An interview with Jôkô Shibata by Arthur Braverman
Jôkô Shibata lives alone in a suburb of Komoro, a town in northern Japan, known as the Japan Alps. He moved to Komoro over twenty-five years ago in order to be with his teacher, the late Yokoyama Sodô Roshi, otherwise known as ‘the grass flute Zen master’. Jôkô is of average height and build, wears horn rimmed glasses and samue (work clothes worn by Zen Buddhist monks). He welcomes me into his home with a reserve that drops away quickly as we get to know each other.
I had first seen Jôkô (we hadn’t really met) in 1971 when he accompanied his teacher to Antaiji, a small temple in Kyoto, where we both attended the yearly memorial service for Sawaki Kôdô Roshi. Jôkô leads me through a corridor lined with pictures of his teacher to a small chanoma (tea room) where we have tea. On one side of the chanoma is a kitchen, on the other a balcony with a view of Mount Yatsugatake. Across from where we sit is a newly built Zen meditation room, or zendo, with the distinct smell of fresh wood and new tatami straw mats. At the far end of the zendo is a small altar with pictures of Jôkô’s teacher, Yokoyama Sodô Roshi, and his teacher, Sawaki Kôdô, both sitting in the zazen [formal sitting] posture. Jôkô’s life attests to his devotion to these two teachers. (more…)