Michiko’s Childhood Story in Internment Camps and Beyond

San Mateo Buddhist Temple Member Mrs. Michiko Mukai shares memories of her experiences in the World War II Japanese-American incarceration camps, and how her family returned to San Mateo and rebuilt their life following the war.

Day of Remembrance: Michiko’s Story & Panel Discussions

Sunday, February 18 at 9:30 a.m.

We warmly welcome you to join us in-person at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple on Sunday, February 18 at 9:30 a.m. for a special documentary premiere highlighting San Mateo Buddhist Temple member Michiko Mukai’s childhood experience of the incarceration camps during WWII.  Following the film, we will have a series of panel discussion with temple members reflecting on their families’ experiences of the incarceration camps.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Mindfulness Meditation
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service and viewing of “Michiko’s Childhood Story in Internment Camps and Beyond”
(End of Zoom Livestream)

In order to encourage free and open sharing, the Q&A panels will be in-person only:        
Panel: Michiko Mukai, Kevin Mukai, Wesley Mukai, and Katie Mukai
Panel: Steve Okamoto, Ritsuko Furuya, and Mike Yoshimoto

(In person attendees are encouraged to join us for an luncheon in the Social Hall following the program.

To join us for the hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Poems written by Mrs. Tomoe Tana during her incarceration at Gila, Arizona

Translated by Michihiro Ama in “Neglected Diary, Forgotten Buddhist Couple: Tana Daisho’s Internment Camp Diary as Historical and Literary Text,” Journal of Global Buddhism 14 (2013)

Saying, “To the Buddha,” young girls pick flowers and hand them to me;

I delightedly offer them to the Buddha.

みほとけにと手折りし花を少女らは我に給ひぬうれしく供ふ

From the peaks of the Sierras, winds blow this way and that:

In the dead of night, I pile on more clothes because of cold.

シエルの嶺ゆ吹き来る風の冷たさに真夜ともなればかけ衣をます

During a Dharma Talk, cries of a cricket are heard from time to time;

How like the voices of the Buddha.

法語つづくひまひまにきくこほろぎの音もみ仏のみこゑかのごと

Opening a sacred text I carry;

The voices of the devout chant a sutra in unison.

我がもちし聖典ひらき人びとの声を合はして誦経をするかも

When rains come, clouds leave.

How like the world of impermanence

This sudden change, where no one lives forever.

(Ama, p. 51)

雨くると空の雲ゆきすぐ変わる常なき人の世のさまに似て

(『サンタフェー・ローズバーグ戦時敵国人抑留所日記』第一巻 194)

Minding a sick child who seeks mother’s affection,

I cannot progress with my needlework, or even wipe away my perspiration.

母恋ふる病む児を憶ひ針もてる手もすすまざる汗も()かざる

Skimming his diary without stop makes my eyes moist;

When I put it down, I realize I have forgotten to even wipe off my perspiration.

うるむ()を日記に走らせいきつかずよみ終りたり汗もわすれて

Wandering without a husband for whom I yearn,

I look with nostalgia at his handwriting, reading it again and again.

さまよへる我を導くなつかしき夫の筆あとくり返し読む

My husband is about to touch my face;

When I awake from that dream, the flickering of stars enters my eyes.

夫の手の我が(も)に触るるとして醒めし目に入るものか星のまたたき

The lullaby I croon seems to wake the child;

He croons with me while half asleep.

(Ama, p. 52)

めしか歌ふ調べに小さき子は覚むると見えず共に歌ひぬ

(『サンタフェー・ローズバーグ戦時敵国人抑留所日記』第一巻 250)

Day of Remembrance Dharma Service (February 19)

We welcome you to join us in-person at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple or via Zoom for our Sangha led Dharma Service on Sunday, February 19, the 81st Anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, authorizing what was to become the mass forced removal and incarceration of all Japanese Americans on the West Coast.

Sangha member Ron Munekawa will share a Dharma reflection inspired by his experiences playing the role of Ojiichan in the Palo Alto Players Production of Allegiance, a musical set during in the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans.

To join us via Zoom for this Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

Schedule
(Shoshinge chanting will resume on March 5)

9:00 a.m. Mindful Meditation with David Crampton

9:30 a.m. Dharma Service with talk by Ron Munekawa

10:30 a.m. Dharma Discussion

10:30 a.m. Kamishibai Storytelling by Mary Jo Kubota Sensei for Dharma School Students (LIVE IN PERSON ONLY)

BCA Bishop’s Memorial: Rev. Shinsho Hanayama’s Gift of Peaceful Facial Expressions (July 3)

Rev. Adams will share his appreciation for Rev. Shinsho Hanayama, who expressed the Buddha’s wish for peace by serving as a chaplain to the condemned inmates at the Sugamo Prison in Tokyo and by promoting greater awareness and understanding of Buddhism in the United States as Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America.

