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Issei Buddhism in the Americas

Issei Buddhism in the Americas

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 216
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    Issei Buddhism in the Americas
    Book Description:

    Rich in primary sources and featuring contributions from scholars on both sides of the Pacific, Issei Buddhism in the Americas upends boundaries and categories that have tied Buddhism to Asia and illuminates the social and spiritual role that the religion has played in the Americas._x000B__x000B_While Buddhists in Japan had long described the migration of the religion as traveling from India, across Asia, and ending in Japan, this collection details the movement of Buddhism across the Pacific to the Americas. Leading the way were pioneering, first-generation Issei priests and their followers who established temples, shared Buddhist teachings, and converted non-Buddhists in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries._x000B__x000B_The book explores these pioneering efforts in the context of Japanese diasporic communities and immigration history and the early history of Buddhism in the Americas. The result is a dramatic exploration of the history of Asian immigrant religion that encompasses such topics as Japanese language instruction in Hawaiian schools, the Japanese Canadian community in British Columbia, the roles of Buddhist song culture, Tenriyko ministers in America, and Zen Buddhism in Brazil._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Michihiro Ama, Noriko Asato, Masako Iino, Tomoe Moriya, Lori Pierce, Cristina Rocha, Keiko Wells, Duncan Ryûken Williams, and Akihiro Yamakura.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09289-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    Although the study of the religions of most immigrant groups to what is now the United States has been a major element in their historiography, up to now this has not been particularly important for Asian American groups. In addition, when such study has occurred, the focus is usually on the immigrants’ adaptation to the various forms of Christianity they found in their new homeland or, in some instances, to the missionary-inspired religion they had acquired in Asia. Only rarely has significant attention been paid to the religions they brought with them.¹ The present volume is particularly welcome. Its authors...

  4. Introduction: Dislocations and Relocations of Issei Buddhists in the Americas
    (pp. ix-xxii)

    Buddhists in Japan had long employed the idea of “Bukkyō tōzen,” literally “the eastward transmission of Buddhism,” to describe the geographic advance of their religion from its roots in India, across the Asian continent, and finally to Japan. In this formulation, Japan was conceived of as the last stage in the progression of Buddhism. In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, however, Buddhist “missionaries” such as Bishop Uchida advocated a new eastward movement of Buddhism: this time, from Japan across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas. These pioneering Issei (or “first-generation”) priests and the devout Japanese Buddhist laypeople they served established...


    • [PART 1. Introduction]
      (pp. 1-4)

      American Buddhism began in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century with the transmission of ideology, artifacts, and people: Buddhism, Buddhist art, and Buddhists. These ideas and objects found their way to the Americas as part of transnational exchanges of translated texts or transported statuary made possible by the process of modernity and colonialism. For example, a Burmese Buddha statue could end up in New York via London, or a French translation of theLotus Sutramight appear in New England. In this section, we attempt to track some aspects of the sociopolitical, economic, and cultural history of what scholars now call “Buddhist modernism”...

    • 1 “Can I Put This Jizō Together with the Virgin Mary in the Altar?”: Creolizing Zen Buddhism in Brazil
      (pp. 5-26)

      In this essay, I analyze the religious practices of Japanese Brazilians who adhere to Sōtō Zen, the only Japanese Zen Buddhist tradition represented in Brazil. I argue that the multiple influences that have shaped Japanese religious practices since their arrival in Brazil in 1908, along with the recent strong interest in Buddhism in Brazilian society, have given rise to creolized religious practices. I use the concept creolization to underscore the notion that identity is not formed through a seamless synthesis of two or more worlds, but rather it emerges from a dynamic process of exchange and interaction. In this context,...

    • 2 Bukkyōkai and the Japanese Canadian Community in British Columbia
      (pp. 27-40)

      Many people of Japanese origin in Canada, much like their counterparts on the American West Coast, suffered from the aftereffects of such experiences as forced removal from their homes and incarceration during World War II. Some scholars argue that the mental trauma suffered from the humiliation of being treated as second-class citizens caused many within the Japanese Canadian community to feel ashamed of their Japanese origins.¹ Many tried to distance themselves from anything that reminded them or reminded others of their Japanese origins. However, some Japanese Canadians in this immediate postwar period worked actively to establish Bukkyōkai (Buddhist organizations) in...


    • [PART 2. Introduction]
      (pp. 41-44)

      To the extent that Buddhism remains confined to ethnic enclaves and does not seek to challenge predominant Judeo-Christian norms and traditions, it has remained virtually “invisible” to the broader civic space of America. Buddhism tends to register in civic space when conflict within or without the community reaches a threshold that engages public institutions such as the legal system, the mass media and such organizations as the military, hospitals, prisons, or schools. For example, Asian Buddhist immigrant temples have in the recent past “made the news” by violating community building standards (the Chinese Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, California...

