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Issei Buddhism in the Americas

Duncan Ryuken Williams

Publication Year: 2010

With 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. Contributors describe the pioneering efforts of first-generation Issei priests and their followers within 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, 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._x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Asian American Experience

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-iv


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pp. v-vi

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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...

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Introduction: Dislocations and Relocations of Issei Buddhists in the Americas

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pp. ix-xxi

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...

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I. Nation and Identity

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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...

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1. “Can I Put This Jizō Together with the Virgin Mary in the Altar?” : Creolizing Zen Buddhism in Brazil

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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...

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2. Bukkyōkai and the Japanese Canadian Community in British Columbia

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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...

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II. Education and Law

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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...

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3. The Japanese Language School Controversy in Hawaii

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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...

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4. The Legal Dimensions of the Formation of Shin Buddhist Temples in Los Angeles

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pp. 65-81

“Reverend Izumida is a Traitor,” read the headline in Rafu Shimpo on 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...

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III. Race and Print Culture

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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...

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5. Buddhist Modernism in English-Language Buddhist Periodicals

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pp. 87-109

In April of 1901, Kakuryō Nishijima published the first issue of the Light 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...

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6. “Americanization” and “Tradition” in Issei and Nisei Buddhist Publications

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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...

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IV. Patriotism and War

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pp. 135-139

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...

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7. The United States–Japanese War and Tenrikyo Ministers in America

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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...

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8. The Role of Buddhist Song Culture in International Acculturation

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pp. 164-181

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...


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pp. 183-184


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pp. 185-191

Further Reading, Publication Information

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pp. 192-193

E-ISBN-13: 9780252092893
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035333

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The Asian American Experience