Ken Fujimoto to leave Lodi Buddhist church after 21 years

By Ross Farrow, Lodi News-Sentinel Staff Writer, Dec 20, 2005

Lodi, CA (USA) -- The Buddhist Church of Lodi has had the same minister for 21 years, but in January, Rev. Ken Fujimoto will say goodbye and head to a much-larger Buddhist church in San Jose.

<< Ken Fujimoto

Koshin Ogui, who oversees 65 American Buddhist churches, transferred Fujimoto to the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin.

Fujimoto said he had been offered transfers before, but he wanted to wait until his three children graduated from Lodi High School.

Following Fujimoto's departure, Rev. Robert Oshita, who heads the Sacramento Buddhist Church, will be in charge of the Lodi church on North Stockton Street for a year.

Ogui, who works at the Buddist Churches of America national headquarters in San Francisco, expects to appoint a permanent replacement after a year.

In the Buddhist church, ministers can move to another community on Ogui's orders, at the minister's request or by the congregation's request.

Ogui said Fujimoto, 57, is old enough and has the experience to oversee a larger church. The San Jose Buddhist Church has more than 700 families, while the Lodi congregation numbers about 210 families.

In his new position, Fujimoto will have an assistant pastor and full office staff, a luxury he doesn't enjoy in Lodi. But he will have some new duties, such as overseeing a Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop sponsored by the San Jose church.

Another challenge, Fujimoto said, will be the increased number of services and what he calls "rites of passage" — weddings and funerals.

"I guess they average 60 funerals a year (in San Jose)," Fujimoto said.

In Lodi, Fujimoto officiates nine funerals a year, although 2005 has been a bad year. He had to do 18.

Fujimoto said some of the Highlights of his 21 years in Lodi include being present for the church's 75th anniversary a year ago and seeing a second generation of membership within the church.

"People in high school when I first came are bringing their families to services. That's always nice," he said.

The Buddhist church is different from other major religions because it isn't centered on a supreme being such as God or Allah, Fujimoto said in an interview last year.

Buddhists worship Buddha but they don't consider him a son of God like Jesus Christ or a prophet like Mohammad.

Although he is leaving Lodi, Fujimoto said he expects to see some familiar faces at his new church. Many members of the San Jose church have family ties in Lodi. In fact, the office manager in San Jose has an aunt in Lodi.

Fujimoto lives with his wife, Miyuki, a homemaker. They have three children, Genta (Eugene is his English name), 25, Yusuke (Wesley in English), 23, and Mina, 18. They have no grandchildren.