Memories of San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s First Obon

By Susan (Kawakita) Kwong

Hearing my mom reminisce of how she and a handful of her friends started Obon at San Mateo Buddhist Temple, it quickly caught my attention and found it my mission to contact her friends and listen to their stories. Wish I had known years earlier since I was only able to obtain a few people’s memories. Was quite interesting and wanted to share this story since our Obon is around the corner. Thank you, Mrs. Wada, Mrs. Hashimoto, and mom for reminiscing about San Mateo Buddhist Temple’s first Obon.

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Panelists: Miyuki Friedman, Toshinori Saiki, and Akira Uramoto

Japanese Language Session: the Food and the Dharma

The Food and the Sangha at SMBT Bazaar

Panelists: Grace Kanomata, Donald Lee, and Carrie Yoshimoto

Everyone’s favorite topic! Discover the history of some of our favorite SMBT bazaar food items.

The Buddhas Little Children at SMBT Bazaar

Panelists: Wesley Mukai, Hishi Oto, Roy Suruki, and Yuko Suruki

Hear a conversation about the significance of the bazaar and the temple in the lives of children.

Creating the Space at SMBT Bazaar

Panelists: Rodger Fujinaga, Victor Iwamura, Suzy Lee, and William Tsukida

Learn more about what goes into preparing for bazaar and efforts to carry on cherished traditions.

The History of SMBT Bazaar

Panelists: Ritsuko Furuya, Michiko Mukai and Ruth Wada

Hear memories of the early days of the SMBT bazaar and temple life from long-serving members.

Living as a Buddhist in a Christian Society

Voices of the Nembutsu Echoing in America, No. 5

From Hongwanji Journal, No. 3366, Thursday, February 20, 2020

(Translation by H. Adams)

Michael Ishikawa (age 57) is a third generation Japanese American.  Apart from the two days a week when he receives dialysis treatments, he begins each morning by chanting Shoshinge at the obutsudan Buddha shrine in his home in San Mateo, California.  On Sundays, he also attends services at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple.

              He says, “Shoshinge is the most important chanting practice for me.  I find the opening lines ‘I take refuge in the Tathagata of Immeasurable Life! / I entrust myself to the Buddha of Inconceivable Light!’ to be deeply meaningful.  To me, these words contain Shinran Shonin’s feeling of gratitude toward Amida Tathagata.  I deeply appreciate the heart of Shinran Shonin who expresses his gratitude to Amida Tathagata at the start of the Shoshinge.”

              Born to Christian parents, Mr. Ishikawa was baptized as a young child.  He attended church until the age of sixteen but did not feel at home with the Christian teachings. 

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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. 

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Dharma School Teacher Interview: Mrs. Yuko Suruki, San Mateo Buddhist Temple

This interview by Rev. Ryuta Furumoto originally appeared in the Japanese section of the Wheel of Dharma BCA Newsletter in September 2016. Rev. Adams translated it into English so that our English-speaking readers could enjoy hearing from one of our most energetic Sangha members.


For this month’s interview I spoke to Mrs. Yuko Suruki, a Dharma School teacher at the San Mateo Buddhist Temple.

In this interview, we hear from a Dharma School teacher who is working to share the Buddhadharma with the children who will carry the Buddhist Churches of America into the next generation. I was particularly interested in Mrs. Suruki’s perspective as an English-Japanese bilingual Dharma School teacher who knows the cultures of both the United States and Japan.


Where were you born?

Toyama, Japan


Toyama is known as a place where Jodo Shinshu Buddhism thrives. Does your family in Japan belong to a Jodo Shinshu temple?

Yes, my father is the second son of a temple priest, so our family is Jodo Shinshu Buddhist. My father worked as a school teacher and did not become a priest, but I recall that whenever I visited the temple where my father grew up I would run around in the temple and the grounds playing with my cousins. However, I wasn’t a very serious student of the Dharma back then and wouldn’t chant the sutras every day at home.
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