MAUI WILDFIRES MEMORIAL SERVICE
On Sunday, Sept. 24, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii hosted a beautiful memorial service for the victims of the Maui wildfires. Held at Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin and broadcasted via Zoom, the attendees came together to honor all those who suffered great loss. Aligned with Buddhist tradition, the memorial service took place 49 days after the wildfires first occurred on Maui. The 49 days represent the mourning period that is then followed by rebirth. The service was rich with a united spirit of compassion and love.
Following the prelude number “Hearing the Name” sung by the Honpa Hongwanji Choir, the memorial service opened with the ringing of the temple bell and the entry of the ministers. Rev. Blayne Nakasone Sakata, the emcee of the service, welcomed all in attendance followed by Rev. Tomo Hojo’s welcoming address. Representing the State Ministers Association and the Maui Ministers Association, Rev. Hojo expressed his heartfelt condolences and sympathy for the people of Maui as well as his gratitude for the attendees who came to show their support. He implored attendees to listen carefully to the messages that were to be shared.
The opening chant, “Sanbujo,” was led by Rev. Jeffrey Soga and Rev. Eric Matsumoto. Sanbujo translates to “Three Respectful Callings,” as the lyrics call upon Buddha to scatter flowers and joy at a place of worship. The words of aspiration were then given by Bishop Toshiyuki Umitani. He acknowledged the indescribable devastation experienced by the people of Maui and related it to the truth of impermanence. He highlighted the vow of great compassion and emphasized the importance of joining hands and walking the path of the Nembutsu. After the words of aspiration, Bishop Umitani led the sutra chanting of “Juseige.” Rev. Hojo, Rev. Hironaka and Dr. Warren Tamamoto were then called upon to offer incense. Memorial messages by Bishop Umitani and Rev. Ai Hironaka were shared after.
Bishop Umitani conveyed his sincere heartbreak for everyone affected by the Maui wildfires. He described the bittersweet memory of the Lahaina Hongwanji temple and the goodness it had spread on Maui; “The town was always filled with laughter, music from stores and restaurants, birds chirping, and families and friends spending their peaceful time together.” He spoke of the disbelief he felt when he visited Lahāinā and saw the desolation with his own eyes. Bishop Umitani reminded the audience that Buddha grasps and never abandons. He extended the invitation to reach out a caring hand and help our friends on Maui by standing with them. He closed by firmly restating a message of hope for the future; “Though the light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists, beneath the clouds and mists, there is brightness, not dark.”
Rev. Hironaka recounted his personal experiences and struggles to persevere through the pain. He shared his deepest condolences for the loss of a family friend and expressed the sorrow he felt for his community. From the absence of shoes on Lahainaluna football players, to the bullying his daughter faced at a temporary new school, to shiny pictures in frames in unaffected homes, Rev. Hironaka was painfully reminded of his and others’ immense loss and the feelings of overwhelming sadness and emptiness that accompanied it. He displayed a picture of the Lahaina Hongwanji temple as it stood up in flames, its last moments of holding strong and protecting the Dharma Buddha statue. He compared it to a child, expressing his desire to comfort it and let it go, let it rest. Despite all the loss, he shared his newfound hope, thanks to the unconditional support of Buddha. He closed by passionately stating his determination to rebuild the temple just as strong as it once was in hopes of honoring its legacy and continuing the work of Buddha.
Before the closing remarks, Gathas “Ondokusan II” and “Gratefulness II” were sung. After the “Nembutsu,” Rev. Sakata closed the meeting by offering his thanks to everyone involved in the Maui Wildfires Memorial Service.
Taking the wise counsel that was shared, we can move forward together with hope as we support one another.
To donate to the HHMH Maui Wildfire Relief Fund, please visit hongwanjihawaii.com/donate/. To watch the memorial service, please visit the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Youtube channel, youtube.com/c/honpahongwanjihawaiibetsuin.
-Written by Kanani Annandale
YUSHINKAI FALL LUNCHEON
The Yushinkai, which is the Urasenke Hawaii’s women’s leaders tea group, held its fall luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 19 at the 100th Infantry Battalion Clubhouse in Honolulu. Urasenke is one of the three major schools of Japanese tea all of which are based on the art of mindfully preparing matcha tea for one’s guests and accepting that tea as a guest. The moving spirit of Japanese tea ceremony is founded on the principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Dr. Genshitsu Sen, previous Urasenke grandmaster bestowed the name, “Yushinkai” upon the group, founded in 1989 by former Hawai‘i First Lady Jean Ariyoshi. According to Urasenke, Yushinkai remains the only women’s leaders tea group in the world today.
