirabilis, both Biblical Themes in Shakespeare from the Renaissance Institute and Landscape and Inscape from Paul Elek in London and William Eerdmans in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  As for Insects Anonymous, it came out in two parts from Azuma Shobo in 1974 and 1976, and in Japanese translation from Shinchosha in 1976.  All this time my English textbook best-seller Things Wise and Otherwise was going from strength to strength on the charts, and my best-selling Japanese paperback The English and the Japanese came out from Kodansha in 1978 together with Jesus and His Disciples.  It was indeed one thing after another.  In addition to my regular classes on English literature at Sophia, I was invited to give a part-time course at Chiba University on “Christian Themes in English Literature” by a former student of mine from Tokyo University, now on the faculty of Chiba, and I couldn’t say “No”.  There I continued for ten years, as I had done at Tokyo University before my sabbatical.  I was also invited to give what are called “concentrated lectures”, or a term’s course squeezed into one week, at several Catholic colleges for women, such as Junshin Women’s College at Kagoshima, Seishin Women’s College at Hiroshima, Ake no Hoshi (Morning Star) Women’s College at Aomori, and Fuji Women’s University at Sapporo.  Of course, I accepted their invitations, over ten years each at the first two, and only once each at the other two.  One characteristic of these courses was that I gave the “bread-and-butter” lectures in the morning, while the students might be expected to be still fresh and more or less attentive, but in the afternoons, when the students would be understandably sleepy – not to mention the teacher – I would show them my slides of England with special attention to the animals, while making stupid jokes to keep them awake.  Every day I required essays or “reaction papers” on what I had told them or shown them, and the following morning I would return their essays duly corrected.  So I was kept busy the whole week, while keeping the students busy.  Yet it was a most enjoyable time for me, and I hope for them, too.  I even held a cartoon contest, and I discovered that the girls, especially those at Kagoshima, had great skill in drawing funny cartoons.  When the time came for me to return to Tokyo, they were so sad.  They said, “Please come back!” and “Please, remember us!” – like the ghost in Hamlet.

   I was always happy to go to Kagoshima, not only to teach the good students there, but also to be living under the shadow of the volcanic island Sakurajima.  Once I told the students how fortunate they were to be living near such a lovely mountain, with such a fine view across the bay from the school.  They, however, replied that they would happily give me the mountain to take back with me to Tokyo.  It was too much trouble for people living in Kagoshima to put up with so much ash, which came blowing over the bay in their direction whenever the wind was unfavourable.  Fortunately for me, that wind was invariably favourable for me while I was there.  All I could say was that, much as I would have liked to accept their kind offer, there would be no space for Sakurajima in the middle of Tokyo!  Another occasion, I was asked to compose one of my funny haiku about Kagoshima.  Then, looking out of the window at the majestic form of Sakurajima, I recalled a similar poem by Basho on the beauty spot of Matsushima and said, without thinking, “Sakurajima!/ Aa, Sakurajima!/ Sakurajima!”  As I declaimed it with the right intonation, it was a great success with the students, no less than my other, earlier poem on Shakespeare and the frog.  I was also happy to go to Hiroshima, where the women’s college was also, like so many other Catholic schools in Japan, including that of Kagoshima, on a hill looking over the ugly city.  Hiroshima had been a lovely Japanese city before the war, like all other cities in Japan, but in this country, as in all other countries, modernity means ugliness.  I really think people today, at least those who are in a position to decide such matters, have lost all sense of beauty – not least the so-called “artists” among them.  For me it didn’t matter so much, as I was only there for a week or two, and I had a taxi to bring me every morning to the school from the Jesuit residence.  But for the students it was an arduous climb every morning up a steep hill.  It made them afraid that, with all the exertion of climbing, their legs would take on the shape of radishes, or daikon.  So to comfort them, while disclaiming my responsibility, I composed another funny haiku, playing on the similarity of sound between ashi for “leg” and ashi for “evil”, “Daikon no,/ ashi kutabirete/ ashi-karazu” – “Please don’t think evil of me when your tired legs begin to look like radishes!”  It was a great comfort to them, sending them into stitches of laughter.  In general, I find that the Japanese, especially girls, unlike most Westerners in my experience, especially my colleagues at SJ House, are most appreciative of such puns.  Also at Hiroshima I was able to visit two friends of mine.  One was a devout Chestertonian, who translated Chesterton’s comic book Coloured Lands into Japanese, while the other was a Donne scholar, who also translated the Japanese poems of the Buddhist monk Ryokan – poems that make him sound like a Japanese version of St. Francis of Assisi – into English for the Penguin Books.


