Soto Mission of Hawaii Hosts Ministers’ Children from Japan

Jodie Chiemi Ching
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Photo of Byodo-in at the Valley of the Temples in Käne‘ohe, which was another stop on the students’ itinerary.
Byodo-in at the Valley of the Temples in Käne‘ohe was another stop on the students’ itinerary.

Hawai‘i’s Japanese American community has come a long way since 1903 when Soto Zen priests first arrived in the Islands to provide spiritual support to the immigrants working under harsh conditions on the sugar plantations. When World War II broke out, the community again turned to their Soto Zen temple. In the more than a century since the first immigrants arrived, the Soto Mission of Hawaii has continued to support its members and the community.

Photo of the students after a mass at St. Augustine by the Sea Catholic Church in Waikïkï.
The students observed a mass at St. Augustine by the Sea Catholic Church in Waikïkï.

“In order for the temple, even today, to survive, [it] needs to serve, not only the members, but also the community,” explained Bishop Shugen Komagata of the Soto Mission of Hawaii. “If the temple is not functional and beneficial for the community, then we don’t need the temple,” he continued.

But Soto Mission of Hawai‘i’s influence also extends beyond the local community. Last December, the mission partnered with Soto Zen International in hosting five students whose fathers are Soto Zen ministers — three boys and two girls. The students came from different parts of Japan. The program is known as SZI Kaigai Totei Kenshu (SZI Overseas Ministers’ Children’s Workshop).

The students were accompanied by the Rev. Kenji Oyama, vice abbot of the Seiryuji Soto Zen Temple in Yamagata Prefecture. He served as the group’s leader and chaperone in Hawai‘i. It was a homecoming of sorts for the 42-year-old Oyama, who was born in Hawai‘i and lived in Waipahu until 1989. During his freshman year in high school, his father, the Rev. Yodo Oyama, then-resident minister of the Taiyoji Soto Zen Temple in Waipahu, returned to Japan to lead a Soto Zen temple in Chiba ken. Rev. The elder Rev. Oyama is now a minister in Akita Prefecture.

To read the rest of this article, please subscribe to The Herald!

Photo of Rev. Kenji Oyama and his students in his old hometown, Waipahu
Rev. Kenji Oyama took the visiting students to his old hometown, Waipahu, where they visited with Taiyoji Soto Zen Mission’s current minister, the Rev. Ryosho Kokuzo, and temple members. Kneeling, from left: Carol Oyama, Rev. Kenji Oyama and Keietsu Fukushima. Second row: Lillian Sakamoto, Ryuko Kokuzo (minister’s wife) Rei Asai, Fuko Ikeda, Yuta Tamiya, Tesshu Kameno and Rev. Ryosho Kokuzo. Third row: Rev. Tazawa and Rev. Konno, who were on a short study visit to the Soto Mission of Hawaii while training to become ministers, and Taiyoji member Linda Unten. (Carol Oyama and Rev. Kenji Oyama are not related; however, as a child, she was like an aunty to Oyama and his siblings. In fact, they always referred to her as “Aunty Carol.”)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here