Buddhists and Assimilation in LA

December 1, 2004

Source: Los Angeles Times


On December 1, 2004 the Los Angeles Times reported, "in an elaborate ritual reminiscent of ancient Japan, a procession of children in golden crowns and painted faces, traditional court musicians and silk-robed Buddhist priests recently wended its way through Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. The occasion was the 100-year anniversary of the oldest Buddhist temple in Los Angeles, representing the most popular Buddhist tradition in Japan and among Japanese Americans known as Shin, or Pure Land. But amid the congratulatory speeches at the Higashi Honganji Temple's commemoration a few weeks ago, an underlying question lingered: Can this 780-year-old Japanese Buddhist tradition survive assimilation in America? As it enters its next century in the United States, Shin Buddhism is encountering myriad challenges not uncommon among various immigrant churches here. With notable exceptions in Orange County and elsewhere, the tradition is failing to retain large numbers of American-born youth. The small number of immigrants from Japan has hamstrung efforts to recruit new Japanese members. And outreach to non-Japanese has been limited by a shortage of American ministers and a culture made more insular by anti-Japanese discrimination in the past."