   About Aomori, where I was invited by the sisters in memory of a former student of mine who had died while a teacher there, I remember little except for the harbour which served ships bound for Hakodate and Hokkaido.  It was only on that occasion that I visited Aomori, though I had often been elsewhere in that Northern province of Honshu.  Elsewhere, I had been to Hirosaki, where the famous red apples of Aomori grow in abundance.  There, too, on the occasion of a meeting of the Shakespeare Society, I had been inspired to compose one of my funny haiku.  I was staying over the week-end at the local church, and on Sunday morning I had been asked to take the morning Mass for children.  Then I began to wonder what to say to the children by way of a sermon, without sending them to sleep.  So the idea of another funny haiku occurred to me, combining the word for red apples, aka-ringo, with the sound of a bell ringing for church, “Hirosaki no/ rin-rin-rin-rin/ aka-ringo!”  At least it was greatly appreciated by the children.  On the other hand, I have a clearer memory of my period of concentrated lectures at Sapporo, the principal city of Hokkaido.  The president was a sister who had been a student of mine in the graduate school of Sophia and who had come with me on my first “Literary and Historical Pilgrimage to the British Isles” in 1970.  I had several slides of her taken in the course of that tour, as well as the memory of an episode when she fell into a river near Hadrian’s Wall.  Unfortunately I hadn’t been there to witness the occurrence or to take a picture of her falling into the water.  It would have been so funny, especially for her students at Sapporo!  (It hadn’t been at all tragic, as the river at that spot was very shallow, running over many rocks.)  So when I showed my slides to the students, I recalled this episode, and they were so amused!  Some of them even wrote in their essays for me that it made them glad to hear it, since it made their president seem much more human.  Only, when I told her about it, she wasn’t amused.  Maybe that was why I wasn’t invited back.  Anyhow, as Lady Macbeth says, “What’s done is done!”

   In this way, it may be seen how useful my tours, and my automatic camera, were to me in providing me with so much material, both audio and visual, for my classes both at Sophia and elsewhere.  As for those tours, they were still continuing in ever new and strange places, giving me fresh material not only for my classes but also for my books.  In fact, I hardly went on a tour about this time without publishing a book or two about it.  Or I might take two or three tours together and bring out one book, such as A Journey Through England, which wasn’t about any tour in particular but based on the slides I had taken on different tours and arranged according to place rather than time.  By the time of its publication in 1978, I had been almost everywhere in England, and in its 28 chapters I went from one place to another as if on an imaginary journey, using two slides for each chapter and recalling one episode after another for the amusement and instruction of my unknown readers.  This book also became an instant best-seller, and I used it in many of my own classes for Japanese students.  At Kagoshima, too, I used it to accompany my slide lectures, and in one of the cartoons drawn for a slide contest by one student there was a picture of Peter Rabbit with the book in his hands, and the name of the author on the cover was Peter Rabbit.  Another successful book of mine, recalling my first pilgrimage from England via Rome and Greece to the Holy Land in the spring of 1979, bore the title The Heart of Western Culture.  It wasn’t exactly what is nowadays called a “travelogue”, giving a day-to-day account of the journey, but a cultural interpretation of the main places we visited in general terms.  But it came down to much the same thing.  For an understanding of European culture, especially for those who live far from Europe, it is necessary to see the places and even to touch the stones, besides listening to some explanation of them by one who knows both the places and their historical significance.  At the same time, I find it helpful, in order to bring home the cultural aspect of places like the Parthenon, to show my students a slide with a cat blissfully asleep among the ruins.  Only cats are allowed such a privilege, but human beings have to observe the rule, “Keep off the ruins!”


