Every summer, Buddhist churches across California hold fundraisers. These events attract members of the church and members of other local Buddhist churches to celebrate their ancient culture.
Saturday and Sunday, The Berkeley Higashi Honganji Church held its annual summer bazaar at its Oregon Street location.
Hundreds of people turned out over the two afternoons to eat traditional Japanese food – as well as some American food – prepared by the members of the church. Games were set up for children to play and win prizes, and the Higashi Honganji Church also held a raffle.
“The (Buddhist) philosophy is very good for children nowadays because it’s all about balance and wisdom and passion, which I don’t think kids get elsewhere,” Dorise Ouye, chairperson of the Ohtani Bazaar said. “You can’t get compassion playing a video game.”
Ouye said that many Japanese-American churches lose members and take over. The purpose of the Ohtani Bazaar is to pass along the culture and traditions to younger generations, who will hopefully end up staying active in the church.
“There’s not enough examples of things positive,” she said. “And so this is one way for kids to have that balance and have that value.”
The bazaar is the church’s main fundraising event of the year. It attracts many of the 300 or so families that are members of the church as well as many people who are not involved in the church. Over the weekend, they sold about 100 dinners, which people ate either on the church’s patio or took home.
The Higashi Honganji Church in Berkeley opened in 1926. Higashi Honganji is a division of Jodo Shinshu, which is a sect of Buddhism. Its headquarters are in Kyoto, Japan, but it has churches around the world, including about a half dozen in California.
One of the church’s main goals is to teach the traditional Japanese cultures to young people who were born in the United States. Its minister, the bishop of Higashi Honganji in North America, teaches classes on Buddhist and Japanese traditions. The Ohtani Bazaar is also set up to attract the interest of younger members of the church.
Dick Fujii, treasurer of the church, said that the annual bazaar dates back as long as he can remember, which is over 50 years.
“It’s kind of a traditional thing,” Fujii said. “It brings the families together to work together and participate in the church. It also gives us a chance to teach some of the younger adults some of the culture; how to make sushi and some of the foods that we have traditionally every year.”