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American Buddhism during World War II Imprisonment

Summary and Keywords

American Buddhism during World War II imprisonment refers to the Japanese American Buddhist experience between 1942 and 1945 when persons of Japanese ancestry, commonly known as Nikkei Amerikajin, were imprisoned. A discussion of the Nikkei Buddhist experience includes the experiences of Euro-American convert Buddhists who supported them during the imprisonment period.

Immediately after the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested and interned Japanese Buddhist priests and other leaders of Japanese communities in the United States. In March 1942, the Western Defense Command designated the three West Coast states (Washington, Oregon, and California) and Arizona as Military Area No. 1, from which all persons of Japanese descent, and alien Germans and Italians, were forcefully removed. Following Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the US government removed approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans from the aforementioned military zone and incarcerated them in relocation centers built throughout the continental United States. During that time, the Nikkei community consisted primarily of the Issei, the first generation of Japanese immigrants, and the Nisei, their American-born children. As Tetsuden Kashima defines, the word “internment” refers to the imprisonment of enemy aliens, such as the Issei Japanese nationals, by the Department of Justice and the US Army, while the term “incarceration” refers to the confinement of the Nikkei, including a great number of the Nisei American citizens, by the War Relocation Authority. The word “imprisonment” designates the entire process consisting of internment and incarceration.

The study of American Buddhism during World War II is still in its early stages. Finding records and documents related to this subject from the large collections on Japanese American imprisonment is not an easy task. While the National Archives in Washington, DC, maintains the majority of primary sources dealing with Japanese American relocation and incarceration, other institutions, such as the Japanese American National Museum, the University of California-Los Angeles, and museums built around the sites of internment camps, also preserve records. Some of the primary sources are written in Japanese and are located in Japan, which is another stumbling block for researchers who do not read Japanese. Duncan R. Williams’s forthcoming book, American Sutra: Buddhism and the World War II Japanese American Experience, however, will change the current state of scholarship on Japanese American Buddhism during World War II.

The forceful relocation of Japanese American Buddhists served to weaken their long-standing efforts to make their ethno-religious practices accepted by America’s general public. Mass incarceration, however, forced the Japanese American Buddhists to further Americanize their religion, generated a set of new Buddhist practices, and gave them opportunities to reflect on their national identities. Buddhist faith and cultural practices associated with Japanese Buddhism contributed to ethnic solidarity, even though the Japanese American community was divided over the issue of US patriotism. During the postwar period, Japanese American Buddhists initiated a campaign to improve their image in the United States and to honor the Nisei Buddhist soldiers who fought during World War II. The formation of American Buddhism was closely connected to the development of US political ideology.

Keywords: Japanese American Buddhism, Japanese American internment, Buddhism and war, Nisei Buddhist soldiers, Euro-American convert Buddhists

Pre-War Context

At the turn of the 20th century, a large number of Japanese migrated to Hawaii and the mainland United States. They came to Hawaii primarily as contract laborers and worked on sugar plantations, while early Japanese migration to the mainland United States consisted of students and laborers. In 1908, based on what was referred to as a “gentleman’s agreement,” the Japanese government voluntarily restricted the number of Japanese migrants to the United States and Japanese migrants began bringing their families and relatives to America.1 By 1924, more than 125,000 Japanese and their Hawaii-born children lived in Hawaii. About forty percent of the Japanese immigrants came from Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures,2 which were known as the stronghold of the Nishi Honganji organization, one of the largest Shin Buddhist denominations of a major Pure Land Buddhist sect, known as Jōdo Shinshū. In the mainland too, the largest numbers of Japanese settlers came from these two prefectures; therefore, members of the Nishi Honganji organization dominated the Buddhist community of Japanese immigrants in North America.

Nishi Honganji was the first Japanese Buddhist organization to set up propagation centers on the Hawaiian Islands and mainland North America. In Hawaii, the Honpa Honganji Mission of Hawaii (HHMH) was established in 1898. The Buddhist Mission of North America (BMNA), its counterpart on the mainland, was formed in the same year in San Francisco. At the beginning of the Japanese migration, Shin Buddhist temples served as town offices in Japanese communities. Shin Buddhist ministers helped Japanese immigrants write letters, send money to Japan, and register newborn babies at the Japanese consulate. They conducted marriage ceremonies, funerals, and memorial services, and mediated disputes. Furthermore, they became teachers at Japanese language schools, which were often built as part of and next to Buddhist temples. By 1924, more than thirty-three Nishi Honganji Buddhist temples had been built on the Hawaiian Islands, while more than twenty Buddhist temples affiliated with BMNA had been built on the West Coast, primarily in California but also in Oregon and Washington. By 1932, the BMNA had built nine more Buddhist temples in those areas and in 1936 founded a Buddhist temple in New York.3

In addition to Nishi Honganji, other Japanese Buddhist sects gradually established temples in Hawaii and the mainland United States, and their Buddhist priests also met the mundane, spiritual, and ritual needs of fellow migrants. In the beginning of the Edo period (1603–1867), the Tokugawa shogunate introduced a household registration system in which all Japanese were required by law to become parishioners of Buddhist temples. The government enforced this system to prevent the Japanese people from converting to Christianity. The relationship between a Buddhist temple and its parishioners became inseparable due to the parishioners’ needs for funeral rites and memorial services through which they honored their ancestors. This system, known as the danka system, “sustained Buddhist temples in Tokugawa Japan more than anything else,” to borrow Nam-lin Hur’s words.4 Although the Meiji government took away the privileges of Buddhist organizations, the practice of funerary Buddhism connected to the danka system and ancestral veneration remained strong in modern Japan. Japanese migrants continued to observe this long-standing practice in Hawaii and West Coast states, and for the sake of temple members who migrated to those regions, other Japanese Buddhist organizations, such as Jōdoshū, Higashi Honganji (another major Shin Buddhist denomination), the Nichiren, Shingon, and Sōtō Zen, sent their clergy to North America.