   All this time, moreover, I was still giving my weekly course of classes on “An Introduction to Christianity” every Monday evening for the Katsuragikai.  That at least has never changed since the time of my return from my first sabbatical to England, though it was considerably obstructed by the student revolt.  From year to year it never seems to change, nor does the number of those who come to the classes, for all their difference as individuals.  It has always remained at an average of twenty, sometimes falling to fifteen, sometimes rising to twenty-five – apart, of course, from our special gatherings at Christmas and Easter.  I can’t even remember any particular episodes that stand out in my memory, though I think of each meeting as unique and different from every other.  On one occasion we were planning to do something out of the ordinary and hold our retreat for March at the Sacred Heart retreat house of Susono, at the foot of Mount Fuji, where I had taken my parents in 1960.  This was a little further away for a retreat than usual, but as it was to be at the foot of Mount Fuji I was looking forward to it.  Only, it had to be cancelled at the last moment.  I was so disappointed.  Among the other retreat houses we frequented in the Tokyo area, the most memorable was one in Hachioji where all was tastefully laid out in a traditional Japanese style, especially in the chapel and the garden.  It was even reminiscent of a Buddhist temple, as an attempt at what is nowadays called “inculturation”.  The sisters, I thought, had made an excellent job of it, though they required a higher fee than most other such houses.  What particularly impressed me was the continual sound of running water outside the chapel, according to a traditional and delicate Japanese custom.


   Then I have to mention my customary lectures in English for the Renaissance Centre, which I enjoyed giving as much as (I hoped) the Japanese enjoyed hearing them.  I never repeated the same lectures from year to year, but I always gave them a new point, just as I always aimed at variety in the itinerary of my tours.  It is truly said that “Repetition is the mother of studies”, and that is true of individual lectures immediately beforehand and afterwards, depending not so much on the giver as on the receiver.  So when it comes to series of open lectures from year to year, I believe in variety both for the lecturer, who should always present fresh material instead of relying on what soon becomes stale, and for the audience, who are always looking – like the Athenians in St Paul’s time – for something new.  Then, after each lecture on a Saturday afternoon I would invite those who could stay a little longer to come and enjoy a cup of afternoon tea at the Renaissance Centre.  There we could have a further discussion in both English and Japanese.  In my opinion such a custom, which appeals very much to the Japanese taste, is a human way of rounding off a lecture or a talk on Christianity.  Thus it was that in the early Church the word agape was used of the meal that invariably went with the celebration of the “eucharist”, or sacrifice of thanksgiving, in memory of the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

   These various groups of mine consisted almost entirely of Japanese, especially women.  In Japan men are usually busy with their jobs, leaving more leisure for activities of a religious or cultural nature to women.  In Japanese universities, too, men tend to gravitate to the more “masculine” subjects of law, economics and science, leaving literature as a more “feminine” subject for women.  The practical outcome is that in Japan the future of culture and literature is being increasingly entrusted to women, while men are becoming (in my opinion) progressively barbarian.  That is what seems to me evident in the contrast between male and female singers.


