Japanese Buddhists to mark 100 years in Utah

by Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune,Sep 7 2012

Salt Lake City, Utah (USA) -- Japanese Buddhism arrived in the heartland of Mormonism more than 100 years ago with migrant workers who took jobs with Utah mines, farms and railroads.

And they brought their faith and desire for spiritual community with them.

By 1912, these Buddhists created their first congregation in Ogden, known as the "Intermountain Buddhist Church." A few years later, it moved to Salt Lake City.

Through the years, several additional Japanese Buddhist churches sprang up across the state, with membership ebbing and flowing with the times. World War II, for example, brought Japanese Americans to the Topaz internment camp in west-central Utah. Many brought their family shrines with them and stayed after the war.

In recent years, longtime members have been joined by American converts.

Now these Buddhists are celebrating their centennial on Sept. 15 with a daylong event, "Walking the Path of Enlightenment."

"Today, Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in Utah is not limited to Japanese Buddhists," writes event organizer Karie Minaga-Miya in a release. "There is a welcomed diversity of ethnicity, cultural background and community to provide a robust and optimistic future."

The day will feature an opening service conducted by the Rev. Kodo Umezu, bishop of Buddhist Churches of America. Workshops will include presentations on Taiko Buddhism and Jodo Shinshu as well as discussion of reasons to embrace Buddhist teachings.

The event will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.