While maintaining religious identity and cultural practices associated with Buddhism in Japan, the Nikkei Buddhists Americanized their religion. Japanese Americans as a whole experienced institutional racial discrimination on multiple levels.5 To refute the public misconception that Buddhism was incompatible with American religious values, Japanese American Buddhists modeled themselves on Protestant Christian churches. They introduced scheduled services on Sunday, used pews, and formed Young Men’s and Women’s Buddhist Associations.6 They also adopted Buddhist hymnals compiled by Euro-American Buddhists, which included gathas that mimicked Protestant Triumphalism.7 At the same time, Nikkei Buddhists preserved the core Buddhist practices derived from Japan, such as ancestral worship and confraternity activities, and sustained denominational doctrine. Particularly, Buddhism helped the Nisei to understand who they were and construct their identities as being neither Japanese nor American, but Japanese Americans.8 While maintaining their cultural heritage, Japanese American Buddhists sought to be accepted by America’s mainstream society. Their efforts to make sense of their Buddhist faith and national identity were, however, suddenly disrupted by the outbreak of the Pacific War (1941–1945).

Japanese American Buddhist Clergy at the Outbreak of the War

Immediately after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Nikkei Buddhist leaders strove to demonstrate loyalty to the United States. According to Tetsuden Kashima,

The Buddhist Mission of North America released a statement to the effect that “the suddenness and the unwarranted and inhuman attack upon the United States of America leaves us, the Buddhists in America, with but one decision: the condemnation of that attack.” One duty remained for American Buddhists: “The loyalty to the United States which we have pledged at all times must now be placed into instant action for the defense of the United States of America.”9

The Issei Buddhists condemned the Japanese navy for attacking Pearl Harbor, purchased US war bonds, and embarked on a campaign for blood donations to the Red Cross. Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the more that ethnic Japanese were discriminated against in America, the prouder the Issei became of Imperial Japan, which was seen as the emerging modern nation state in Asia capable of competing with Western powers. After Pearl Harbor, however, the Issei sympathized with the United States where they had settled and raised their children.

Attempts by Japanese Americans to prove loyalty did not, however, assuage war hysteria. There were many instances of so-called “hate crimes” in the early 21st century against the Nikkei Buddhists. The similarity between the ancient Indian symbol 卍‎, which Japanese Buddhists had adopted as a Buddhist symbol (called manji in Japanese)—and which the Japanese American Buddhists continued to use as emblems for their temples—and the Nazi swastika 卐‎ caused Nikkei Buddhism to be misunderstood by America’s general public and even identified as an ally of Nazi Germany.10

According to Duncan Williams, in December 1941 there were about 300 Japanese Buddhist and Shinto priests living primarily in Hawaii and the West Coast states of the United States, such as California and Washington, as well as in Canada. Approximately 250 of them were arrested before the mass incarceration of the rest of people of Japanese ancestry. More than ninety percent of these priests were Issei. Only twelve were Nisei and one was Sansei (third generation). About half were Nishi Honganji ministers, but there were substantial numbers of priests from the Shingon, Jōdo, Sōtō, and Nichiren sects, as well as the Higashi Honganji denomination of the Jōdo Shin sect. Also arrested were more than twenty Shinto priests and fewer than twenty ministers of Tenrikyō and Konkōkyō.11

Before the Pacific War began, the FBI, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and Canadian intelligence had monitored the leaders of Japanese communities in North America for possible ties to Imperial Japan. The FBI compiled what came to be known as the “ABC” list of would-be arrestees if war began between the United States and Japan. Among the suspected individuals on the list, the FBI classified Buddhist and Shinto priests into the Group A of “known dangerous” aliens, along with Japanese Consulate staff, Japanese language teachers, fishermen, and martial arts instructors, who were subject to immediate arrest. They were considered “likely fifth-column agents.” Except for a few Christian leaders in the Japanese community, Japanese Christians were excluded from the Group A list. The intelligence units had concluded that Nikkei Christians were more likely to be Americanized and less loyal to Japan than Nikkei Buddhists.12

According to the memoirs of Fujimura Bunyū, then resident priest of Salinas Buddhist Temple affiliated with the Buddhist Mission of North America (BMNA), leaders of Japanese communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco, who had returned to Japan in 1940 for the 2,600th-year celebration of the Imperial Throne, were subject to immediate arrest. They included the owner of a Japanese hotel and the principal of a Japanese language school in San Francisco, as well as the minister of the Konkōkyō Church and the priest of the Nichiren Buddhist Temple.13

Tana Daishō, another Buddhist minister of the BMNA then serving the Japanese community in Lompoc, California, and the author of A Diary of An Enemy Alien in Santa Fe and Lordsburg Internment (Jpn, Santa Fe Rōzubāgu senji tekikokujin yokuryū sho nikki) known as the Internment Camp Diary, described the course of action he took immediately after hearing of the arrest of fellow Japanese:

December 8, 1941: The First Arrests

At 7 a.m., I received a telephone call informing me that Mr. “T,” who had ridden back [from Guadalupe], had been arrested by the FBI immediately upon his return home. As I was still new to this post, I hadn’t made a thorough account of all the documents. But I thought that I would most immediately need to deal with all documents related to the Japanese embassy, the Japanese Association, the Women’s Association. I put aside the Emperor’s photo as my personal property and, aware that I would assume full responsibility for any consequences, I started burning everything. That’s when a call came from Mr. “I,” warning me to get rid of all the receipts from our donations to the Japanese military. I told him I was dealing with other materials at that moment. . . .

After this, all the children began to arrive at the temple’s Japanese-language school, just as usual. I thought that the continuation of the Japanese-language school would be misunderstood by the American officials. So, after telling some folk tales to the first and second year students, we went to the Buddha hall to hold the Jōdō-e ceremony [the celebration of Gautama Siddhartha’s Buddhist enlightenment] and a school closing ceremony. I told the students to be good Americans, as the children of Japanese parents, and to keep up their regular attendance at the white people’s school.14

About three months later, Tana was arrested by the FBI and imprisoned in the Santa Barbara county jail, together with another Japanese Buddhist minister and a Japanese Christian minister.

