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When I was nine, Bob Willis tripped me, punched me in the stomach, and said, “You’re a fat, ugly Jap!” After that, I wanted nothing to do with my heritage

However, throughout my life, seeds of Japanese influence were planted.  When I attended college, I studied Japanese to fulfill the foreign language requirement.  I wanted to know what my parents were saying that I couldn’t understand!  My first mentor encouraged me to visit Japan because I was ‘more Japanese than I realized.’

Then, in 1982, my husband and I went to Japan and met my rich cousins on my father’s side of the family. They gave me copies of my Tsugawa family tree, and crest which had images of three swords and three leaves that looked like hearts….Domo arigatou gozaimasu …..Thank you very much.

A few days later we attended the Jidai Matsuri in Kyoto; the annual historical parade with over 2,000 people dressed in period attire. For me, the highlight was the female samurai warrior, Tomoe Gozen. I didn’t even know there were female samurai! She was so strong, regal, and her image left a deep impression on me.  We returned home, and I packed away our memories and my Japanese heritage.


Then in 2007, I was rear ended; the second time in 18 months. I was so messed up, I couldn’t think straight!!! I easily fatigued, suffered chronic pain, and was reading at a seventh grade level; diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI). My new job was physical therapy, massage therapy, vision therapy, speech pathology, chiropractor, neurologist, physiatrist, psychologist, Neuro psych, brain scan, MRI, and more. In fact, I endured over 1,000 medical appointments to regain wellness.  

The Samurai’s Courage
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But I started to think about that female samurai warrior and my Japanese heritage. I began to research the code of bushido, the way of the warrior, whose principles are: courage…integrity… benevolence… respect…honesty… honor…and loyalty.  While researching, I saw a familiar image…I raced to show my husband, “LOOK, my family crest is one of the five main samurai crests of feudal Japan!  The DNA of those samurai warriors is in me.” I knew if the samurai spirit can motivate those warriors, it can motivate me!

My goal was to write a book about how the samurai principles influenced Japanese descendants to overcome challenges. I thought if I can write the book, then I will overcome traumatic brain injury (TBI). Every day, with whatever strength I had, I began to write. As the book took shape, my vision, speech and mental capacity all improved. I could think more clearly and began to see light at the end of the tunnel. When the first shipment of books arrived, I thought, YES, that warrior spirit really is a part of me!

What about your visions, talents, and dreams?  I believe those dreams are on your heart, and only YOU can accomplish them!  I encourage you to act upon your visions and talents, whether past or present, and fulfill your destiny!  Ignite the ‘fire in your belly’ to propel you forward.

“If not now, when? If not you, who?”

   ― Hillel the Elder

Now I share the code of bushido with people up and down the west coast and how the samurai code of ethics can be an anchor in a sea of turmoil, and a guide through the maze of life. It took courage to endure thousands of medical appointments to overcome TBI. Had I given up, I would not have written my book, nor would I be able to share this story with you!

I challenge you to pursue your dreams…and never give up.  Live each day as if it were your last, because one day it will be. Remember this code of bushido, for it can be the key that unlocks your greatness!

NOW, sharpen your swords and let the journey begin!


“The world is waiting for you to unveil your gifts
and talents; what are you waiting for?”
-Lori Tsugawa Whaley

Lori Whaley

Lori Whaley

TEDx Speaker | International Best-Selling Author | Life Coach


Lori Whaley

Lori Tsugawa Whaley is a motivational and inspirational speaker, international best selling author and life coach. Using her engaging, passionate, and captivating style, Lori leads her audience to examine their own dreams and goals.


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