Birthday / Reform /
The Ancient World / Overlay system /
Religion and pledge to the Earth / Culture shock / Through the whole body
The sequence of events is not always in chronological order.
Yoshiko was born in Osaka, Japan on Dec. 7th, 1941 as the 4th child and 2nd daughter of Masatake Mitsuhashi. Her father died as an army doctor before seeing her. Her first impressed memory was the view of burning Osaka at night with the sound of B29 fleets, sirens and bombs, and the ruins of the big town after the fire.
Her birthday was the day before Pearl Harbor Day in the Japanese calendar. Later, as soon as coming to the US in 1987, she realized that her birthday was Pearl Harbor Day exactly in the US, and how Americans feel about that day every year. This shock gave her a reason to think about a system to bring up world peace without wars.
In her childhood, most Japanese were poor and always hungry. She did not have toys, and she knew Mom would be sad if she asked her for them. The only thing she could do was making what she wanted by herself using branches, wood pieces, stones, little pieces of cloth, whatever she found around her. This custom fostered her creativity.
She had fun making a new value from thrown away things. She believes that the recycling custom is rational to live on this planet with limited materials. Since starting the EL project without any income through it, the custom also has helped her survival.
In fact, the EL itself is a kind of reform. After searching all kinds of communication wisdom from the entire world, she figured out how to put them together creatively. She thinks of the EL system as being like a huge quilt to wrap the world in peace. The earth is a glove. When the energy and colors of everywhere on the globe are flexibly tied together, bringing each unique brightness, the glove can be the most stable and beautiful, she believes.
The Ancient World
She graduated from Kyoto Art College (Interior Design) in 1964. Around Tokyo Olympic time, most Japanese were working hard to catch up to Euro-American lives. But she wondered what the base of Japanese culture was. Her family moved away from their native town after the bombing of Osaka, and lost much tradition which was handed down from their ancestors. She wanted to find out something in culture depth before designing things.
In 1966 she married and moved to an old town, Matsue in north western Japan, and met a unique batik artist, Fujiwara Kazuyoshi. She got much influenced from his Tao lifestyle; also started working with the batik method
That area called Izumo in old days, was beautiful with ocean, rivers, mountains, Shinji Lake, the four seasons and mythologies. There are many shrines with traditional rituals and events handed down from Stone Age. Being a mother of a boy, she sketched nature and events around the area and searched about the roots of Japanese culture. Also enjoyed listening to the voices of rocks, waves and the sky.
Through those experiences, she made many one-person exhibitions in western Japan, as Fujita Yoshiko.
Also made a lot of commissioned batiks, such as 30 sliding door paintings for Mangan-ji Temple in Matsue City, murals, screens, wall hangings and scrolls for hotels, restaurants, museums and houses. Wrote several series of essays for local newspapers (1980-86); appeared on a history program “Yamata-no-Orochi” (a giant serpent legend) for NHK educational TV as the reporter, narrator and batik-illustrator (1983, the program was awarded as the annual best in a category by NHK). Published a book, "Kamos" (a Mother Deity story since before rice making culture in Japan)(1987).
At the important rituals in old shrines, priests prepare fire by stone age methods and the local people make Shimenawa or sacred straw rope together each year for their shrine ornament. Ancient Japanese Shinto did not have any bible in words. But Yoshiko could hear a strong ancestral message through the physical experiences in these traditions, Creation is Born by Binding Together. Nature, scientific observation and human labor with passion all combined together to create fire; male-female combinations have created descendants. Each single strand of grass is weak by itself, but strong when bound together in a group. When different types or kinds of things bind together, something new can be born, so that the world can be renewed.
In 1985, she visited California for the first time and she had some experiences with a pagan ritual and native American healing practices, and realized that there was not much basic difference between ancient cultures. She felt that the thought processes of our collective ancestral consciousness could ensure this planet's future peace, even between a variety of cultures.
The Overlay systemYoshiko used various plants and chemical materials for her batik colors. Applying wax with a brush to protect the dye, she dyed cloth repeatedly in a plant soup and then let it dry, laying over a mineral soup and letting it dry again. The same plant could make a variety of colors with different minerals, and even with changes in climate. The first color of the dye process is not the finished color, unlike paint. It needs to have the total plan of the laying over system to be in the imagination of the creator from the beginning in order to succeed.
Her brain got familiar with this way for 20 years. Later when she started to think about the EL; knowing about the possibility of computer functions from her friend J. C., the compounded-character: the unique overlay system of the EL, came naturally to her. Then the system itself taught her what to do through its natural and rational structure.
While she had never touched a computer, her friend architect J. H. helped her to form the EL bases with his computer. EL started with only a written method at first. Hearing about sign languages from V. W., Yoshiko researched about hand signing history; as a result, EL became a multi-method auxiliary language with various types of signs. Prof. Takashi Tanokami (the main creator of Japanese sign language) encouraged her by sending some materials; also her folks and new friends, who sympathized with the idea of EL, gave her books and information, contrary to many more old friends who left her because of the EL projects.For the first publication about EL in a Japanese magazine in 1992, she had to draw each EL symbol by hand with rulers. In 1994, Yoshiko finally got her own computer with Japanese software, and the same year, her son, Tomo programmed an EL word processor for her. Since then she could type EL, and at the end of 1996, she started to build the EL web site. The Internet brought many teachers for her from around the world; so a former batik painter could learn linguistics and phonetics; also get views from many different cultures. Tomo's EL word processor worked until German Jo Chen made a new compatible EL font in 2006. Not only the language-overlay-system, the EL project itself has been shaped by a thick overlay of talents, wisdom, input of labors and supports accumulated for years. Her husband Don has supported the EL project without complaint all through the years.
