West Covina Buddhist Temple's 50th Anniversary!

After more than a year of planning, WCBT’s historic 50th Anniversary celebration took place on October 25, 2009. The turnout was excellent; for the morning service, the Hondo was packed to capacity and then some, with an overflow room with video monitor set up in adjacent classrooms. In the afternoon banquet, the attractively decorated gym was completely filled with approximately 220 participants.

For 50 years, WCBT’s ministers, temple leaders and sangha have worked tirelessly to maintain the temple with the hopes of nurturing the transmission of the Buddha-Dharma. The significance of our 50th anniversary is thus not simply the number of years involved, but that for 5 decades, WCBT has endeavored to serve the San Gabriel Valley—and more recently, the entire world wide web via our Living Dharma Website—sharing this precious teaching with all. In keeping with this auspicious occasion, special projects were synchronized with this event, among them the historic dedication of our new temple altar, the expansion of our existing temple education programs through such projects as the PowerPoint video presentation of Jodo Shinshu history, the expansion of WCBT's Study Classes which are open to the public, and the activation of the first class of WCBT’s own ministerial assistants. In addition, both of WCBT's youth bands, the Bodhi Tree Band and Lotus Band, prepared special Buddhist-themed performances for the Banquet. Therefore, this anniversary does not simply look back to 50 years of wonderful memories; it forecasts a bright and dynamic future.

Whether you are currently active, interested in becoming more active, or were previously active, West Covina Buddhist Temple needs your support. You are a vital part of our evolving temple history.
-Namu Amida Butsu

Anniversary Preparations
WCBT's 50th Anniversary required the efforts and cooperation of the entire Sangha. Everything from the flower arrangements used in the afternoon Banquet to the costumes used in the morning Chigo Parade needed detailed preparation. This special occasion also required the work of more than a dozen ministers.

Chigo Parade
The Chigo Parade, a traditional Buddhist ceremony featuring the youngest members of the Sangha, kicked off the Anniversary.

Rev. Nobuko Miyoshi motioned for the parade to begin

Rev. Miyoshi and Rev. Osa (left) led the parade around the facility.

The Kinnara Gagaku Group provided traditional accompaniment. This is Buddhist music from the earliest days of Buddhism in Japan, circa 6th or 7th century.

WCBT's Rev. Kenjun Kawawata

The parade entered the courtyard...

and, at the end of the parade, Chigo participants entered the Hondo and offered incense in front of the altar.

50th Anniversary Group Picture

The WCBT Sangha and friends, taken by Mr. James DeLeon

50th Anniversary Service
On the occasion of its 50th Anniversary, WCBT dedicated a new altar. At the center of the altar is the statue of Amida Buddha. Amida Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Wisdom and Compassion, is a symbol of the essence of Buddhism, and ultimately, of all life.

Mr. Frank Tanji passed out special inscribed pens as a gift to Anniversary participants

A member of the Gagaku group, whose ancient music added greatly to the timeless meaning of the Buddhist service.

Sangha member Michael Jitosho offers incense

Service Chairperson Mr. Lee Ezaki

WCBT's resident minister, Rev. Kenjun Kawawata read the Hyobyaku, which expressed our gratitude for this meaningful service.

During the chanting of the Amida Sutra, all the ministers stood up and tossed flower petals (symbols of the Pure Land). Ministers then led the Sangha in the chanting of the Shoshinge.

Bishop Koki Kurokawa, representing the Honzan (overseas headquarters in Japan), gave a congratulatory message and expressed his finding meaning in both WCBT’s 50th Anniversary Service and the Preparatory Service for Shinran Shonin’s 750th Memorial Service.

Bishop Akinori Imai of the Higashi Honganji’s North America District, translated Bishop Kurokawa’s message into English.

Service pianist, Mrs. Merry Jitosho

The participation and support of the Sangha was a crucial part of the service.

The PowerPoint Presentation
The History of West Covina Buddhist Temple: 50 Years of History, 2500 Years of Hongan
This 25 minute presentation was produced by WCBT's Temple Communications Staff, and included a narrative track and musical score. It not only detailed significant events in WCBT's 50-year history, it also placed that history within the context of the 2500-year history of Buddhism, the essence of which is hongan, the "innermost aspiration" of all human beings to become awakened beings themselves. The staff has also created a condensed, 18 minute web-friendly version of this presentation, which is a 15 MB 640x480 Quicktime movie viewable with a standard DSL connection: A Brief History of Shin Buddhism From Shakyamuni to Today.