While many Japanese Buddhist priests voluntarily discarded temple records and documents related to Imperial Japan, somewhat comically Fujimura was ordered by the Salinas Chief of Police on December 8, 1941, to remove the temple gong, lest the sound be used as a signal to usher the Japanese Imperial naval ships into Monterey Bay. The chief threatened Fujimura, saying he would burn the tower containing the gong if Fujimura did not comply with his order. The demand reflected the hysteria of the Salinas community, which was overly concerned with a Japanese military strike. It was, of course, impossible for the temple gong to be heard in the bay, which was nineteen miles away, and nonsense to think that sounding the temple gong would help Japanese battleships.15

Two months later, Fujimura along with two other Buddhists priests who had assisted him in Salinas were arrested. They were the first group of BMNA ministers to be arrested by the FBI. This is how he described it:

Early in the morning of February 11th, 1942 (February 10th in the United States), to commemorate Empire Day, the anniversary of the day Emperor Jimmu first ascended the Japanese throne, the Japanese Imperial Army took Singapore.

That same morning, someone knocked softly on the door of our bedroom on the second floor of the Salinas Buddhist Temple. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I opened the door to find two men, one in his sixties and the other in his thirties.

“We are from the FBI,” the older man said in Japanese, and showed me his badge.

While I was getting dressed, the older man went through all my books, which were, of course, all in Japanese. The younger man carefully checked my clothes.

Reverend and Mrs. Koyo Tamanaha, who were sleeping downstairs, were also awakened. We were then ordered to go to the residence next door, where Reverend Hoshin Fujikado and his family were living.

I noticed over ten policemen keeping close watch over both the front and rear gates of our temple. Perhaps this precaution was taken because they knew Reverend Tamanaha had a fifth-degree black belt in Judo. . . .

Reverends Fujikado, Tamanaha and I were brought to the police station where a group of newspaper photographers were waiting. We were blinded by flashes from their cameras. My wife tells me that I usually have a stern expression, but for some reason, I smiled just as the cameras clicked. . . .

Life Magazine showed a photograph of the gong that had been lowered from its place in the tower, and under it stated that the “three Buddhist priests . . . smiled courteously while being arrested.”

Later, when I was sent to Bismark in North Dakota, Mr. Yoshito Fujii told me that a young nisei in Seattle saw that photograph and said, “Reverend Fujimura has guts to be able to smile in a situation like that. He is a true Buddhist!”

I was led to wonder how differently the same photograph is perceived by different people.

At any rate, we were imprisoned in the basement of the Salinas jail. Many others were also there, with one exception, all Japanese members of our Salinas Buddhist Temple.16

A senior FBI agent, who could speak Japanese, asked Fujimura and Tamanaha many questions to prove his suspicion of their connections to the emperor of Imperial Japan. His questions included, “Are you a spy?” “Did you come to the United States because of orders from the emperor of Japan?” and “How many different denominations are there in the Buddhist teaching?” The FBI agent brought up the fact that Emperor Hirohito and the abbot of Nishi Honganji were cousins and questioned Fujimura if he had received any order from the emperor via the abbot. Further, the agent was suspicious of the activities of Japanese-American soldiers and asked Fujimura why the Salinas Buddhist Temple entertained them when they were stationed at Fort Ord. Although Fujimura claimed innocence, he was transported to the San Francisco Detention Station, run by the Immigration and Naturalization Services, detained at its gymnasium with fellow Japanese, and then sent to Bismark Internment Camp in North Dakota.17

The majority of Buddhist priests rounded up by the FBI were separated from their families, who were, as result of Executive Order 9066, relocated to fourteen assembly centers and later moved to ten relocation centers operated by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). The vast majority of the Issei Buddhist priests were interned in the detention stations in Santa Fe, New Mexico, run by the Department of Justice (DOJ), while others were interned in camps run by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) or Army. As those Buddhist priests were locked up with Japanese and German prisoners of war, they were considered “enemy aliens.” After cross-examinations, the Issei Buddhist priests were transferred to either the “family camps” run by the DOJ in Crystal City, Texas, or the WRA’s “segregation camp” in Tule Lake, California. The former camp confined those who were considered not harmful to US national security, while the latter camp detained those who were considered dangerous and pro-Japanese and had even expressed wishes to return to Japan.18

After the Buddhist priests were forcefully removed from their temples, Euro-American Buddhist priests took care of some of the temples. For instance, Sunya Pratt served as a caretaker of the Tacoma Buddhist Church in Washington. After the Issei and Nisei residents were forced to move to an assembly center named Camp Harmony, Pratt received permission from the local authority to serve the Japanese Buddhists there and conducted Sunday School, until they were relocated to permanent relocation centers.19 Between 1942 and 1945 the Los Angeles Honpa Honganji board of directors entrusted Julius A. Goldwater with their temple based on “faith built on ten years of association with him.”20 Goldwater provided the Nikkei Buddhists held at the Santa Anita Race Track Assembly Center with materials needed for rituals.21 Frank B. Udale and Alex S. While took care of the BMNA temples in Northern California.22

In Hawaii, Ernest Hunt played a significant role in reopening several of the Shin Buddhist temples closed by the military authorities. He appealed directly to the military governor, General Emmons, for permission to restart Buddhist services, assuring him that he would speak only of religious matters. He and his wife were active in the temple on Makiki Street, Honolulu, and the one in Hilo. He also officiated services at Jikōen, a Shin Buddhist temple founded by Okinawans.23 Female Nisei Shin Buddhist leaders in Hawaii also administered and took care of ceremonial affairs in their temples during the war.24

Buddhist Practice in Imprisonment Camps

According to the War Relocation Authority’s report on incarcerees’ religious affiliations, almost seventy percent of the Issei and about fifty percent of the Nisei were Buddhists, whereas twenty-two percent of the Issei and about thirty percent of the Nisei were Christians.25 Despite the difference in religious orientations, David Yoo observes that camp religion promoted social service, racial-ethnic solidarity, and religious faith among the imprisoned Japanese Americans.26

