Sad Good Byes

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In addition to Obon, for another very busy weekend last month, the Sangha mobilized for two events:  Mum Arii’s Service and Kenji and Karen Akahoshi’s Appreciation Reception.

The funeral service for Mum Arii was a Betsuin-sponsored service, which means that the Betsuin hosts the service.  My understanding is that Betsuin-sponsored services are reserved for those who are truly outstanding in their support of the Betsuin.  Mum contributed so much to the Betsuin over the years that it seemed a fitting tribute.  The nice part was that Rinban Fujimoto was able to arrange for the Hongwanji to bestow the honor of Ingo to Mum. Ingo is a religious honorific title granted to those who have devoted themselves to the organization and have made contributions to the well being of society. Ingo are appropriated by the Honzan and must be requested through the BCA.

During the service, Chairperson Norm Tanaka cited a little known fact about Mum.  Mum served proudly in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  During one fierce battle, the medics passed up one young Nisei soldier as being too far gone to save but Mum picked up this young man and carried him to the medics to get help.  The injured young man was Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.  When you think of all the causes and conditions that occurred prior to and after that encounter between Mum and Senator Inouye, isn’t it amazing?   And they both went on to live long and productive lives and passed away within months of each other.

It was very touching when Reverend Sakamoto talked about how recently Mum had figured out that since baseball bats don’t splinter that they would make great mallets for striking the temple bell. Mum started collecting all the wooden baseball bats he could find in order to make mallets. Mum made quite a few of these mallets so that we would have lots of spares.  Sensei said that every time the bell is struck using one of those mallets that Mum is still with us.

We offer our sincerest condolences to the Arii family.

Thank you to all of the Sangha members and organizations that assisted in the preparations for the service and the otoki.

The next day, following the Obon Service, the Betsuin Board organized and sponsored a reception in honor of Reverend Dr. Kenji and Karen Akahoshi to thank them for all their years of service to the Betsuin.  It turned out to be a timely event to also say good-bye as they headed to San Diego to start a new chapter in their lives as resident minister and okusan.

As old habits die hard, everyone always wants to lay our tables out in long rows for our functions, but the Board had decided that an event that would allow Kenji and Karen to mingle would be more appropriate than a sit down affair, so Joyce Iwasaki drew a diagram of how she wanted the tables arranged, which was basically scattering the tables at different angles. After the Arii otoki, Dennis Akizuki was in charge of getting the tables set up for the following day.   It was very amusing to watch members of the Board and others holding Joyce’s diagram and turning it every which direction to try and figure out precisely where the tables were to go.  It took a while, and things got tense, but they got it right. All of the tables looked lovely with tablecloths and centerpieces.

The Board wanted to include everyone in this event so we asked each of the affiliated Betsuin organizations and their members to contribute towards food, drinks and supplies. Everyone was so eager and willing to participate.  When I approached Lotus about participating and bringing appetizers, I neglected to tell Lynne Yamaichi that other groups were also bringing appetizers and Lynne thought they were bringing appetizers for 200 and had requested Santo Market to put it all together. We had sooooo much food; it wouldn’t fit on the tables we had set up.  But then as people started to pour in and the room filled up, and we had to pull out more tables and chairs—set at angles, of course– I started to worry that we didn’t have enough food.  As it turned out we had just the right amount without a lot of leftovers.

Earlier that week, Marlene Aso mentioned that she was going to make all the nishime for the Arii otoki and that she was going to make her special sushi for Kenji’s event.  I told her that she didn’t need to make the sushi because she was making all that nishime and there should be plenty of other food on Sunday, but she said that she didn’t mind at all and that she wanted to make the sushi for Kenji and Karen’s event.  This kind of sentiment was expressed to me repeatedly as we prepared this event and for Mum’s service. I found that everyone truly wanted to participate in thanking Kenji and Karen and in remembering Mum.

Thank you to Lotus, ABA, BWA, Eco Sangha, Sangha Support, Betsuin Choir, Junior Choir, Jr. YBA, Dharma School, Tuesday Night Class, many individuals and the Betsuin Board for all of the delicious food contributions.  The BWA was particularly busy since they prepared inari for Mum’s otoki and finger sandwiches for the Akahoshi reception.  They made so much inari that the Arii family donated several platters of inari for the Akahoshi reception.

Al Hironaga served as our Master of Ceremonies and entertained the capacity crowd with his jokes.  I always enjoy Al’s jokes and I find it charming when he chuckles along with everyone.  The Lotus children in their happi coats sang three songs in honor of Kenji and Karen.  They were so cute!  Then Curtis Takahashi serenaded us with his ukulele music; it created a warm and wonderful background as everyone enjoyed all the food, desserts and drinks.

On behalf of the Tuesday Evening Dharma Class, Michael Stock presented Kenji and Karen with a gift, which was a chime shaped like a pyramid.  Sumi Tanabe spoke of Kenji’s accomplishments and Jeanne Nakano spoke of Karen’s accomplishments.  Kenji and Karen were presented with a gift from the Sangha which was a box cleverly decorated as a suitcase which was filled with warm wishes from everyone.

We were touched by Kenji and Karen’s kind words of gratitude and they invited all of us to come and visit them in San Diego.  (Imagine their surprise when we all show up.)

It was a nice send off and we hope to see them again soon. We wish Kenji and Karen all the best in their new endeavors.

I would like to thank the Board Committee, which was comprised of Emi Tsutsumi, Al Hironaga, Joyce Iwasaki, Steve Ichinaga and me.  I would also like to thank Iyoko Katsuyoshi for helping us by working so hard on the day of the event.  Thank you also to Jan Masuda Cougill for letting us borrow her table linens and punchbowl. A big thank you to Amy Yoshida who helped us put the beautiful flower arrangements together.  Thank you to all of the organizations and individuals for your help in set up, food, clean up and overall support for this event.

Thank you to the entire Sangha for all of your help and support in these two events.  It is gatherings such as Mum Arii’s service and Appreciation Celebration for Kenji and Karen that the Jodo Shinshu understanding of Sangha becomes so significant as we gather together to find comfort in each other and in the Nembutsu.

In Gassho,

Janice Doi