Military Mailbag

Dear Fellows:

Once again we start to write something for your section in Beacon Lights. This time we have a letter to bring to our readers.

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March 21, 1954

Dear Everett,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am now receiving the Beacon Lights and enjoy them. I hope to receive the Standard Bearer soon, but as yet I haven’t. I sent my address in so it should be on its way over here.

I am now in 8 weeks of Supply School, of which 2 weeks are already finished. I am now at Ford Ord, California, for my school and then I go back to my unit in Fort Lawton, Washington, where I have been stationed the last 6 months. Before that I took my training in Fort Bliss, Texas. I now have about 12 months in service which I am glad of. After these 8 weeks I will first go home for a 20-day leave, then back to Fort Lawton, Washington.

I have received the last 2 issues of Beacon Lights and really look forward to them, where I find much good reading material.

I have been able to attend the Christian Reformed Church in Seattle which was very nice and I was able to work it so that I could attend every week.

I am on TDY (temporary duty) for these 8 weeks, then I look forward to going home to Hull, Iowa. I also hope to go to our church in Redlands, if possible. Well, I am not much of a letter writer, but I thought I’d try anyway.

Yours in Christ,

Pete Hoekstra


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            When I was overseas, I was stationed in one city that I would like to write about in this issue. Maybe you fellows are at a place that you would like to tell about. Let us hear from you about the experiences you have in the service.

The city that I would like to write about is Nora, Japan. Nora is one of the sacred Japanese cities. Its beautiful temples, which are recognized as the most important in Japan, are located in a natural grove of 1250 acres, called Nora Park. This park is sometimes known as “Deer Park” and is the largest and most beautiful in Japan. It is a natural woodland with trees, temples and over 1000 tame deer which before 1868 were regarded as divine messengers, roaming about in pairs or in small groups. It is quite easy to walk up to a group of them and take snapshots or feed them.

Nora was the first permanent capital of Japan, having been selected for this honor in 709 A.D. It continued as such from 710 to 784 covering the reigns of three Emperors and four Empreas-Regents. Nora was the birthplace of the arts, crafts, literature and recorded history of Japan; for here were the first written histories of the nation. At the height of its glory Nora covered an extensive area with palaces, temples, public buildings and many residences of noble and wealthy families. Fire destroyed many of the old Buddhist structures and physical decay has marked these ancient edifices, yet there still exist many attractions for the sightseers. Some of the temples and shrines remain practically as they were originally.

I have a booklet and pictures of some of the wonders of Nora. I would like to give a little idea of what is there. By this you may be able to understand what the Japanese believe.

The first is the Kasuga Shrine. This Shinto Temple is approached through an avenue of antique stone lanterns (about 2000 in number). The shrine was founded in 768 as the tutelary shrine of the Fujiwares. The buildings, painted a bright vermillion and hung with some 1000 metal lanterns, are celebrated for their beautiful architecture and enchanting setting. All the lanterns are gifts from those who believe in the gods of Kasuga. The stone and metal lanterns are lighted only twice a year; on the night of Setsubun Festival (Feb. 3, which I saw) and Jugoya (Aug. 15). In the rear of the main shrine is one of the local wonders, an isutree on whose trunk has been grafted six different kinds of plants; camellia, wisteria, nandin, cherry, maple and elder.

The second is the Great Buddha. This bronze image, the largest of its kind on earth, was completed in 752 A.D. It is 53.5 feet high and weighs nearly 500 ton. The face is 16 feet long and 9-1/2 feet wide; each eye is 3.9 feet in length, each ear is 8-1/2 feet long and the thumb is 4.8 feet long. The Hall of the Great Buddha is the largest wooden building in the world.

The Great Buddha symbolized the omnipotent and omnipresent blessing of Buddha. The Emperor who ordered the image to be made wanted to rule Japan in accordance with the doctrines of the Buddhist religion and with the righteousness and benevolence of Buddha himself.

The next we have is the Daibutsu Big Bell. This bronze bell, which is a state treasure, was cast in 752 A.D. It is the second largest in Japan (the largest being that of the Chionin in Kyoto). Its dimensions are: 13.6 feet high, base 9.2 feet in diameter, 10 inches in thickness, and 27 feet in circumference. Its weight is 48 ton. When you strike the bell, at which sound it is said the departed souls of your relatives in the world beyond nod to the earthly signal made from this faraway land of the rising sun.

I hope you may have been able to get a little idea of what the Japanese believe and whom they believe. I think that these people walked in this belief at one time, but in the last years it has been changing.

Let us hear from you fellows in the near future.