Rev. Hanayama’s memoir of his time serving as a prison chaplain.

This is part two of our summer Dharma Talk series on the Seven Gifts that Do Not Require Possessions.

The gift of peaceful and joyful facial expressions (和顏悦色施 wagen-etsujiki-se): To refrain from frowning and making angry faces even in times of difficulty.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Sangha Activity
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service

All ages are welcome to join in-person without prior registration.  Proof of full Covid-19 vaccination required for eligible individuals age 5 and older.  Up to 36 in-person attendees will be seated in the Hondo, with overflow seating available in the adjacent Social Hall.

To join us for this hybrid service via Zoom, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

“Namo Amida Butsu” Heard Throughout the World (February 6)

Rev. Hogen Fujimoto

The words “Namo Amida Butsu” are the voice of the Buddha calling us to take refuge in his awakening, wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing. Through his work in prison chaplaincy, Rev. Hogen Fujimoto brought the comfort and guidance of the Nembutsu into the lives of inmates who were seeking to direct their lives toward wisdom and compassion.

This Sunday, Rev. Adams will share the inspiration he’s received Rev. Fujimoto’s memoir Out of the Mud Grows the Lotus, and how Rev. Fujimoto’s work in the prisons reflects the 17th Vow of Amida Buddha, which affirms the Buddha’s commitment that his voice of wisdom will reach all those who seek the path to awakening:

If, when I attain Buddhahood, the countless Buddhas throughout the worlds in the ten quarters should not all glorify and praise my name, may I not attain the perfect enlightenment.

Schedule
8:30 a.m. Shoshinge Sofu Chanting (click here for chanting text)
9:00 a.m. Taiso Exercise with Juliet and Grace Bost
9:30 a.m. Dharma Service
10:30 a.m. Shotsuki Hoyo Monthly Memorial Service

To join us for this online Dharma Service, CLICK HERE to sign up for “Live Broadcast of Services”.

A Place for Awakening

This past month the San Mateo Buddhist Temple had the honor of hosting a tour group from the San Francisco Foundation that was visiting sites in North Central San Mateo to learn more about the history of our neighborhood, how it is changing, and the current challenges faced by its residents.  The tour organizers were eager to include SMBT on the tour to highlight the important role that the Japanese-American Buddhist community has played in our neighborhood over the past 120 years.

During the visit, our guests heard from four SMBT Sangha members and longtime residents of North Central about their memories of life in the neighborhood and their hopes for the future.  Each shared a moving story of how their family had overcome challenges to establish meaningful lives here in San Mateo.  I’d like to share one of those stories, as I find it particularly relevant as we prepare to observe our Bodhi Day service on Sunday, December 1, 2020, at 9:30 a.m., in celebration of Sakyamuni Buddha’s realization of enlightenment seated beneath the Bodhi Tree:

The most significant event that happened as a child was the U.S. evacuation order in Feb. 1942.  I was 6 years old then and vividly remember the black-out drills the city had where all lights in the homes and streets had to be turned off until the all-clear sirens would go off and curfews were set at 8:00 PM. 

Continue reading “A Place for Awakening”

Giving Thanks

During this month of November, we have some special opportunities to express our gratitude for all the precious gifts we receive in our lives.  On Sunday, November 17, we will observe our Eitaikyo Service, which is dedicated to grateful remembrance of those temple members whose families felt inspired to donate to the temple Eitaikyo Fund, which exists to ensure that the San Mateo Buddhist Temple will continue to be a place where we can gather to hear the Dharma and joyfully recite the Nembutsu.  On Sunday, November 24, we will hold the Shichigosan Observance at the temple for the families of children ages three, five and seven to express our gratitude and wishes for continuing healthy growth of the children.  On Thursday, November 28, many families and friends will also come together in their homes to celebrate the wonderful American holiday of Thanksgiving.

While gratitude is a theme that we return to throughout the month of November, living in the Nembutsu, we find that gratitude is a daily practice that brings peace and joy to our hearts.  One of the ways in which we cultivate gratitude in our daily lives is by pausing to join our hands in gassho and utter the word “Itadakimasu (I humbly receive)” before beginning a meal, and “Goshisosama deshita (It was feast created through great effort)” at the conclusion of the meal. 

Continue reading “Giving Thanks”

The Real McCoy

At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple on Sunday, July 7, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. we will observe our annual memorial for the past Bishops of the Buddhist Churches of America.  Throughout the history of the Buddhist Churches of America and its predecessor, the Buddhist Mission of North America, our bishops have responded to the challenges of their times, showing courageous leadership and empowering the Sangha to work tirelessly to share the joy of the Nembutsu in this land.  One of the greatest challenges faced by the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist community in North America was the mass incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War.  Following the Imperial Japanese Navy’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, organizations like the Buddhist Mission of North America that had close ties to Japan and were led by immigrants from Japan were subject to severe suspicion and hostility.