The Nikkei Buddhists continued to hold Buddhist gatherings in relocation camps. They referred to individual groups in their organizations as “Buddhist Churches” to sound more “Christian,” i.e., the Heart Mountain Relocation Buddhist Church (Wyoming), the Manzanar Relocation Camp Buddhist Church (California), the Minidoka Relocation Buddhist Church (Idaho), the Poston Relocation Buddhist Church (Arizona), the Topaz Relocation Buddhist Church (Utah), etc. Mess halls and recreational buildings served as the “church” meeting places where Buddhist priests conducted religious services and promoted religious education. The Nisei lay Buddhist members formed Bussei, the Young Buddhist Associations (YBA), in these camps.27 Lester Suzuki, a Japanese American Methodist minister incarcerated in Heart Mountain, recorded the organization of daily Buddhist gatherings:

By the fall of 1942, the Buddhists conducted Sunday school at five different places, special young people’s services and morning services at three different places. On Sunday afternoons they conducted young people’s fellowship and afternoon services at three different places. In the evening services were held at three places. On Wednesdays and Fridays they held teaching lectures and studies and lectures for young people and lay people. On Saturdays some regional fellowship groups were held such as the Northwest and Northern California gatherings.28

In addition to regular gatherings, the Japanese American Buddhists held annual special services, such as the celebration of the Buddha’s birthday, Higan-e (services during the time of spring and autumn equinoxes) and Obon (the celebration of ancestors in summer).

Because the Nikkei Buddhists did not have Buddhist items needed for the services, such as Buddhist statues and altars, they created Buddhist artifacts using whatever they could obtain. In the Bismark Internment Camp, North Dakota, for the celebration of the Buddha’s birthday, known as Flower Festival (hanamatsuri in Japanese), the interned Buddhists carved an image of the Buddha from a carrot. In Camp Livingston, Louisiana, a Japanese sculptor carved a statue of Kannon Bodhisattva. He taught sculpture to fellow internees who also constructed a Buddhist altar with candleholders, incense burners, and flower vases.29 In other camps, Nikkei Buddhists transformed abandoned pieces of wood and spare crate wood into Buddhist statues, altars, and ornaments. A Sōtō Zen priest even made a rosary (juzu in Japanese) out of dried peach pits. While confined by barbed wire and under the surveillance of armed guards, the Buddhist incarcerees, guided by the priests, “did their best to bring order to chaos, to create meaning in a seemingly senseless situation,” to borrow Williams’s words.30

In addition to hand-making Buddhist objects, transsectarian Buddhist activities characterized another new development of Japanese American Buddhism during the imprisonment period. Since the War Relocation Authority (WRA) enforced sectarian cooperation within religious categories, such as Protestantism, Catholicism and Buddhism, Buddhist priests of various schools compromised their sectarian practices.31 Nevertheless, as Duncan Williams puts it, this practice gave the Japanese American Buddhist community a sense of new direction.

At times, this process involved finding common ground in areas such as chanting “Namu Butsu” (Homage to the Buddha) instead of the various sects’ unique chants: “Namu Amida Butsu” (Jōdo Shin); “Namu Daishi Henjō Kongō” (Shingon); and “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō” (Nichiren). While this phenomenon represented, as Stephen Prothero has suggested, more of an “ecumenism of circumstance”—reflecting the lack of facilities and government categorization for religious worship rather than a conscious choice—this transsectarianism nevertheless reflects an impulse within Japanese American Buddhism, exemplified by priests such as Yemyo Imamura, toward a form of American Buddhism that transcends Japanese sectarian factionalism.32

Although unified Buddhism emerged because of the state regulation, it became a symbol of ethno-Buddhist solidarity.

Nagatomi Shinjō, a BMNA minister, represents a figure who actively crossed sectarian Buddhist boundaries. Although not the only Buddhist priest in Manzanar, he was extremely popular. Nagatomi dedicated himself to the Manzanar Social Welfare Division, provided counsel services to individuals and families, circulated newsletters to fellow incarcerees, and officiated at weddings and funerals. Nagatomi seems to have been involved in gatherings of members of the Shingon sect who practiced goeika, singing of Buddhist hymns while tinkling a bell,33 and created a hybrid funerary Buddhist practice for Manzanar incarcerees. Interestingly, he officiated at funeral services for members of the Sōtō sect in which he gave the deceased a posthumous Dharma name associated with Shin Buddhist tradition. Concerning Nagatomi’s practice, Williams states, “The importance of maintaining the Japanese custom of ancestral veneration was so strong that sectarian concerns for each family, while normally crucial for the proper performance of the traditional funeral and the selection of the posthumous name, were set aside in this time of crisis. In this way, Buddhism not only provided a spiritual refuge for internees but also served the social function of maintaining family and communal cohesion through ancestral and life-cycle rituals and traditional Japanese festivals and ceremonies.”34 Japanese American Buddhists accepted the transsectarian form of Buddhism out of necessity, which proved to be the most effective way to preserve their culture during their time of imprisonment.

The unified Buddhist services were, however, not without problems. Doctrinal differences persisted, particularly between Shin and Nichiren priests. For instance, in Heart Mountain, the Nikkei Buddhists initially observed the unified services, but Nichiren priests formed their own services, after which the BMNA ministers also held a separate Sunday School and services.35 In the Lordsburg Army camp, Tana Daishō recorded the awkwardness of sutra chanting during a fall higan service, in which a portion of the Larger Sutra (one of the sacred texts for Shin Buddhists) was chanted and then a portion of the Lotus Sutra (the fundamental sutra for Nichirenists) was recited. Although priests of different sects took turns and led annual Buddhist services, they had to cater to the demand of congregations that had different Buddhist backgrounds and incorporate Buddhist practices other than their own.36

How to distribute offertory among clergy was another problem. Some Buddhist priests demanded the distribution be based on the size of sects, while other Buddhist priests insisted on equal distribution. Because Shin Buddhism was the largest Buddhist sect in the Japanese American community, Shin priests held the former position for collecting the larger share and objected to the latter position.37

