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Buddhist Church of Sacramento Celebrating 125th Anniversary

It’s Second-Oldest Jodo Shinshu Temple in the United States


In 2024, the Buddhist Church of Sacramento is celebrating its 125th anniversary. 


A pillar in the community, the Buddhist Church of Sacramento will mark this auspicious occasion in the upcoming months with special Dharma services and activities, as well as annual traditions such as Obon dancing and the summer food and cultural bazaar. Other events include Sakura Matsuri Food and Shopping Faire, Cars and Coffee event, and the 125th Anniversary Dinner on Nov. 23.


Founded on Dec. 17, 1899, the temple is the second-oldest Jodo Shinshu temple in America. (The oldest temple is the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, which was originally called Bukkyo Seinenkai, when it was incorporated on May 26, 1899.)


Two ministers from Japan — Revs. Shuye Sonoda and Kakuryo Nishijima — established the Sacramento temple. The first minister, Rev. Ryotetsu Harada, served from 1900-1903.


Serving as a haven from discrimination and segregation for first- and second-generation Japanese Americans, the temple also provided a religious and cultural center, and a place of community for those early immigrants.


Today, the Sangha has grown in diversity with people from different backgrounds, nationalities, and genders. Preschoolers to senior citizens take part in a variety of programs — religious, educational, cultural, social, and recreational.  


With teachings based on equality, compassion, and acceptance, the temple continues to provide a spiritual and cultural center benefiting its Sangha and the community as a whole.


The temple supports, and is involved in many community projects, including My Sister’s House, Pride Parade, Fundraiser for Ukraine Relief, Loaves and Fishes, and the Sacramento Interfaith Council. 


Coinciding with the temple’s 125th anniversary, other related groups are recognizing their own milestones in 2024:


  • The Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is commemorating its founding 125 years ago. 

  • Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Troop 50, and Cub Scouts Pack 50, both sponsored by the Buddhist Church of Sacramento, are celebrating their founding 100 and 50 years ago, respectively. 

  • The Betsuin Sports Program 50th annual basketball tournament returned in March. (The program shuttered after their last tournament in 2020 due to the pandemic.)


The Buddhist Church of Sacramento was established 125 years ago at 1221 Third St. in the heart of Sacramento’s Japantown. 


The Sangha quickly outgrew the original hall and built a new temple at 418 O St., a facility that played a pivotal role in the city’s history.


During World War II, the church was vacated after hundreds of members were incarcerated in relocation centers because of their Japanese ancestry. The U.S. Army then moved in, setting up an administrative unit on church grounds. 


After the war ended, the temple served as temporary quarters for people returning from the camps intent on rebuilding their lives.


In 1958, the city’s Redevelopment Project relocated the temple to its present site at 2401 Riverside Blvd., with the building dedicated in 1959. 


The temple’s diverse membership has grown to more than 700 families with Rev. Yuki Sugahara serving as Rimban, head of the temple, and Rev. Matt Hamasaki as the Resident Minister. 


During one of his recent Dharma talks, Rev. Hamasaki shared his thoughts on the 125th anniversary’s tagline: “Compassion. Culture. Community.”


Rev. Hamasaki said: “We continue to have this wonderful temple because we have the efforts of all those before us. And with that comes a responsibility to continue the traditions of compassion, culture, and community. 


“It’s up to us to make all of these things alive,” Rev. Hamasaki continued. “It’s up to us to make all of these things continue and without our conscious effort, they will not survive. It’s only because so many people tried so hard to keep this temple going that we were able to make it for 125 years.”


For more information on the Buddhist Church of Sacramento and its 125th anniversary activities, visit www.buddhistchurch.org.

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Two ministers from Japan — Revs. Shuye Sonoda and Kakuryo Nishijima — established the Sacramento temple. drift boss

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