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West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission celebrates 25 years

HANAPEPE — More than 100 people, including special out of town guests the Rev. Eric Matsumoto, bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission; Warren Tamamoto, president of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i; and the Rev. Shindo Nishiyama gathered on Sunday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission, and the dedication of the statue of Shinran Shonin, the founder of Shin Buddhism.

Bathed in the north winds blowing off the Kalaheo plateau, the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission represents the consolidation of three former Buddhist churches: Hanapepe, Waimea and Koloa, in order to cope with the aging and depopulation in the West Kaua‘i region with the goal of promoting Buddhist education more efficiently and gaining new membership.

“The members who founded those temples more than a hundred years ago were strangers to this land,” said Tamamoto.

“They knew little or no English and were brought here primarily as a source of labor for the plantations. Living conditions and pay were very poor. However, they were able to overcome these hardships and build the temples we enjoy today.” Tamamoto said.

”We are humbled and grateful for their perseverance through extremely
difficult times. Over time, as temple membership
decreased, you made changes that were necessary to assure a brighter future for your temple,” he told members.

Initial talks about the consolidation started in 1995, and following more than a year of meetings, discussions and planning, the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission was incorporated in 1996 with the full consolidation of the three temples taking place on Jan. 1, 2011.

“We experienced the big challenge consolidating the three temples in 1996,” said Ralph Fujinaka, president of the WKHM. “Each temple has more than a hundred years of histories. This required many discussions, efforts and patience. Through this experience, we are able to sustain our temples and pass the joy of Nembutsu to the next generation.”

Waimea Hongwanji, celebrating its centennial on Oct. 23, 2010, started its history after the foundation of the mission was moved from Kekaha to its present site on Menehune Road in Waimea.

Koloa was a plantation community with a large Japanese population. These people formed a religious group called the Jugonichi Ko, or the 15 Day Group, meeting at each other’s homes for religious services. Eventually, they felt the need for a temple, and ground was broken on Feb. 10, 1910. Koloa Hongwanji Mission celebrated its 80th anniversary in 1990.

Four years later, on March 30, 1994, a fire destroyed the temple. The booths that were renovated into classrooms for the church’s 75th anniversary were sold to The Koloa Early School for its preschool education program. On April 18, 2010, Koloa Hongwanji celebrated its centennial, and then closed in July 2010 following its last bon dance.

Hanapepe Hongwanji started in March 1909 with services being provided for residents in ‘Ele‘ele, Wahiawa, Niumila, Port Allen and Makaweli. During the 1930s, the realignment of Kuhio Highway took up the entire front lawn of the church, and a decision was made to relocate to Hanapepe where Sunday school classes were held, a Japanese language cchool started, the Fujinkai and the Young Buddhist Association were reactivated. Hanapepe Hongwanji celebrated its centennial on March 1, 2009.

“There have been many periods of joy and sorrow during the past years, and there will be many memorable moments to experience in the years to come,” said the Rev. Tomo Hojo, the West Kaua‘i Hongwanji Mission resident minister.

“Former ministers and members were living with the Nembutsu and guiding us to the same path. Now, it is our turn to listen to the Dharma and share these wonderful teachings to the next generation. I believe that this 25th anniversary is a stepping stone to the next 25, 50 and 100 years to share Shinran Shonin’s teachings.”


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

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