The political inclinations of individual Buddhist priests also prevented transsectarian cooperation. In 1943, the WRA forced the Japanese American inmates to complete a loyalty questionnaire in order to identify who was loyal and who was potentially disloyal, list volunteers for military service, and to allow loyal Nikkei to resettle in the Midwest or the East Coast. In the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas, board members of the United Buddhist Church were divided over the issue of loyalty. Among twelve members, three members were found disloyal, which made other members worry that Buddhism could be labeled as a pro-Japanese religion by the WRA. As a result, those three protesters resigned from the United Buddhist Church and established the Daijō Bukkyō Church, or the Mahayana Buddhist Church, with three priests and about three hundred people.38 In other camps, because the Issei and Kibei Nisei (literally, “returning Nisei” from Japan) who answered “no” to the loyalty questions were relocated to the Tule Lake segregation camp, the removal of vocal pro-Japan Issei enabled the Nisei Buddhists to become leaders of the Buddhist organizations by “effectively silencing anti-American and anti-Nisei sentiments.”39

National Identity and Ambivalence of the Japanese American Buddhists

During the period of World War II imprisonment, the Nikkei Buddhists intensified their ambivalent attitudes toward the United States and Japan. These sentiments were not limited to Japanese American Buddhists but experienced by people of Japanese ancestry as a whole; however, as funerals of Nisei soldiers who died on the European front were held in relocation centers, the Nikkei Buddhists had a hard time reconciling their ethno-religious identity and national identity.

The Buddhist Mission of North America (BMNA) speeded up the process of Americanizing its organization. Because the bishop of the BMNA was incarcerated and its central administration was relocated to the Topaz Relocation Center, the Topaz Buddhist Church served as the BMNA headquarters and communicated with its clergy and laity in other camps. In May 1944, the BMNA leaders decided to change the name of their organization from BMNA to the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) as it sounded more Christian-like, and they transferred its management authority from Issei to Nisei clergy because the Nisei ministers were American citizens. They also replaced the Buddhist symbol of reverse-swastika with that of the wheel of dharma and adopted a new Buddhist hymnal titled, A Book of Ceremonies for Use of Buddhists at Gatherings, which was created and compiled by the Buddhist Brotherhood of America, led by Julius Goldwater, for the purpose of promoting Buddhism in America in English. The Nisei Buddhists used this service book extensively during the mass incarceration period.40

The Nikkei Buddhists also localized their Buddhist identities. For instance, Nyogen Senzaki, a Zen master incarcerated in Heart Mountain, called Heart Mountain the “Mountain of Compassion,” because imprisonment gave him more opportunities to practice and promote Buddhism in America.41 When Buddhist internees from the Oregon Buddhist Church made a Shin Buddhist altar, they modeled it on the shape of Mount Hood in Oregon. Traditionally, the foundation resembled the shape of Mount Sumeru, a mythological mountain in Buddhist cosmology.42

While Japanese American Buddhism during World War II acquired a more American look, Issei Buddhist clergy—and for that matter, Issei internees in general—could not sever their emotional connections to Japan. Fujimura Bunyū recalled a shared sentiment among the Issei internees when baseball games between a team of the Japanese prisoners-of-war (members of the Japanese Imperial Navy captured at the Battle of Midway and detained in Camp Livingston) and a team of Japanese internees (who lived most of their lives in the United States) were held.

Who should we cheer?

If the internee’s team won, we could not help feel we had offended the POWs.

If, on the other hand, our internee team lost, there would always be some team players who grumbled that we did not cheer hard enough.

This attitude is difficult to express to non-Japanese. In the United States, everyone has a favorite, and they cheer that team regardless of the repercussions. But for us Japanese, the feeling of enryo, of restraint in everything, is still very strong.

At any rate, together with the pleasure of watching the games, I remember the difficulty of deciding which team to cheer for. Perhaps only a Japanese can understand such sentiments. . . .43

As Japanese had been educated to respect Japanese Imperial soldiers, it was difficult for the Issei internees to fully support either team.

Tana Daishō’s diary represents voices of the Issei internees who initially believed in victory by Imperial Japan. They did not trust news on the progress of battles reported by US media and accepted only the announcements by the Imperial Japanese headquarters. Further, Tana felt the transfers of fellow internees from one camp to another were unnecessary and irrational, as relocations caused the building, destroying, and rebuilding of facilities. He saw the lack of discipline among camp guards as instances of the absence of leadership in the US government, thereby explaining to himself why US armed forces were losing to the Imperial Japanese military. Tana’s support of Imperial Japan, however, wavered when he learned of the deaths of Nisei soldiers. He sympathized with fellow Issei internees who had to send their sons to the war front in Italy and hoped for an immediate end to the war.44

Unlike their parents, Nisei Buddhists expressed patriotism by serving in the US armed forces. In January 1943, the Secretary of War recruited the Nisei to form a special combat regiment made up of Japanese Americans. A large number of Hawaiian Nisei volunteered immediately. The response from mainland Nisei was slow, but about 1,200 Nisei in the relocation centers enlisted. In April 1943, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed, of which the 100th Infantry Battalion headed for Europe. Casualties among the Nisei soldiers were heavy, and selective service was introduced again. According to the War Department, by July 1945, 20,539 Nisei had served in the military, and according to the Pacific Citizen, by August 1945, 3,840 Nisei soldiers had been killed.45 Although it is unknown how many Nisei soldiers were Buddhists, the Young Buddhist Associations that continued to be active in relocation centers supported the 442nd and 100th Combat Regiments, and there are many stories associated with the deaths of Nisei Buddhist soldiers.

Kyōgoku Itsuzō, a BMNA Buddhist minister who served at the Fresno Buddhist Temple before the war, collected stories of Nisei Buddhist soldiers, published a pamphlet titled “The Silver Moon,” and dedicated it to them. These stories describe the Buddhist understanding of Nisei servicemen who died in battle:

A soldier of the 442nd regiment told me: “Once the attack broke out, bombs and shells exploded near the foxhole and a terrible shower of debris poured down into the shelter. Every time the explosion seemed near us we all recited Onembutsu unconsciously, disregarding the hot discussion on the superiority of one’s own religion which took place just before the attack of enemy began. Onembutsu, the shortest but deepest form which symbolizes the unity of the savior and one to be saved, was chosen involuntarily.”46

Placed in life-and-death situations, the nenbutsu, or reciting the name of Amida Buddha, was the last resort for Nisei Buddhist soldiers. For them, the Buddhist teachings, including the impermanence of life and birth in the Pure Land, which they had learned through Sunday School, for the first time became vividly real.

