Sangha members and friends from the Buddhist Temple of San Diego (BTSD) and Vista Buddhist Temple (VBT) gathered for a one-day trip to Los Angeles on Aug. 5 in what some felt was a “once in a lifetime experience.”
The itinerary included a visit to the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo for the Ireicho stamping project, the musical “Peace On Your Wings” at the Aratani Theatre, and participating in the Gardena Buddhist Church’s Bon Odori.
Big smiles and chatter filled the air as 54 passengers boarded the bus from their respective temples for the all-day excursion.
The first stop was at JANM in Little Tokyo for the stamping of the Ireicho or the record of Consoling Spirits Register. The group was greeted by Karen Kano, Ireicho Project Specialist and Gallery Educator at JANM. Kano provided a brief introduction to the project, then assisted everyone with the stamping of names.
The majority of participants had the opportunity to stamp names of family members in the sacred book that contains over 125,000 names of Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II.
For Ruth Voorhies, the oldest traveler in the group at age 100, the chance to remember her immediate family members and herself with the stamp was special.
“It was a very interesting experience. I really enjoyed it,” Voorhies said. “I was thankful to at least stamp the names of my mother and brother.”
Each guest had the honor to stamp the “Next Unmarked Name” in the book. JANM’s goal is for every single name in the book to be acknowledged at least once by a visitor. In addition, the project gives families the opportunity to stamp the names of their ancestors and relatives.
Many thanks to Kano, Nicky Woo and the JANM staff for accommodating the San Diego and Vista groups. A special thank you is extended to Amy Watanabe of Nakatomi Public Relations in Los Angeles for helping arrange the visitation to JANM.
“I hope to go back again so I can stamp more of my relatives,” Voorhies added.
After the Ireicho stamping, everyone had a chance to spend several hours having lunch, shopping, and exploring Little Tokyo.
Then, it was on to the Aratani Theatre for a matinee performance of “Peace On Your Wings.” The Ohana Arts youth theater company, based in Honolulu, brought its revival production of its signature musical to Los Angeles for the first time since its debut in 2015.
Inspired by the life of a young Japanese girl, and carrying a message of global peace, the story is set in post-war Japan in the 1950s, and is based on the courageous story of Sadako Sasaki, with the musical following the lives of junior high school students in Hiroshima.
At age 2, Sasaki fell victim to the horrific atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukemia. When learning about Sasaki’s illness, the children’s lives and tenuous bonds with each other seemed to unravel. But Sasaki’s struggle and dreams for a better tomorrow teach her friends about courage, love and peace.
Following the Japanese tradition which says folding 1,000 origami cranes grants a wish, Sasaki and her friends embarked on a mission to fold the paper cranes to bring her back to good health. Her efforts became an international symbol for peace, inspiring a youth movement to have a memorial built in Hiroshima honoring all child victims.
Although knowing that she would not survive, Sasaki, along with the help of her friends, folded over 1,000 paper cranes before she passed away on Oct. 25, 1955 at the age of 12.
The message that Sadako shared with her friends in her young life was the teaching of “ichigo ichie,” a Japanese phrase that expresses the concept of treasuring a moment in time.
The final leg of the day’s activities was a stop at the Gardena Buddhist Church to participate in its Bon Odori. The bus arrived at Gardena about 15 minutes before the start of the odori. Everyone put on their blue (San Diego) and yellow (Vista) temple happi coats and headed for the dance circle.
Although the group danced for only 55 minutes, everyone enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the last Southern District Bon Odori for 2023.
“The day was filled with heartfelt remembrance, gratitude while stamping, tears of sadness from the play, laughter when eating lunch and chatting on the bus, and gathering of joy at the Bon Odori. A full circle of emotion,” Junko Kajita shared in an email with the group following the trip.
With the two San Diego County temples rekindling friendships, the bonding of the two Sanghas wrapped up a memorable, meaningful and rewarding day.
“The entire day was filled with wonderful moments shared with Dharma friends,” BCA President Terri Omori said, “Truly a ‘Gathering of Joy.’”