Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations
The Buddhist Women’s Association (BWA) or Fujinkai is the women’s organization of the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha temples all over the world.
History in Japan
The Buddhist Women’s Association was founded in Japan in the early 20th century by Takeko Kujō (1887–1928), a daughter of Koson Ohtani, the 21st monshu (head abbot) of the Nishi Hongwanji-ha. Takeko Kujo was in her early twenties at the time she founded the Fujinkai. She also founded Asoka Hospital, one of Japan’s first modern medical centers. She died in Tokyo, Japan, after contracting an illness during her charitable work in the city’s slums following the Great Kanto Earthquake. BWA chapters began to be established in every Jodo Shinshu temple in Japan, and later in the United States and other overseas areas as many Japanese began emigrating in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The BWA in the United States is an auxiliary organization of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), the mainland United States branch of the Nishi Hongwanji-ha.
History in the United States
The first BWA in the United States was established in San Francisco in 1900, just months after the arrival of Rev. Shuye Sonoda and Rev. Kakuryo Nishijima, who arrived in the U.S. from Japan to promote the Buddha Dharma.
After World War II, Lady Yoshiko Ohtani (Ourakata or Sosei) (1918–2000), the spouse of the 23rd Monshu, Kosho Ohtani, visited many temples in Japan and around the world and worked to revive the association. Many BWA chapters observe an annual service in her memory to commemorate her dedication to Buddhism.
The Monshu and Ourakata made their first observation tour of the BCA at the end of November 1951. On the occasion of the visit and with Lady Ohtani in attendance, the organizational meeting of all of the BCA Buddhist Women’s Associations (later to be called the National Federation of Buddhist Women’s Associations) was held in San Francisco on February 16, 1952. More than 500 delegates from Buddhist Women’s Associations throughout California and out-of-state representatives from Denver and Seattle convened for this auspicious convention.
During the conference, the final drafts of the Federation constitution and bylaws were adopted, and an organizational resolution was issued as follows:
We shall constantly pursue the Buddha Dharma in order to follow a righteous way of life.
We shall mutually endeavor to establish a bright family and social atmosphere by living a life of Nembutsu.
We shall unite our efforts in order to promote Buddhism in America.
The election of officers followed, and the election results were:
President, Kikuye Yamate, San Francisco
Vice President, Shinobu Matsuura, Berkeley
Vice President, Yoshiko Yamakawa, San Jose
Mrs. Ichikawa, Seattle
Mrs. Morimoto, Ontario
Mrs. Tamari, Los Angeles
Mrs. Tsunoda, Denver
Mrs. Takaji, Watsonville
Mrs. Unno, Guadalupe
Mrs. Yoshida, Sacramento
Mrs. Sasaki, Sacramento
The first actions taken by this Federation were:
To offer financial aid to the Monterey Fujinkai which had been preparing lunches for the Japanese-American soldiers in the service of their country stationed at Fort Ord.
To send Mrs. Shinobu Matsuura as a representative to the 2nd World Buddhist Conference to be held in Tokyo on September 24, 1952.
To publish a Federation Paper called “Hasu no Hana” (Lotus Flower); only two issues were actually published.
The BCA Federation of the Buddhist Women’s Associations (FBWA) is a member of the World Federation of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha Buddhist Women’s Associations.
BWA chapters are organized into eight regional groups called districts. They are:
Bay (San Francisco Bay)
Eastern (United States)
Northwest (United States)
The leadership for FBWA rotates every two years among the eight districts of BCA. The host district is responsible for hosting a national conference biennially, and a representatives’ meeting in the alternate years.
The president of the FBWA sits on the Board of Directors of BCA and has a vote at the BCA National Council meetings.
Youth Exchange Program
The 3rd World Buddhist Women’s Federation Conference held in Hawaii in 1967 passed a resolution to inaugurate a U.S.-Japan Exchange Young Buddhist Association (YBA) Program, and the means to implement the program was resolved at the 4th World Buddhist Women’s Conference held in 1970 in Kyoto. The said program was first realized between the FBWA and the Japan Buddhist Women’s Federation in 1971. Today, two young women from the U.S. travel to Japan, and in alternate years, two young women from Japan visit the U.S. to experience the Buddha Dharma.
What BWA’s Do
The FBWA lives the Buddha Dharma through its Dana which supports such worthy projects as the Institute for Buddhist Studies’ Ministerial Student Scholarship Fund, the Center for Buddhist Education, and the Federation of Dharma School Teachers’ League. Many BWA chapters sponsor Dharma lectures, conferences, and other enjoyable social activities for all temple members. BWA members also visit members who are physically unable to attend temple services. The BWA plays an important role in the practice and transmission of traditional Buddhist values such as compassion, community, and gratitude for others.