Another story describes the Buddhist awakening of the mother of a Nisei soldier. She could not accept her son’s departure to the war front and begged him to change his mind. The son remembered a Buddhist gatha he had learned in Sunday School:

  • When we see the silver moon
  • Gleaming in the sky,
  • We remember
  • Still our Lord is nigh;
  • By His blessed Law to guide us
  • Thru this earthly night
  • Our sorrow
  • Into joy and light.

The gatha reminded Johnny of the Lord Buddha who was always with him while he did not pay attention to His presence. Johnny thought, we must depend upon His guidance in this grave moment.

Calmly he said, “Mother, are you not a Buddhist?”

“Yes, Johnny,” she replied.

“Then, we should not suffer from our destiny. We must live in ‘Onembutsu’ taking refuge in the Buddha.”

The mother, struck with unexpected religious words from her son, said after a few moments: “Well said, Johnny. How ignorant I had been to lament over the things destined to me. It is the fruit of my karma, the law of cause and result, that I should send my son to the front. The fetter of karma is too strong to break with my own power. I must depend upon Buddha who is always with me guiding and protecting this ignorant and miserable woman.”

After reciting the Holy Name for a while, she said, “Thank you Johnny. I will never lament and complain hereafter. We are always in the universal and boundless loving-kindness of the Lord Buddha. You advised me to remember Him. . . .”

“Mama, will you make a promise to say ‘Namu-Amida-butsu’ with gassho remembering me whenever you see the moon? I will do the same while I stay at the front away from you.”

“Surely I will promise to do what you ask with pleasure,” she said.

They returned to their apartment rejoicing, and they said good-bye in peace when Johnny left the center, each calling the name of the Buddha.”47

In Kyōgoku’s mind, the Buddhist stories about Nisei soldiers served as a perfect example of how Buddhist teachings were understood and practiced during that difficult time.

Kyōgoku analyzed the ethno-cultural background of Nisei soldiers from a Buddhist perspective, which made them heroic in battle. First, he points out the right view of the Nisei soldiers. That is, they correctly understood their circumstances—they were discriminated against by white Americans despite being American citizens—and based on that judgment they made the correct decision. Secondly, the Nisei soldiers were able to transcend life and death because of the Buddhist teaching and religious customs that were derived from Japan, including ancestral worship and memorial services central to each household. The notion of impermanence and the belief that, should they die in battle, their families would honor them by holding Buddhist memorial services, made them accept their fate and made them unafraid of dying. Third, the sincerity of Nisei soldiers led them to be loyal to the US government. Kyōgoku concluded that they were practitioners of “straight mind,” or jikishin, who accepted life as ephemeral and embraced the Japanese perception of nature—cyclic changes of seasons as manifestations of impermanence—associated with the Buddhist teaching.48

In his admiration of the Nisei Buddhist soldiers’ sacrifices, Kyōgoku—and other Issei Buddhist priests—justified Buddhist participation in war. But just as much of the Nisei’s understanding of Japanese culture was superficial and stereotyped,49 the Issei Buddhist priests’ understanding of Buddhism and war was simplistic. Kyōgoku appropriated scriptural Buddhist concepts, such as “sincerity” in the Larger Sutra and “sincere mind” in the Meditation Sutra—which describe Buddhist followers’ attitudes toward Amida Buddha—and applied them to secular contexts to use them as his explanation of the Nisei soldiers’ ethics and disciplinary actions. Fujimura Bunyū also described the deaths of Nisei Buddhist soldiers as “truly the Bodhisattva Way in the Buddhist teaching.”50 During the postwar period, Tana Daishō still considered death in action to be an act of giving one’s life to one’s country, even though he recognized the importance of the Buddhist practice through which “the people live in peace. There is no need for soldiers or weapons,”51 as stated in the Larger Sutra.52

On the one hand, the Shin Buddhist teaching of birth in the Pure Land at the time of dying and saying of the nenbutsu helped Nisei Buddhist soldiers overcome the anxiety of death,53 but on the other hand, Japanese American Buddhists did not reflect on their support of, or participation in, the killing of human beings based on the Buddhist precept of “not killing.” For them, Buddhism was not about “not killing,” but about the preservation of their families and ethnic values. Buddhist faith was part of ethnic solidarity and patriotic expression. Unlike Buddhist clergy in Japan, Issei Buddhist priests neither used the rhetoric of birth in the Pure Land to promote the war nor formed the wartime theology that the Buddhist organizations in Japan developed during World War II, but in America too, Buddhism was subordinated to patriotism and national ideology.

Resettlement of Nikkei Buddhists and the Assessment of Japanese American Buddhists’ Imprisonment Experiences

After March 1943, the War Relocation Authority (WRA) began releasing people of Japanese ancestry from the relocation camps. As its strategy to integrate Japanese Americans into American society, they were dispersed to the Midwest and East Coast states. Between March 1943 and January 1945, when the order to remove Japanese Americans from West Coast states was lifted, approximately 35,000 Japanese Americans left the camps for those regions.54 Kubose Gyōmei was one of them. After spending two years in Heart Mountain, he moved to Chicago and organized a Buddhist gathering, which became the Buddhist Temple of Chicago in 1944. In addition, the Midwest Buddhist Temple was organized in Chicago in 1944; the Cleveland Buddhist Temple was formed in 1945; and a Buddhist gathering began in New Jersey, which later became the Seabrook Buddhist Temple.55 Allowing Japanese Americans to disperse to the Midwest and East Coast, therefore, generated the unanticipated consequence of Japanese American Buddhism spreading to those regions.