  On the other hand, I may be asked, what about my contacts with foreigners, particularly fellow Englishmen and Americans, in Japan?  Have I gone so completely “native” as to turn my back on my English roots?  Not at all.  For one reason or another, I am always going back to England, usually in such a way as not to impose any financial burden on Sophia or SJ House, and I am always speaking about England, our literature, culture and religion, in my lectures.  I even regard myself as a kind of English ambassador to Japan, while being a Christian missionary.  As such, I may claim to be carrying out my embassage all the more effectively as it is exercised, unlike that of the duly accredited ambassador, at what is called “the grass-roots level”.  Most of the time since I joined the teaching staff of Sophia in 1962 I have enjoyed good relations with both the British Embassy and the British Council, both of them within easy walking distance from Sophia.  When I was ordained priest in 1960, the then ambassador, who was a Catholic, not only attended one of my first Masses in our Kulturheim chapel but also invited my parents with me to a special lunch at the embassy, where we found ourselves being waited upon by footmen in livery.  It was even a little embarrassing, as we had only just finished a late breakfast when it was time for us to make our way to the embassy.  At lunch my mother found a common topic of interest with the lady ambassador, as they both liked to go shopping at the English department store called Marks & Spencer’s.  As for the British Council, I specially recall a time when their leading officials came to Sophia for an amateur presentation of the mediaeval morality play, Everyman, with the director himself taking the part of the Prologue.  Unfortunately, the steps leading up to the stage – it was long before the RSC came for their production of Henry V on a newly refurbished stage – were rather rickety.  Consequently, as the director, a portly man, was going up, they came down, and he had a fall.  It was so embarrassing for us, and yet so funny – in the primitive sense of “fun”!


   A more regular means of keeping in touch with my fellow countrymen was at the monthly meetings of the Cambridge and Oxford Society – in that unusual order of putting, as we say, “the cart before the horse”, or the Cam before the Ox.  From the beginning I was a regular member, and while other members came and went, I seemed to go on for ever.  The ambassador, as long as he came from the one or the other university, was invariably chosen as president.  In recent times we also had the pleasure of meeting both the crown prince and his princess, who were both from what I naturally regard as the right university, the former from Merton College and the latter from Balliol.  Whenever I attended a meeting, I never found myself among strangers, but I always encountered the “old familiar faces”, while making new friends.  Needless to say, at such meetings we never sang any old school song.  I don’t even know if there is one whether for the university as a whole or for any of the colleges.  That sort of thing is regarded as belonging to public schools, such as the famous Eton boating-song.  Of the particular meetings only one event stands out in my memory, when we were invited to the Canadian embassy for a preview of the film “Shadowlands”, about the love-life of the famous CS Lewis, to which the crown prince and princess also came.  As I had been a student of English at Oxford in the time of Lewis and had attended all his lectures, I was deputed to give a brief introduction to the film in the presence of their imperial highnesses.  It was an honour, as they say, of which I had never dreamt.


   Yet another foreign group to which I belonged and which met for Sunday dinners and guest lectures once a month, was the Association of Foreign Teachers in Japan, or AFTJ for short.  Whereas the Cambridge and Oxford Society had lunches in the buffet style, to allow members to mix freely, without any lectures, the AFTJ dinners were sit-down affairs, with the president at the head of the table and the guest speaker at his side, while other members ranged themselves along the tables according to their personal preference.  When I first attended these meetings in the mid-1960s, the president was a genial Benedictine priest, who had in his pre-Benedictine days been an American diplomat, and so he was well fitted for his position.  In those days membership went up to a hundred, and we had meetings in a large hall as if for a special banquet.  My American friend at Waseda was then vice-president, and he subsequently became president in succession to the Benedictine.  It was indeed through the AFTJ and my friend that I was brought into connection with the floating university and its two voyages in 1968 and 1969.  Then it was my turn to follow him as president for a year, before I went on my sabbatical of 1973-74.  Later on, when I became president again – though when it was, I have quite forgotten – we came to hold our meetings at the International House of Japan in Roppongi, and it was then that we celebrated our 60th anniversary with the Vatican and British ambassadors as honoured guests.  By then, however, our membership had gone down and it kept on going in the same direction, till I decided, like the proverbial rat, to quit the sinking ship – though it hasn’t sunk yet.  In connection with my period of presidency, this became one of the various chores undertaken by the good secretary of the Renaissance Centre, and so, in addition to her proper tasks for the Centre and the Institute, she would help me with the AFTJ, the Hopkins Society, and even the “once in a blue moon” meetings of the Chesterton Society.  It was owing to her presence and diligence that I was kept on as president, since no other member wished to take on the extra chores.  As for the dinner meetings, they had to be reduced, according to the modern Japanese fashion of “restructuring” (or ristora), to only four a year.  As we also say, “Sic transit gloria mundi” – “So passes the glory of this world!”

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