Oral History Project

To preserve the rich history of Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin.

The Way It Was . . . . Being Okusama, the Minister’s Wife

 “All minister’s wives on this island were automatically presidents of their Fujinkai (BWA). And so I was, as the head minister’s wife, president of Hilo Betsuin (BWA) as well as the United level. And everything was still in Japanese. I rarely did things in Japanese, coming from the mainland. But by the time I came, actually the women were more than capable of doing everything, but they didn’t want to take on the position. It took 5 years to change the by-laws, but the only one we changed was the United. Mrs. Monden was good enough to take on the job. The Hilo Fujinkai’s by-laws were so difficult to change to be a local person as president. Not until Rev. Muneto’s time I think, the change was made. It took that long, but the people are capable.”

Contributed by:  Midori Kondo                                                                                             

The Way It Was . . . . Japanese School

With Japanese School, the teaching of shushin, or morals, was very special.  I think that’s why the 442 and 100th boys, when they went to war, they always carried with them the teachings inside of them.  It was very Japanese. (General) MacArthur said to do away with shushin in the schools in Japan because it was too nationalistic.  But it had to do really with loyalty to the country, piety to your parents, and brotherhood with fellow man.  They were just values.  So a lot of boys who went to war, right after 1941, which is when I graduated, took with them a lot of the values like patience, perseverance, loyalty, honor, sacrifice, etc. which were taught in shushin.

Contributed by the late Kay Kyoko Yokoyama

The Way It Was…BWA World Conventions

I’ve been to every one until the other year.  I’ve been to Brazil, Canada, Anaheim—all over.  (I liked) to see new places...Every convention had a theme and something good.  And you meet a good speaker.  I didn’t want to miss it.”

  Contributed by Suga Suzuki


The Way It Was…100th Anniversary

The land acquisition for the multi-purpose building [Sangha Hall] was one of the key projects that we had.  ...I think the initial cost was something like $600,000.  But the way that Albert Nishimura worked it out, he offered them cash [to cut the price].  …He borrowed funds from within, like we had the Eitaikyo fund.  …He borrowed from this, and different areas.  He also put out a call for individuals to lend the church money.  ,,,And he was able to put together enough cash.

Contributed by Sadao Aoki

The Way It Was…Sushi Making

…after we closed our store about ten, or ten-thirty, we used to go and help with the sushi.  I used to go every Friday night, and clean the vegetables [at the church].  My husband would bring the sushi to the YBA Hall.  Sometimes, he would help with the rolling the sushi [and after] put it out to cool.  We were up till about three o’clock in the morning.

Contributed by Fusayo Matsuyama

The Way It Was…Sunday Services During the War
 “I was 9 (during war time).  About the 4th grade—I don’t remember playing the organ at the main temple, but I know when we moved back, there was an old cafeteria.  The Hongwanji had some kind of cafeteria...We used the old cafeteria...to have church services...That’s when I had to play the organ too...They had the old fashion one that you pumped and pulled (for the) volume.

Contributed by Gere Mimaki

The Way It Was…Dharma School

"We used to go down to the classrooms...across from Kilauea Avenue...THey would tell stories...about how [it was in] Japan, how the children play, what they did, about how they help their parents.  You call that oyakoko or whatever in Japanese." 

Contributed by Seigo Nagao

The Way It Was…Preschool

“My mother said I begged and begged her that I wanted to go to school (age about age 5).  So she sent me to Hongwanji.  And my dad was at work, so she put me on a sampan bus...I guess the sampan bus brought me home because in those days they took you right to your home.  I think it only used to cost 5 cents.  We used to call it ‘5 cents bus’.”

Contributed by Sumie Miyasaki