When the Nikkei returned to the West Coast, Buddhist temples served as temporary shelters, and Japanese American Buddhists strove hard to re-establish themselves in the United States. Through two events, they sought to address “improved race relations between Japanese American Buddhists and the general public, particularly white Americans,” to borrow Michael Masatsugu’s words.56 First, in 1948 the Nisei Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) members organized a Golden Jubilee Festival in San Francisco to celebrate its fiftieth-year anniversary, while honoring the hardships of Issei Buddhists and the sacrifices of the Nisei Buddhist soldiers. As Masatsugu puts it, this event signified “cross-generational ties, loyalty to country, civic inclusion, and aspirations toward the American middle class.”57 Second, a devout Buddhist veteran initiated the campaign for the US army to recognize “B” for Buddhist on dog tags, because during World War II, the army accepted only three religious designations, namely Protestant, Catholic, and Hebrew. A group of Nisei Buddhists also requested authorities of national cemeteries to allow the Buddhist symbol to be engraved on the gravestones of servicemen of the Buddhist faith.58 According to Duncan Williams, “These two campaigns represent an important legacy of the camps, testing both Japanese American Buddhist loyalty to America and America’s loyalty to its Buddhist citizens.”59

Contrary to the Nikkei Buddhists’ efforts to reintegrate themselves into American society, members of the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji (LAHH) Buddhist Temple, which is affiliated with the BCA, maintained ethnic space by excluding Julius Goldwater, who had served as the temple caretaker during the incarceration period. Despite his dedication to serve the Nikkei Buddhist internees, the LAHH board of directors sued Goldwater because Goldwater had misappropriated the temple’s funds. Although the cause of contention was financial, the lawsuit indicated the underlying tension between Goldwater and Nikkei Buddhists. That is, Goldwater’s effort to seek universal Buddhism, which Issei Shin Buddhist clergy supported during the pre-war period, was challenged by the board members of Nisei Shin Buddhists who wished to maintain their sectarian affiliation and ethnic identity. The lawsuit led the two parties to terminate their friendship. Goldwater left the LAHH and became a non-sectarian Buddhist teacher in Los Angeles.60 Unlike Goldwater, however, Sunya Pratt maintained a good relationship with members of the Tacoma Buddhist temple in Seattle until her death in 1986.

Assessment of Japanese American Buddhists’ imprisonment experiences varies. In general, their reaction to imprisonment was not as negative as that of the Japanese American Christians. Stephen S. Fugita and Marilyn Fernandez state:

The contemporary religious orientation of former Japanese American incarcerees is related to differing retrospective views of their World War II incarceration. Specifically, even though Buddhists were more marginalized by the larger society than were Protestants before, during, and immediately after the war, they remember their incarceration as a significantly less negative period in their lives than do Protestants. Moreover, they have a more accommodative and less protest-oriented perspective toward that experience, as indicated by the type of camp leader they currently favor. Finally, Buddhists were somewhat less active than Protestants in the over-decade-long social movement to redress the injustice of their wartime treatment.61

For the explanation of their findings, Fugita and Fernandez find the Buddhist worldview of accepting reality as it is and the idea of interdependent human life supported by compassionate acts of others.62

Issei Buddhist clergy took the internment as opportunities to study and promote Buddhism further in the United Sates. For Tana Daishō, it was a historical moment of furthering Bukkyō tōzen, or the movement of Buddhism moving eastward. Buddhism was introduced from India to East Asia and Japan, and Japanese Buddhism was introduced to Hawaii and the West Coast by Japanese immigrants, and therefore, it should be introduced to eastern parts of the United States.63 Zen master Nyogen Senzaki held a similar view and called his meditation hall in the Heart Mountain relocation center Tōzen zenkutsu, Eastward Meditation Hall, simply because “Wyoming was east of California.”64 In addition, in Santa Fe camp, New Mexico, Tana met Japanese internees from Peru, and because he heard that there had been no Buddhist priest in that country, when they left the camp he arranged for them to take home the pictorial scroll of Amida Buddha and other Buddhist ornaments, which had been worshipped and used by the Nikkei Buddhists in Santa Fe.65 For Tana, the camp served as a place to gather information from fellow Japanese who had lived in other parts of North and South America, such as Alaska and Peru, and to meet Imperial Japanese prisoners of war from whom he learned about various naval battles between the two countries. Because Tana was separated from his family for the entire duration of imprisonment, internment also gave him opportunities to reflect on his relationships with his wife and children, ministerial duties, and his relationships to fellow ministers and lay members.66

While such positive assessments of the imprisonment experienced by Nikkei Buddhists demonstrate both their ambitious and humble attitudes, others witnessed the stagnation of Buddhist practice among Japanese American Buddhists. Goldwater said, “I think many of the Buddhists there had a very shaky foundation in the dharma. . . . It was merely habitual, a point of ethnic pride. When that faith was challenged, the people were bereft; they were set adrift. Once the elegance of their heritage and culture were stripped away, they found themselves to be just ordinary people. They didn’t necessarily grow.”67 Tana was also critical of his fellow ministers who busied themselves by playing baseball and mahjong games and neglected their clerical duties.

Further, the Nikkei Buddhist perceptions of white Americans were not always as negative as one may think. In Fort Missoula, Montana, where 633 Japanese had been interned by the end of 1941 and where Ishida Nitten, a bishop of the Nichiren sect, was detained, Issei internees were allowed to make supervised visits outside the camp compound. Once, male Japanese internees from Hawaii strolled through a local cemetery and discovered fifty graves of Japanese who seemed to have worked at railway construction between 1900 and 1909. The gravesites were clean. Later, twenty-four interned Buddhist priests were permitted by the camp commander to perform Buddhist memorial services for the deceased.68 The story goes on:

They [the Buddhist priests] burned incense at each grave. Their tears fell, not for the young men who had died without having their dreams realized, but in gratefulness that the town residents had cared for the graves for so many years, and especially now, knowing the ethnic origin of those buried below.

“Those leaders who interned us are Americans,” the priest said. “But these Missoula residents are Americans too. These Americans are thoughtful enough to care for graves of unknown people. At home, in Hawaii, some children neglect to clean around their own parents’ gravesite. And here are Americans who have kept these Japanese tombstones clean.”69

This episode does not indicate that Missoulians did not discriminate against Japanese Americans—in fact, they were as hostile to Japanese Americans as other white Americans were—but suggests the diversity of the white Americans’ experiences of Nikkei Buddhists and a variation of Japanese American Buddhist experiences vis-à-vis the white American community. As demonstrated by the story of Fort Missoula, Nikkei Buddhist experiences varied from camp to camp and from person to person. By understanding local camp histories and stories of individual lives, the diversity of the Japanese American Buddhists’ imprisonment experiences will become clearer.

