By Shihou Sasaki
The North American Post
Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church celebrated its centennial on Oct. 1 and 2. Church members and representatives from Nichiren Buddhist churches gathered for a commemorative service.
After Nichiren Headquarters in Japan assigned Rev. Ryucho Oka as the first minister of the local temple in 1916, the site has since been connected to the local Japanese community for a century. The current building, which has a long, symbolic staircase from the main hall to the religious service, was built in 1929. According to “Issei” by Kazuo Ito, the church membership around 1932 had 75 families.
The church was once closed after the mass-removal of Japanese Americans, but it was reopened and continued services by April 1942, according to the website. The church reopened at the original site in August 1945 after World War II and also served as a temporary residence for those who could not find homes or apartments after returning from incarceration camps.
The membership increased after the post-war community rebuilding and gradually decreased as many other Japanese temples have experienced. But the annual Chow Mein dinner is still a tradition and draws big crowds from the community. Beikoku Shodo Kenkyu Kai has been holding calligraphy classes for members who have been recognized by an international calligraphy exhibit in Japan.
In 2014, Rev. Ekou Murakami was appointed as the first female minister of the church.
“I am so honored to be a part of this centennial memorial,” she said in Japanese. “I learned so much about the history of the church, passion of the members and ties with the Nikkei community.”
The centennial events included a dinner at Double Tree by Hilton near Southcenter on Oct. 1 and a special service at the church on Oct. 2. Long-time member Misao Korekiyo was recognized by the temple for her contributions.