Multimedia

Preserving Buddhist traditions in Coastal California

Historic photo inside Guadalupe Buddhist Church. Guadalupe, CA. April 18, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

At the turn of the 20th century, thousands of Pure Land Buddhists left their homes in southern Japan to build new ones across the Pacific. With them, they carried their language, histories, and culture to places like Hawaii and the western coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. 

As farmers and laborers, Issei (first generation) in California often rebuilt sangha (community) in rural areas, such as Guadalupe and San Luis Obispo. At the center of these communities was their faith.

Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), the American branch of the Nishi Honganji sect of Jodō Shinshū, was established in the early 1900s, following the arrival of priests from Japan and the construction of many temples. These temples served as conservators of Japanese culture. 

During World War II, Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and communities and forced into internment camps, where they were detained from 1942 until 1946.

Due to the pandemic, religious institutions have undergone restrictions and have held limited services.

However, despite the ongoing pandemic, discrimination, and even accultural alterations, on California’s Central Coast, Japanese-American cultural legacies and the Pure Land Buddhist Faith remain preserved.

Guadalupe Buddhist Church. Guadalupe, CA. Sunday, May 2, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

Historic photos of a former monshu (chief priest) Sokunyo Shōnin and wife Noriko Tanaka in Guadalupe Buddhist Church. Guadalupe, CA. April 18, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

Sensei (Reverend) Naomi Seijo Nakano preparing the altar for Sunday service at Guadalupe Buddhist Church. Guadalupe, CA. April 18, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

Portrait of sensei (Reverend) Naomi Seijo Nakano at Guadalupe Buddhist Church. Guadalupe, CA. Sunday, May 2, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels.

The Collected Works of Shinran Volume 1, the writings and teachings of Jodō Shinshū Buddhism founder, Shinran Shonin, in Guadalupe Buddhist Church. Guadalupe, CA. Sunday, May 2, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

Guadalupe Buddhist Church congregation during Sunday service Sutra chanting. Guadalupe, CA. April 18, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

Congregation member, Sumi Schumacher, holding O-nenju (prayer beads) during service at Guadalupe Buddhist Church. Guadalupe, CA. April 18, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

San Luis Obispo Buddhist Church. San Luis Obispo, CA. April 11, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

A small statue of Shinran Shonin, founder of Pure Land Buddhism, on the sensei (reverend) podium at San Luis Obispo Buddhist Church. San Luis Obispo, CA. April 11, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

Fusuma (sliding door) separating the entry hallway and chapel at San Luis Obispo Buddhist Church. San Luis Obispo, CA. April 11, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels

Entryway display and signage at San Luis Obispo Buddhist Church. San Luis Obispo, CA. April 11, 2021. Photo by Savannah Daniels