Remember Toshio-San

James Christie
President, World Federalists of Canada, 1988-1992. Chair of Council, World Federalist Movement (International, 1995-2012)

My late father was not much by way of being a vulgarian. A notable exception to that rule was his designation of the washroom and toilet facilities of the family home as the “Reading Room.” He claimed to enjoy his quietest and most reflective moments while being sequestered from the rest of the household and the rest of the world in the quiet repose of the water closet. The library contained therein as a child included the ubiquitous Reader’s Digest magazine. In those long ago and halcyon days of the mid twentieth century, each monthly issue contained a story under the broad rubric of “my most unforgettable character”. Sometimes these brief articles chronicled personal memories of the great and the good; sometimes only the good.

One of the greatest joys of an increasingly long life, well over half of it spent as a world federalist, is the number of extraordinary people I have been privileged to meet and know. Sometimes these individuals were of great renown, including the likes of Mme. Justice Louise Arbour and the late, great Sir Peter Ustinov. Far more often these, to me, unforgettable characters were hardly household names. They were, rather, those indispensable and often humble visionaries whose useful and engaged lives were dedicated to achieving what the great federalist philosopher H.G.Wells named in 1928, the Open Conspiracy: the open conspiracy to achieve a just and well governed world.

One of the most memorable was Toshio Kozai of Osaka, one of the great unsung saints of our movement. He was 96 when he died this summer. I was away from my usual haunts and did not receive the news until it was too late to attend his funeral. I would certainly have made every effort to be there and to bid him farewell had I known. Kozai-san, humble, funny and wise, was the very model of a world federalist: proud of his Japanese culture and heritage; equally proud to be a citizen of the world, proud of his more than 7 billion brothers and sisters around the globe.

I wish that I could have known him in all the myriad facets of his life, but distance and, in some measure, the generations rendered that more than a little challenging. But I did know him as a federalist. We met at our annual gatherings around the world from 1987 in Philadelphia until shortly before his death. Often, not always, he was in the company of one or other of the illustrious Miyake clan.

Each meeting was, on the one hand, a joyous reunion with a long missed elder brother; and yet it always seemed as though we had been together just the day before. Toshio had a gift for friendship, and a talent for living fully in the present.

After serving in the Japanese Imperial Navy during the second world war as a communications officer, Toshio returned to his life as a citizen of a Japan deeply committed to the rebuilding of a war devastated, nuclear targeted country. He was convinced that what had transpired in Japan and globally should never be repeated.

He engaged in the peaceful, postwar renewal of the Shinto natural spiritual tradition, and sought a practical expression for his beliefs in the world federalist tradition.
He was a translator for his fellow citizens abroad, a host for federalist visitors to Japan, and an unofficial ambassador for a vision of Japan as an economic player and a peace builder among the family of nations.

He travelled widely, made friends universally, and was much beloved. Our youngest son, Nicholas, was elected to the Executive Committee of the World Federalist Movement as Policy Review Chair last July in den Haag. His involvement was in no small measure a result of Toshio’s friendship and implicit tutelage since Nick’s childhood.

There are so many stories to tell, so many moments to remember. Aside from his quiet, non-anxious presence at Congress and Council meetings over decades, and his gracious and patient practice of his talent for translation, he was, quite simply, good company.

I remember his good fellowship in back street noodle shops and saki bars in Kyoto. I shall never forget his warm welcome and generous hosting during a lecture tour to Ayabe City in the beautiful western mountains in Japan. I will be ever grateful for his patient translation of my complex and metaphor laden English lectures to unilingual Japanese audiences, who, thanks to Toshio, seemed to leave the lecture hall with a greater understanding and enhanced commitment to a justly governed global community

Compared to my Scottish-gened six feet two inches, Toshio was but a wee lad, standing quietly in the background with his ever-present cigarette and impish smile. But behind that impish smile and self-deprecating manner, was a will of iron, dedicated to a world much better than he found it. If we are closer than ever to our goals, even in a world in apparently greater disarray almost daily, it is because of the quiet militants in our movement of the calibre of Toshio Kozai.

Federalist par excellence, mentor, friend: Toshio was a giant, and on his shoulders, and the countless other shoulders of the open conspirators for a federal world, we shall continue to build. Requiescat in pacem. Thank you Kozai-san. I shall never forget you.

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