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Kapa‘a Hongwanji celebrates 100 years

KAPA‘A — The Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday with a special commemorative service officiated by Honpa Honwanji Mission of Hawai‘i Bishop Eric Matsumoto.

More than a hundred years ago, the first-generation immigrants arrived from Japan, settling in different parts of Kaua‘i to work on the plantations. Their arrival in Hawai‘i was accompanied by Shin Buddhism that celebrated its first Jodo Shinshu Buddhist service in the kingdom on March 3, 1889, making it one of the oldest continuous living Buddhist traditions in America.

“Many settled on the Eastside of the island in the towns of Kealia and Kapa‘a. They faced a difficult life working on the plantations with meager wages and poor housing,” said the Rev. Mieko Majima of the Kapa‘a Hongwanji.

“Despite these hardships, the first generation never forgot their Jodo Shinshu upbringing. During the early years, they met at homes to organize their mission and, later, though their relentless effort, a temple was established in Kapa‘a in 1922 where they could continue to gather and listen to the Dharma, or the teaching of Buddhism,” she said.

Matsumoto received support and help from Majima and previous ministers who tenured at the Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission. That included the Rev. Tomo Hojo, who coordinated the centennial observance, the Rev. Kazunori Takahashi, who now serves at the Hilo
Betsuin, the Rev. Shinkai Murakami and the Rev. Kosho Yagi, who recently took over as the minister at the Lihu‘e Hongwanji Mission.

Kapa‘a Hongwanji, one of about three dozen churches affiliated with the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i, first sprouted as the Kealia Hongwanji’s Fukyojo branch in 1910 before becoming independent after its first temple was constructed in September 1922 on land leased from the County of Kaua‘i, with the Rev. Yoshio Ito taking charge for a year.

The temple was destroyed by a fire in 1929, leading to three parcels of land being purchased from the Territory of Hawai‘i, where the Young Buddhists of America hall was constructed, and a new temple built in 1938.

World War II brought difficult times to Buddhist ministers in Hawai‘i, and in December 1941, the Rev. Hironori Nishie was sent to a relocation camp on the mainland. During his absence, Jihei Miura was elected to care for the temple’s butsudan when all facilities were used by the United States Army as officers’ headquarters. This was a time when all properties belonging to Kapa‘a Hongwanji were deeded to the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i.

In 1974, the Kealia Hongwanji closed, and its 30 members became part of the Kapa‘a Hongwanji, along with Buddhists in Kilauea and Hanalei.

“We are truly grateful to the founders and members of Kapa‘a Hongwanji Mission, and pay tribute to their many accomplishments over the century,” Majima said. “Let us not forget these members and friends, who have been strong role models for all of us, and continue their legacy to the next generation.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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