Nanao Sakaki was the original dharma bum, who stayed young, lived outside society in the stars, and saved the world.  Now it is believed he is on the isle of mars planting trees.  Sakaki rooted for the underdog.  He rooted for love.  He rooted for the animals and the ancient ways, and simplicity.  He was against nuclear power plants and weapons, violence, materialism and wastefulness.  He was for the unity of the cosmos and the wisdom of the soil.

Let’s Play Together Tomorrow
In a beautiful time
There was a shallow sea
With bountiful fish, shells, coral reef and dragon palaces.
Then the sea retreated
And Sugar Loaf was left to rise up on the plain
Man came to the island and lived in peace quite long
One day darkness came to the island
With two monstrous armies from north and east
And a crazy war started.
            Thousands of people were killed.
            Thousands of people were wounded.
            Thousands of people became insane.
Finally the war ended
And forty-one years passed like a wind.
Today there are still jet fighters in the sky.
Battle ships in the sea, military tanks on the hills.
How long must we live in such a narrow chasm of war?
            Chilly autumn wind.
            Far away shiny ocean waves, and setting sun.
Here on Sugar loaf
Where once tremendous blood and tears ran down in the war
Now stand side by side
A Buddhist temple and a Catholic church.
            Chilly autumn wind.
            Far away shiny ocean waves, and setting sun.
When I walk down the hill
Where Shakyamuni and Jesus Christ stand side by side
Two little boys shout to me
            “Going home now?”
            “Let’s play together tomorrow!”
Here on Sugar Loaf
Where once tremendous blood and tears ran down in the war
Little Shakyamuni and little Jesus Christ shout,
            “let’s play together tomorrow!”
*Sugar Loaf is a hill situated in the northeast part of Naha, Okinawa, fifty meters above sea level.  At the end of WWII the battle fought there cost 2662 American Marine lives, and left 1289 insane.  The number of Japanese soldiers and Okinawan civilians killed is unknown.
-Nanao Sakaki


“Let’s Play together tomorrow,” is one of the most beautiful, eternal anti-war poems we know.  In it, Sakaki elegantly gives voice to the rhythmic bendingness of earth – the mountains, sea, waves, sun and wind that keep coming back no matter what is done to them, no matter what bloodshed is spread over them.  To say, “thousands of people were killed, thousands of people were wounded, thousands of people became insane,” gives a visceral sense of war’s impact.  Death, wounds and insanity are a high cost to pay so that opposing armies can fight each other, for what?  Parallel with wondrous nature, the past scene of people coming to the island to live in peace, two opposing religions now standing side by side, and two little boys simply wanting to play innocently and lovingly – we see how truly insane war is.  What is worth the price of damaging children, love, and the earth?  The battle ships in the ocean and the tanks on the hill and the jets in the sky are obscene monsters.  The poem ends on a hopeful note from the children, “Let’s play together tomorrow!” let’s get along.  If that simplicity, love and innocence could be kept strong and alive, maybe there’s a chance that men will stop wanting to blow things up, maim each other’s bodies, and scramble each other’s precious minds.

We like manifestos.  Here’s a mesmerizing one by Nanao Sakaki, in which he reclaims and revises the war-torn islands of the previous poem:

Hokkaido island will be an independent country.
Because the sea of Okhotsk, the mother ocean
dyes your heart pure indigo.
Because the primeval forest of Shretoko peninsula
dyes your heart pure green.
Because the snow-covered Sarobetsu wasteland
dyes your heart pure white.
Hokkaido island will be an independent country.
Because yeddo spruces soar in clouds.
Because giant angelica flowers flame up in summer.
Because there are countless edible plants and mushrooms.
Hokkaido island will be an independent country.
Because you could see irreplaceable wild beings—
            grizzly bears, Blakiston’s fish owls,
                        black woodpeckers and Parnassus butterflies.
Hokkaido island will be an independent country
Because you can meet wonderful human animals—
            fishermen, farmers, mountain men, hobos,
                        musicians, artists and poets.
Hokkaido island will be an independent country.
Because you can love delightful birds—
kids, women and men.
                                    This island is made as a garland
                                    No nuclear power plants
                                    No agri-chemicals
                                    No big coporations
                                    No authorities
                                    No arms.
We call this island Moshiri, the Peaceful Land—
                                                            after the Ainu’s name
Now together with
Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, New Guinea, Yunnan and Siberia
let’s start a Pacific Basin union.
And together with
Andromeda nebula, Orion constellation and
                                                            Magellanic clouds
let’s start a Federation
                        for the Universe.
-Nanao Sakaki

This is a cleansing poem.  Declaring alternative reality in Sakaki style is empowering.  It shifts our energy from dismal, corporate controlled life, to the hopeful utopia of “a Federation for the Universe,” in which our allegiance is to mother universe and we revel in goodness.  We will be renewed and independent when our hearts are aligned with the original source of beauty.  It’s therapeutic and eye-balming to read these prayer words, such as, because your heart is dyed indigo of the ocean, green of the forest, white of the snow, and because you can love delightful birds and human animals – we will be free.  In this state there is no room for destructive nightmares like power plants, corporations, chemicals and authorities – there is enough for everyone to eat and be harmonious thanks to the generosity of the earth.  These chant repetitions of alive images make us new – birth us into a new society of peace and togetherness, bring us to peaceful valley to sit by the river current under the bridge and wash our minds away.  We will use political will of poetic imagination and ancient human-divinity to insure sovereignty of humans and all life.

Break the Mirror by Nanao Sakaki, Blackberry Books 1996
Gary Lawless