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Rev. Tetsunen Hirota Passes Away at 94

BCA Minister Emeritus Rev. Tetsunen Hirota, the son of a BCA minister who himself served more than 40 years at a variety of temples — most notably at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple — passed away on March 6 at the age of 94.


Rev. Hirota dedicated his life to spread the Nembutsu teaching and was assigned to six different temples throughout the United States. He was also remembered as a loving grandfather to his three granddaughters, and devoted his retirement to helping raise them and spending quality time with each of them.


Rev. Hirota passed away peacefully at his Gardena home, surrounded by his family members. The funeral service was held March 25 at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple, where he served as the resident minister for 19 years.


He was born on July 15, 1928, in Santa Maria, California, the first son of Rev. Tainen Hirota and his wife, Yoshiko.

His father came to the United States in 1923 and served as the minister of the now-defunct Brawley Buddhist Church, with branches in nearby El Centro and Thermal/Cochella Valley. (The Brawley temple disbanded after World War II.) He also served as the minister of the Guadalupe Buddhist Church in 1928.


In 1930, the elder Rev. Hirota returned to Japan with his family to preside over the family temple in Hiroshima, Japan.


Rev. Tetsunen Hirota continued his Buddhist studies at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan, where he graduated in 1949. He received his Kaikyoshi ordination in 1958 and returned to the United States with his family that same year. He was assigned to the Oregon Buddhist Temple in Portland, where he stayed until 1960, when he was transferred to the Enmanji Buddhist Temple in Sebastopol, California.


At Enmanji, he began a Buddhist group, which in turn formed its own temple in Marin County — and was the founding minister of that temple, the Buddhist Temple of Marin in Mill Valley.


In 1963, Rev. Hirota was transferred to the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago, Illinois, and in 1965, moved to the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple in Ontario, Oregon. In 1972, he was transferred to the Watsonville Buddhist Temple.


In July 1980, he and his family moved again, this time to serve at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple, where he continued to spread the Nembutsu teaching to Sangha members until his retirement in October 1999.

After his retirement, Rev. Hirota continued to participate in major services at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple. He enjoyed visiting with the Pasadena Sangha members and reminiscing about the wonderful times he spent at the temple.


He dedicated his retirement to helping raise his three granddaughters, and loved spending quality time with each of them. He also enjoyed watching sports and “Family Feud” on TV.


Before his passing, Rev. Hirota shared how much he appreciated everyone in his life — from his family to friends and temple members.


He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Sachiko; two children, Dr. William (Emillie) Hirota and Ayako (James) Hirano; and three grandchildren, Dr. Jessica (Michael Craig) Hirota, and Madison and Lindsey Hirano.


Contributing to this article were the Hirota family, Rev. Michael Endo, and the Rafu Shimpo.


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