Kyogyoshinsho Presentation/Preparation for Shinran Shonin's 750th Memorial
To signify the countdown to the 750th Anniversary of Shinran Shonin, Bishop Kurokawa of the Honzan presented North American District Bishop Imai with a copy of the Kyogyoshinsho, the "magnum opus" of Jodo Shinshu's founder Shinran Shonin. After the presentation, Bishop Imai patiently explained its deep significance to interested Sangha members.

The Kikyoshiki Ceremony
Rev. Kawawata and Rev. Miyoshi officiated the Kikyoshiki, or Confirmation, Ceremony for temple founders Kim and Mary Hatakeyama, and for their daughters Nancy Maekawa and Joy Kitaura, and son-in-law, Raymond Maekawa.

The Banquet: Speeches
At the beginning of the Banquet, various awards and gifts were presented.

Flanked by WCBT's president, Mr. Johnny Martinez, and Rev. Kawawata, are Mr. Arne Hansen and Mr. Roy Higa, the master craftsmen who completed the temple's new altar.

At the center are Rev. Hosokawa (also one of WCBT's former ministers) and his wife, who were thanked for their generous contribution to the new altar construction.

Rev. Kawawata presented certificates to Mr. Peter Hata and Mr. Frederick Brenion, who completed their Minister's Assistant training.

At center is Lauren Koga, who was thanked for coordinating the Banquet catering.

On the left and right of Rev. Kawawata and President Martinez are Mary and Kim Hatakeyama, the couple who founded WCBT in 1959.

Banquet participants gave the Hatakeyamas a standing ovation.

Rinban Nori Ito gave a congratulatory message as a former minister of WCBT.

Temple president Johnny Martinez

Banquet chairperson Dr. Roy Takemura

The Banquet was very well-attended.

Banquet Food

Participants enjoyed a delicious catered luncheon.

Banquet Entertainment: Senshin Bugaku
Senshin Buddhist Temple's Kinnara Gagaku Group provided the first part of the entertainment, which was a traditional Bugaku dance performance.

The Bodhi Tree Band
This was followed by WCBT's Bodhi Tree Band, a youth band that frequently performs during temple Sunday Services.

Leo Kowalski played guitar and sang background vocals

Matthew Ormseth sang a melodious lead vocal on "Imagine."

Noah Kowalski played keyboards and held the harmonies together.

Sean Underwood played drums and guided the group's dynamics.

The Lotus Band
WCBT's Lotus band has been performing for 10 years. They played a rousing set which was capped with calls for "encore." For their encore, they played "Time of Your Life," a Buddhistic song which was also the very first song they learned as teens way back in 2000.

Lindsay Ogino sang wonderfully on "Say," Sukiyaki," and "Time of Your Life."

Allison Haraguchi wowed the crowd with her spirited performance on songs like "Colors of the Wind," "Sunday Morning," and "Game of Love."

Saxophonist (and keyboardist) Amy Sakaue added excellent lines to songs like "Always There" and "Akatombo."

Guitarist Kyle Kagawa held the harmony of the songs together...

...and contributed a great vocal performance on "She's Not There."

Kevin Hata played a jazzy solo on "Always There"...

and hot guitar solos on "She's Not There" and "Game of Love." Kevin also sang lead on "California Dreamin," one of the (many) highlights of the set.

Drummer Miles Senzaki drove the band skillfully throughout the set and played a crowd-pleasing drum solo on "Bodhisattva," which helped Lotus earn an enthusiastic encore.

Bassist Alex Bendaña provided the all-important solid bottom end for the group's infectious grooves.

One of the hallmark's of the Lotus Band sound is the beautiful harmony of Lindsay and Allison.

In the middle of their set, Lotus played a Japanese song medley of Akatombo, Sukiyaki, and Shinshu Shuka that had the ministers standing and enthusiastically singing along.

Banquet participants (some of whom are parents of the Lotus band!) couldn't resist dancing to the band's music.

Lotus Band's director Mr. Peter Hata mixed the band's sound.

(Left to right) Kevin Hata, Kyle Kagawa, Amy Sakaue, Allison Haraguchi, Lindsay Ogino, Alex Bendaña, Miles Senzaki, Music Director Peter Hata
Many thanks to our three event photographers, Mr. James DeLeon, Mr. Mamoru Marugaki, and Ms. Stephanie Jitosho, for all their pictures of this memorable event!