The Yushinkai has supported and participated in many local tea ceremonies. In addition to numerous events at the Japanese Consulate, in 2019, the Yushinkai honored Hawai‘i Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald by performing a beautiful ritual tea ceremony at the Hawai‘i Supreme Court courtroom. Moreover, Yushinkai assisted in the Urasenke 70th anniversary Zoom conference between Kyoto and Honolulu, which was held in December 2021. The international health and nursing leaders were honored with a tea ceremony at their 2022 Alliance of Global Neonatal Nursing conference. Most recently in July 2023, Yushinkai hosted the Okenchashiki (sacred tea ceremony) at the historic Kawaiaha‘o Church as a prayer for world peace. Dr. Sen performed the traditional tea ceremony in the sanctuary of the church in commemoration of his 100th birthday. The Yushinkai maintains close relationships with the Japanese Consulate, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, the Urasenke Foundation Hawaii and many Urasenke organizations in Japan.
The fall luncheon was hosted by Yushinkai member, Lynn Heirakuji, former president of the Nisei Veterans Legacy, who remarked on the renowned war and post-war battles of Hawai‘i’s WWII Nisei soldiers. Jan Sakoda, president of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans organization, also gave Yushinkai members a personal and informative tour of the historic 100th Infantry Battalion Clubhouse. She explained how the 100th Infantry Battalion, which was originally comprised of 1,432 Nisei soldiers from Hawai’i, would later be nicknamed the Purple Heart Battalion due its extraordinarily high number of casualties. Yushinkai members appreciated learning about the historical significance of the Nisei soldiers and veterans who gave so much to their American homeland.
Future events for the Yushinkai include the momentous awarding of the Urasenke Chadö Culture Award to Ariyoshi for her 30-plus years of contributions to Urasenke. This is the highest honor awarded to an individual or organization for spreading the message of Urasenke Chadö in Japan and abroad — It is rarely given. Ariyoshi will be traveling to Kyöto this fall together with Dr. Elizabeth Keith, president of Yushinkai, to receive the special award.
BUNKA NO HI
The Hilo-based Japanese Community Association of Hawaii (JCAH) is sponsoring its Japanese Culture Day or Bunka No Hi, on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Sangha Hall from 10 a.m. to 1:30 pm. This year’s event is themed “Genki.” Admission is free.
“We are so pleased that the community can once again enjoy Japanese Culture Day, as our last in-person event was in 2019,” said Lincoln Ashida, JCAH president.
The festivities will kick off with a short Omikoshi parade starting at the Aupuni Center on Kilauea Avenue and ending at Sangha Hall at 9:30 a.m. The mikoshi is a portable shrine, which is carried during many festivals in Japan. AJA Veteran Isamu Kanekuni, age 101, who served in the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, will be the grand marshal.
The Bunka No Hi program begins at 10 a.m. at Sangha Hall, where Japanese Community Association of Hawaii members 90 years and older will be honored. The featured entertainer is Dazzman “Dazz” Toguchi, a Yonsei (fourth-generation Okinawan American) and master of Ryukyu Buyo (Okinawan dance) and Nihon Shinbuyo (Japanese dance) who has graced the stages around the world, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Hall in New York. Puna Taiko will be performing Shishimai, a traditional Japanese lion dance.
The program also includes performances by Taishoji Taiko and Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko and demonstrations by Hilo Hongwanji Judo; Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido; and Zen Archery by Russell Ogata, formerly of Pahala. Pa‘auilo native Pieper Toyama, author of “Family Stories from the Plantation and Beyond,” will be telling stories and signing books.
Other displays and demos include shibori with Kim Springer, tea ceremony, washi chigiri-e, bonsai and ikebana. Experienced calligraphers will be on hand to write your name or message for a fee. KTA and Big Island Docs are providing an on-site vaccination clinic from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. inside Sangha Hall. Food concessions and a limited number of event T-shirts will also be available for sale.
The Japanese Community Association of Hawaii is a nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 400 families. The JCAH was formed 51 years ago to promote and perpetuate the Japanese culture and arts in east Hawai‘i and to foster international relationships with Japanese citizens and organizations. For more information or to join, visit www.jcah.org.