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Recalling Hanamatsuri and Its Heavy Toll on BCA – 80 Years Ago

Eighty years ago, one of America’s darkest scars forever changed the course of the BCA.

Eighty years ago, our ministers and many lay leaders were being rounded up and sent off to prison.

Eighty years ago, we couldn’t celebrate Hanamatsuri, the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha.

During the spring of 1942, America chose to imprison most BCA members and closed our West Coast temples because of racist hysteria, ignorance and a total disregard for the U.S. Constitution and the foundations of democracy.

I can only imagine what lies appear in the FBI’s files on the BCA, our ministers, members and the local temples. Many followers of the Buddha-Dharma felt no choice but to understandably forsake and give up their Buddhist faith as a sign of their loyalty to America during those trying times.

America did all that they could to destroy everything that our Issei and Nisei had worked so hard to build in this promised land. They stripped us of dignity and honor, they made us, young and old, sleep in horse stalls, smelling of horse dung and urine.

More than 33,000 Japanese American men and women served in the American armed forces both on the Pacific and European fronts. We dearly remember the more than 600 Japanese American soldiers who honorably fought and died for the sake of their families, our community, the nation, the BCA and the cause of freedom and justice in the world.

Despite all this, our community has survived. We had been stripped of everything except our faith in the Buddha-Dharma, and today this faith that sustained the community of that time continues to be passed on to our fourth, fifth and sixth generations and to be shared with the greater American community. Buddhism is still the soul of generations of our community.

We can observe and celebrate Hanamatsuri (even if virtually) in 2022, but it comes with a heavy price.

Let us be forever mindful of our Issei and Nisei who sacrificed and gave so much and continued to cherish their Buddhist faith during these last 80 years. Today, I can gratefully and proudly say, “I am an American of the Buddhist faith!” Happy Hanamatsuri to all the world and to all life! Namo Amida Butsu


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