    • 3 The Japanese Language School Controversy in Hawaii
      (pp. 45-64)

      As several essays in this volume demonstrate, the history of Issei Buddhism was much more than a question of theological adaptation or a set of institutional histories. Rather, in many Nikkei communities, Issei Buddhism was part of a larger struggle for survival and Japanese Americans’ rights. We can see this most clearly in the power struggle between Buddhist and Christian Japanese language schools in Hawaii. This chapter offers a critical reading of newly unearthed primary sources to shed light on the importance of religious conflict as a key factor behind the emergence of the so-called Japanese language problem.

      Hawaii’s Japanese...

    • 4 The Legal Dimensions of the Formation of Shin Buddhist Temples in Los Angeles
      (pp. 65-82)

      “Reverend Izumida is a Traitor,” read the headline inRafu Shimpoon September 11, 1917. This was the beginning of the public bashing of this minister in the Los Angeles Japanese press. Attacks on Izumida continued on September 14 and 15 with such headlines as “Clean Up the Place Where a Demon Hides: Throw out Izumida Junjō . . . Save the Buddhist Mission of Los Angeles,” “Advice to Reverend Izumida,” and “Izumida Junjō: Reverend of Traitors and Lost Faith.” These newspaper articles chronicled Izumida Junjō’s protest against the consolidation of three Japanese Buddhist churches in Los Angeles. After an...


    • [PART 3. Introduction]
      (pp. 83-86)

      The question of how Buddhism is presented and represented to the larger American public has been a concern of Buddhists from the beginning. This was, in part, because of an increasing awareness among Issei Buddhists that Euro-American audiences often became sympathetic (if not actual converts) to Buddhism through what Thomas Tweed has called “book Buddhism,” or an encounter with Buddhist ideas through print rather than through Buddhist individuals. Representations of Buddhism thus became a central concern fairly early on. Bishop Yemyo Imamura of the Nishi Hongwanji writes in his preface to Ryusaku Tsunoda’s 1914 book on Shin Buddhism: “[W]hat we...

    • 5 Buddhist Modernism in English-Language Buddhist Periodicals
      (pp. 87-109)

      In April of 1901, Kakuryō Nishijima published the first issue of theLight of Dharma.It began life as a bimonthly journal and was, according to its editor, a “religious magazine devoted to the teachings of the Buddha.” The first issue commemorated the Japanese festival of Hanamatsuri and was designated as the “Buddha Birthday number.” The cover recorded 1901 as the Buddha Year 2444. The front matter included an image of the Daibutsu, the large Buddha statue in Kamakura, famously painted in 1887 by the water color and stained glass artist John Lafarge. The title of the journal deliberately evoked...

    • 6 “Americanization” and “Tradition” in Issei and Nisei Buddhist Publications
      (pp. 110-134)

      The 1990s saw several new studies on the subject of Buddhism in America, mostly categorizing the varieties of traditions according to their members’ ethnic origins.¹ Even though every ethnic church/temple shares many cultural features of the ethnic group it is respectively associated with, neither its congregation nor its practitioners would necessarily be homogeneous, in part because of the process of “Americanization.” This essay focuses on the varieties of discourses on “Americanization” (especially as articulated in Buddhist publications) and “tradition” (as the repository of ethnic identity and what was attributed as located in the Japanese cultural heritage) that appeared in early...


    • [PART 4. Introduction]
      (pp. 135-140)

      If a central concern of Issei Buddhism was to help first-generation immigrants and their children in the Americas negotiate the difficulties of labor, language, and a culture hostile to them, the period after Pearl Harbor was one of the most trying of circumstances. Although much has been written on the incarceration experience of roughly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, very little has touched on the interior life of the internees nor on the role of religion in times of war and crisis. The two chapters in this section highlight the role of faith among internees as well as...

    • 7 The United States–Japanese War and Tenrikyo Ministers in America
      (pp. 141-163)

      In the period leading up to the U.S.-Japanese war (World War II), the U.S. government had been increasingly suspicious of Japanese religions practiced in Hawaii and the mainland. A 1941 report compiled by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the intelligence unit of the U.S. Navy, depicted Japanese in the United States as “inherently a religious race” who “depend upon the authority, the ritual, and the doctrines of Shintōism or Buddhism, or both religions, to act as moral factors to guide their personal conduct and to aid their spiritual well being, both in life and hereafter.” The report further explained that...

    • 8 The Role of Buddhist Song Culture in International Acculturation
      (pp. 164-182)

      Kona, Hawaii, during the 1930s to 1950s was one of the most vibrant regions for Buddhists gathering to sing religious music and to exchange original compositions. Singing had always been a part of Buddhist practice; in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, when the Issei were still in Japan, laypersons enthusiastically sang songs whose vocabulary and image structures resembled the popular songs of the time. The Issei had brought this singing culture from Japan along with their religion to Hawaii. Interestingly, however, singing was not a part of religious activity among Shin Buddhists on the U.S. mainland until the temples started...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 183-184)
  10. Index
    (pp. 185-191)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 192-194)