Mr. Gota Fukuda works for a “bento” (takeout boxed meals) store which sells foods that are free from bad additives. Through his job, he supports people’s health and makes his original sweets as a patissier (pastry chef). He is a so-called “sweets boy,” but he went through some bitter times in his youth. Fukuda said that he was deeply impressed by these Buddhist words from Tannisho: “In this world as fleeting and unstable as a burning house, inhabited by human beings beset by worldly passions, all is idleness and foolishness, utterly devoid of truth. Only the nembutsu is true.”
How did he encounter Buddhism?
From early in the morning, he prepares bento to order and delivers them around Tokyo. When he has a large order of sweets, he can hardly spend any time at home. Even so, he says, “I’m really happy every day.” He is enjoying his job.
Baked goods made with great care from simple ingredients
Tannisho (Lamenting the Deviations):
one of the best known of the Japanese classics, in which the words of Master Shinran are recorded.
Hitting the Wall of “The Meaning of Life”
Fukuda grew up in Hyogo Prefecture until six. He was a cheerful boy, loved by his classmates. However, because of his father’s job relocation, he moved to Saitama Prefecture in the Kanto area, where people speak in a different dialect. He couldn’t adapt to the new environment and gradually withdrew into himself. Life became difficult for him and he began to wonder why he had to persevere and go on living in such hard times.
He started to look for “the meaning of life” on the Internet every day. His search continued after he entered junior high school and then in senior high school. However, he could not find the answer anywhere. Though a person might say, “This is the purpose of life,” each person would point to a different purpose. This just bewildered him. “I thought that the purpose of having been born as human and living should be one and the same regardless of time and country. It should not change for human convenience. The truth should be one thing only. However, I just couldn’t find an answer that would be the same for all people.”
Most people say, “Just spend your time on something you like or your hobbies. That’s what life is for.” His disappointment grew deeper.
“Nobody understood just what it was that was bothering me. So they kept telling me, 'You don't need to think about the meaning of life. Just go ahead and live.' But to keep running without knowing in which direction I should move was painful for me.” Seeing Gota’s gloomy face, his mother, Kyoko, worried about him and recommended him a job in a care facility. The job in the facility cheered him up for a while, but then a senior worker forced unpleasant work on him. The relationship with the worker troubled him and made him wonder again, “Why do people live even though we keep hurting each other?”
In a spotless kitchen with meticulously maintained hygiene, Fukuda puts his heart into each item he makes
He Had a Dream, But…
In such a difficult situation, he needed some distraction. He read recipe books belonging to his sister, Naho, and began to make sweets. When he was in his twenties, Naho gave her brother’s sweets to her colleagues. They loved them and he started making sweets for them regularly. “I might just make a happy life for myself by making sweets…” It was then that he set upon his vision of being a patissier. First he planned to sell his sweets in a car and went into debt to buy a used van. He asked a contractor to remodel the van. While they did change the van's appearance, they damaged it so badly that it was rendered useless. What was worse was that although the contractor was supposed to arrange the selling place, they told him to find the place by himself. In the end, all he was left with was debt. He had been excited for a while, but harsh reality stood and blocked his way. His dream had seduced him with an image of happiness, but all he got was pain. Even if his dream did come true, he realized that there was no guarantee it would bring him true happiness. “I have been pursuing the meaning of life so desperately, but I still haven't found it. Maybe there is no meaning in life in the first place. I guess there's nothing for it but to give up on that and live without thinking.” He was engulfed by a bottomless feeling of emptiness. Yet he once again found himself looking for the meaning of life using his PC.
I’ve Got the Answer!
One day, a webpage on Buddhism caught his eye. Everything written on the page sounded logical and his intuition told him that Buddhism has the answer. “There is a meaning of life as I thought!!” He couldn’t help feeling a surge of joy. As I read about things like the mechanism of fate and the true self, I felt that there is no fraud or deceit in Buddhism. It only taught facts that I could not deny.” It seemed that finally a ray of light had come into his life and that he had taken a great step forward. What impressed him most deeply was the words from Tannisho quoted at the beginning of this article.
“Everything in this world is untrue. This assertion summarized my past experiences. Master Shinran’s words sank into my heart just as water seeps into sand. Looking back, my struggles in the care facility and my broken dream of working independently were precious opportunities for me to learn the impermanence of this world. I really appreciate those experiences." Seeing that Gota had transformed into a cheerful person, his mother, Kyoko, began to listen to Buddhism.
On-site sweets class. Children love his cookery lessons.
A fruit tart with a lot of fresh fruits. The sliced apples are an attractive feature.