The Buddhist Women’s Association in Hawaii recently hosted Fukumi Tajima from the Miyazaki-kyoku Miyakonojo-so Zenchoji in Miyazaki, Japan, as part of an annual exchange program conducted by the World Federation of Buddhist Women’s Association. The association alternates participant visits to Hawai‘i and Japan: One year, the Hawai‘i group hosts two women from Japan, and the next year, Japan hosts two women from Hawai‘i. Similar exchanges are held between Japan and Buddhist temples on the U.S. mainland, Canada and Brazil. The purpose of the exchange is to provide opportunities for the participants to learn about the women’s associations in each location, their mission, activities, the local culture, traditions and lifestyle.

Tajima, who is 22, works as a dispatcher for a Japanese company that provides personal errand services and assistance to people. It was her first trip outside of Japan. She said her minister encouraged her to participate in the program.

Tajima was in Hawai‘i from July 29 to Aug. 5. She visited a number of Hongwanji temples, including the Hawaii Betsuin, Moiliili, Jikoen, Kailua, Aiea, Pearl City Waipahu, Ewa, Mililani and Wahiawa temples. She also spent two days on Kaua‘i.

Tajima visited the Hawai‘i Herald/Hawaii Hochi offices, accompanied by Rev. Shindo Nishiyama of Jikoen Hongwanji Mission and his wife Suzie, who assisted with translation.
Tajima said she was more active with her temple in Japan when she was younger. Many of the temples in Japan have activities and Sunday school programs for children, but few activities for older students and adults. She found Hawai‘i to be very different, noting that the Hawai‘i BWA is an active organization with members participating in many church activities.

Tajima said she attended the Waialua Hongwanji bon dance and enjoyed herself. She was also impressed that BWA members were very active in volunteering in all aspects of the bon dance. She also got the chance to sample local foods at the bon dances. Tajima noted that temples in Japan do not hold bon dances. They are held as a town festival or a farmer’s market.

She also observed that Hawai‘i’s ministers are assigned to their temples by the bishop. She said that in Japan, temple leadership is passed on through the family bloodline.
Before leaving Japan, Tajima and other participants attended a two-day orientation session in Kyöto and a convention in Hokkaidö. She kept a daily journal while in Hawai‘i and planned to use it for her evaluation and report after returning to Japan.

Tajima said she found people in Hawai‘i to be very friendly, even to strangers, and she was moved by Hawai‘i’s aloha spirit. She said she liked that people flashed a shaka sign so readily, whereas in Japan, they would bow. She enjoyed the taste of lomi salmon and kalua pork, but she’s not sure about poi.

Tajima said if there were one thing she observed while in Hawai‘i that she would encourage her temple in Miyazaki to consider, it would be to create activities for older students and adults.

“In Japan, Sunday school is only for kids. When you graduate, you stop going to temple. Only after you get married and have kids do you go back to temple. So [adults] don’t have activities or a reason to go back to temple unless they have kids,” she said.

Rev. Nishiyama explained that temples in Japan do not hold regular Sunday services. People visit the church only on certain occasions and religious holidays, such as rededication services for spring and autumn.

Asked whether experiencing Hawai‘i’s BWA activities will encourage her to be more active in her temple, Tajima said, “I will try.”


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