Following the mass relocation and incarceration of the Japanese American community on the West Coast in makeshift camps in desolate inland areas of the United States, an emergency Buddhist National Conference was convened in 1943 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  At that time, the decision was made to file articles of incorporation with the State of California for a new organization called the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) that would succeed the Buddhist Mission of North America.  In American Sutra, Duncan Ryuken Williams’ recently published history of Buddhism in the Japanese-American community centering on the World War II incarceration, Dr. Williams describes how a group of 47 American-born nisei leaders were chosen to sit on the board of directors that would run the BCA (p. 146).  With the support of Bishop Ryotai Matsukage, the American-born Rev. Kenryo Kumata was chosen to head the board of directors.

Under the leadership of Bishop Matsukage, Rev. Kumata had been charged with actively ministering to the younger generation of English-speaking Japanese-Americans.  He also served as the English-language spokesman for the Buddhist Mission of North America during the critical time-period at the outbreak of the war.  Bulletins and Dharma messages written by Rev. Kumata were widely distributed across the various incarceration camps, bringing comfort and guidance to those who took refuge in the Nembutsu in the midst of tremendous adversity.

I recently came across the following message written by Rev. Kumata that was circulating in October 1943 and recorded in the Denson YBA Bulletin, a publication of the Young Buddhist Association at the incarceration camp in Jerome, Arkansas:

 

DENSON YBA BULLETIN, Vol. I, No. 2, Oct. 3, 1943

Hidden Qualities

Many of us can find agreement in saying that “tempura” is indeed a tasty dish. Once in a while, the enjoyment lies in guessing what is covered by the “koromo”* and in the anticipation of finding your guess come true.  But the “koromo” itself does not constitute the whole of the meal; the essence lies in what is underneath.  Just so, no matter how glittering and beautiful a trinket may look, it is still a trinket, a bauble, and may not be classed as a jewel unless the innards are of the same quality as the surface.  In other words, it must be “solid”, or “sterling”.  Superficial education, sophistication and all may pass for the “real McCoy” once in a while, but cannot compare with true wisdom and humility; qualities which are endowed upon those with Faith in the spiritual guidance of the Buddha. —Rev. Kenryo Kumata

http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc_35_1_00261330ta.txt

*koromo: a batter coating; koromo may also refer to robes and clothing, often used to refer to the robes worn by Buddhist priests.

 

Reading Rev. Kumata’s words over 75 years later, I am in awe of his ability to provide a profound and impactful Dharma message with striking economy of language.  Writing messages for wide distribution at a time when paper and printing would have been precious resources for his community, he was able to make every word count.  He manages to evoke the comfort and fond recollection of delicious food and family gatherings for readers who were likely subsisting on cafeteria-style meals that lacked the flavors of Japanese home-cooking and the intimacy of the family dinner table.  Writing in the vernacular of the youth of his day, incorporating everyday examples and slang expressions like the “real McCoy,” Rev. Kumata’s message conveys the penetrating depth of Buddhist faith, or shinjin, which is the essence of Shinran Shonin’s Nembutsu teaching.

The tireless efforts of wise and dedicated leaders like Bishop Matsukage and Rev. Kumata created the circumstances for me to hear the Nembutsu here in the United States.  Thanks to their leadership, we enjoy a thriving BCA Sangha and the San Mateo Buddhist Temple continues to be a place where we gather to encounter the Buddha’s heart of great compassion in our daily lives.  Reflecting on their legacy, I can only join my palms in gassho, bow my head in gratitude, and say “Namo Amida Butsu.”

 

How like the voices of the Buddha

At the San Mateo Buddhist Temple, October is the month in which we celebrate Buddhist women of the Nembutsu, including Shinran Shonin’s wife Eshinni and their youngest daughter Kakushinni, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the joy of the Nembutsu would be passed on to future generations. During our Sunday Services this month we will be learning about important women poets of the Nembutsu, including Mrs. Wariko Kai and Mrs. Misuzu Kaneko, who were active in Japan during the early part of the twentieth century.

Mrs. Tomoe Tana, the wife of Rev. Daisho Tana who served as the first assigned minister to the San Mateo Buddhist Temple from 1952-1955, was an inspiring poet of the Nembutsu writing here in the United States. Mrs. Tana was born in Hokkaido in 1913 as the daughter of a Buddhist priest. She married Rev. Tana in 1937 and moved to the United States in 1938, where they lived in Berkeley and then Lompoc.

Continue reading “How like the voices of the Buddha”