Religion and the pledge to the Earth
The school in Yoshiko's childhood had a Tenri-kyo (one of the newer Shinto sects) policy: "All people are brothers and sisters, and we should live together in harmony and joy." She wasn't particularly interested in that religion, but the thought might potentially and naturally worked for the no-minority vision.
In her early 40s, although her art projects were doing well, she suffered from a hellish and brutal neck pain. All medical treatments were ineffective, and finally she felt like being at the edge of life. At that peak, she could neither sleep nor lay down for three days and nights, walking around fighting with her own bone-stabbing neck nerve. She realized that she couldn't hold her spirit together without a healthy body. Almost giving up her life completely, she pledged that she would try to work in the face of any difficulty if some greater power could save her from the hellish misery she was suffering and show her what she should do.
Her neck pain miraculously went away and never came back, much to her doctor's surprise. She had to remind herself about the pledge she had made in connection with this miracle. She made up her mind to follow any fate that befell her to find out what she had to do.
Her original plan was to work for something to make a nicer environment for her son's homeland and return to the earth of the village after her life was over. But somehow fate removed her from there, even from Japan. In 1987, she immigrated to San Francisco to remarry with an American who knew her in Japan, even though she was not very sure how it could happen or what she should do in America.
She considered to whom she had pledged. At the time, she did not care if it was God, the devil or anything else because she was in such a desperate state. Later she realized that the main cause of her pain was the earth's gravity, and she thought that the pain might have been the earth's call to get her attention.
The Earth is the home of all humanity and she felt the Earth's voice say, "Think of not only individual homelands, but the home of all creatures" when she lived away from her 15 year old son. "Yes, but what can I of this little existence do for such a huge home?" She started to talk with the spirit of this planet. Her religion is not related to any religious organization, but with the nature of this planet.
Culture shock and how the EL inspiration came up
Her book "Kamos" (1987) was a story about one of the biggest culture shock eras when the rice making people first arrived in Japan, focusing Stone Age natives' strong spirits. Picturing this long-ago time, she seemed to have prepared herself for conquering culture shock.
At the age of 45, Yoshiko arrived in San Francisco, to a big sophisticated city from a small village with very poor English. She had only learned written English decades ago. She had to know that she didn't have ears for English. She had to start by watching faces very carefully to know how they pronounce words, just like a baby.
Not only language, but also customs, foods, everything was new for her. In Japan, she was an average size woman, but in the US she was tiny with too high chairs, kitchen sinks and shelves. For the first time, she felt what being a minority is like. It takes a lot of effort to live, and the majority does not even notice it most of the time.
At around Easter, somebody asked her how many cards she got. When she answered that there was no Easter custom in Japan, the neighbor's eyes changed, as if seeing a barbarian. When she honestly answered that she was working when asked what she was doing on that Sunday, the same thing happened again. So she read about Christianity to know the background of that state of mind. On the way, she compared many kind of religions and their histories.
The fundamental philosophy of LOVE is the same in all of them, but the environment of the native lands and their way of living separated the customs in the different eras and cultures of history. She began to realize that we need a new common measurement to see our cultural images objectively.
In that minority status, she met the biggest culture shock. It was, surprisingly, what she could understand.
In 1988, a year after her immigration, she was looking at some 1500 year old Chinese calligraphy at a museum. She realized she could understand directly what the Kanji characters told, much more than through the English explanation next to it, in spite of the fact that she couldn't understand spoken Chinese at all.
All the sudden, the inspiration of EL jumped into her like a lightning bolt. Why shouldn't we use visual symbols for future world communications? Chinese characters which were reformed around 2000 years ago are still sending messages beyond time and cultures. If a more rational symbol system could exists, ... She couldn't stop developing the concrete system for it.
Through the whole body
Picturing the EL system clearly was too huge for her ability, but she didn't forget about her pledge to the earth. The name of Earth Language was from the beginning, because it's based on the earth (/nature), not a culture, making a bridge between all persons on this planet. She felt like the EL project came from the earth's demand: this planet also has a will to survive as a creature in the greater universe, and wants to know more about itself through the integration of all senses of all lives on it.
Yoshiko started researching through the encyclopedia to know what she should study to build the EL system. But also she got chances to learn through real experiences. Participating in the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire and the Dickens Christmas Fair for years as a sketchier, there she learned living histories such as customs, manners, costumes, music, speaking ways, European relationships in the 16th or the 19th century, and so forth. The fairs were also good places to hear and watch many kinds of language pronunciation to consider for the EL phonetic system.
She learned Tai Chi Chuan from an old Chinese master among all other Chinese students without English, through only seeing the master's movements and writing Kanji communications. She realized how wonderful moving the whole body for a communication was. Probably original human communications started with body language first, since before developing their speaking organs; and that condition continued for tens thousands of years. Her body recalled that ancient world with a happy feeling. Why happy? Humans were born to use the whole body, but not to use only a part of brain. So the bodies could feel healthy when they help a relationship between brains in different cultures, she thinks.
Tai Chi gives us natural feeling to be between earth and heaven. We all can feel this happiness through our whole body, when we breathe in a correct way. Nature equally gives us the ability. EL symbols are just tools to work with the brain, but unlike alphabets, all EL symbols connect to entire the body having each multi-method, and work together naturally. So EL can help to research oneself and to find deeper happiness, connecting to nature and the universe. That is the way Yoshiko is planning and proposing for the future global communications.
(Please change (at) into @ and (dot) into . in the above address)
EL Meditation Exercise to feel your body joy through EL body signs
Brief of the EL concrete system
Originally written by Yoshiko in January 1997, revised in February 2008
the photo: August, 2004