Toward an Understanding of Religion and Race in Contemporary America

During the World War II imprisonment period, the US-Japan relationship and domestic socio-political conditions that had shaped the contours of Japanese American Buddhism prior to the war became worse. While exclusive American nationalism and an American public intolerant of foreign religions and ethnic minorities had prevented the growth of Nikkei Buddhism, the anti-Japanese public sentiment reached its peak after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which led the great majority of Japanese Americans to be confined to relocation camps. However, individual commitment, organizational efforts, and ethnic solidarity continued to drive Japanese American Buddhists, who maintained their traditions and formed new practices within barbed wires. At the same time, following the leadership of the Nisei Buddhists, Nikkei Buddhist organizations acquired a more American look. Nisei Buddhist servicemen went to the battlefield and died, contributing to the master narrative of Japanese American history, in which Japanese Americans were accepted by America’s general public because of the Nisei soldiers’ sacrifices. Although Buddhist experiences during the World War II imprisonment period were specific to Japanese Americans, the Euro-American Buddhists supported and redefined their relationships to the Nikkei Buddhists.

The imprisonment of Japanese American Buddhists also represents the beginning of a new era in the history of American Buddhism. During the resettlement period, Japanese American Buddhists gathered in the Midwest and East Coast and later formed their temples in these regions. During the 1950s and 1960s, Buddhism became popular in the United States primarily because of the Beat generation and Zen boom. The enactment of the 1965 Immigration Act then led other forms of Asian Buddhism to be introduced to America, as more Asian migrants were allowed to enter the United States. As much as Japanese American Buddhism became regionally diverse, forms of American Buddhism became multifarious. Yet, Asian American Buddhists have always dealt with the issues related to their ethno-religious identities, including how to maintain and Americanize their practices at the same time and how to define their boundaries vis-à-vis the Buddhists of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Furthermore, for Muslim Americans, how to reconcile their religious and national identities has been one of the pressing problems since 9/11. Therefore, the Japanese American Buddhists’ incarceration experiences still resonate within American society.

Review of Literature

While introducing many moving stories of Japanese American Buddhists, Williams analyzes various socio-political conditions and misconceptions that led the Nikkei Buddhist priests to be arrested by the FBI; describes vibrant Buddhist lives within and beyond barbed wires; introduces stories of Japanese American Buddhist soldiers serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion, as well as the Military Intelligence Service; and discusses the resettlement of Nikkei Buddhists after World War II. American Sutra provides a comprehensive view on the experiences of Japanese American and Euro-American Buddhists during World War II and demonstrates the ways in which a new form of Buddhism emerged in the United States through their efforts to negotiate and redefine their national, religious, and ethnic identities.70

This book analyzes the complex processes of imprisonment of persons of Japanese descent. The network of imprisonment was loose and disorganized. Although various institutions (for example, the INS, the War Relocation Authority (WRA), the Department of Justice, and the US Army) participated in imprisonment and worked together, they competed with each other and created conflicts. Kashima mentions the Buddhist experience of internment by translating and citing passages from Tana Daishō’s diary.71

Primary Sources

Tana, Daishō. Santa Fe Rōzubāgu senji tekikokujin yokuryū sho nikki. 4 vols. Tokyo: Sankibo busshorin, 1976–1989.Find this resource:

    This work is known as the Internment Camp Diary. The diary begins on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Imperial Japanese Navy, which led the FBI to arrest Tana three months later, and ends on March 31, 1946, when he was released by the Department of Justice.

    Fujimura, Bunyū. Though I Be Crushed: The Wartime Experiences of a Buddhist Minister. Los Angeles: The Nembutsu Press, 1985.Find this resource:

      This work introduces an Issei Buddhist minister’s internment experience. Fujimura was initially interned in an old army camp in Bismark (ND), transferred to Camp Livingston (LA), from there to Santa Fe (NM), and was incarcerated in Poston (AZ).

      Further Reading

      Ama, Michihiro. “A Neglected Diary, A Forgotten Buddhist Couple: Tana Daishō’s Internment Camp Diary as a Historical and Literary Text.” Journal of Global Buddhism 14 (2013): 45–62.Find this resource:

        Blankenship, Anne. “Religion and the Japanese American Incarceration.” Religion Compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 317–325.Find this resource:

          Fugita, Stephen, and Marilyn Fernandez. “Religion and Japanese Americans’ Views of their World War II Incarceration.” Journal of Asian American Studies 5, no. 2 (2002): 113–137.Find this resource:

            Tetsuden, Kashima. Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003.Find this resource:

              Williams, Duncan R. “Complex Loyalties: Issei Buddhist Ministers during the Wartime Incarceration.” Pacific World 3, no. 5 (2003): 255–274.Find this resource:

                Williams, Duncan R. “From Pearl Harbor to 9/11: Lessons from the Internment of Japanese American Buddhists.” In Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America. Edited by Stephen Prothero, 63–78. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                  Williams, Duncan R. American Sutra: Buddhism and the World War II Japanese American Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019 (forthcoming).Find this resource:

                    Yoo, David K. Growing Up Nisei: Race, Generation, and Culture among Japanese Americans of California, 1924–49. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.Find this resource:


                      (1.) Yukiko Kimura, Issei: Japanese Immigrants in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1988), 15.

                      (2.) Kimura cites Hawaii Nihonjin Iminshi: Hawaii Kanyaku Imin 75-nen Kinen (Honolulu: United Japanese Society of Hawaii, 1964), 314.

                      (3.) Michihiro Ama, Immigrants to the Pure Land: The Modernization, Acculturation, and Globalization of Shin Buddhism, 1898–1941 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 2011).

                      (4.) Nam-lin Hur, Death and Social Order in Tokugawa Japan: Buddhism, Anti-Christianity, and the Danka System (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 9.

                      (5.) A series of laws enacted on state and national levels undermined the economic and socio-familial bases of the Nikkei community. In 1913, the state of California enacted the Alien Land law, which prohibited the Japanese immigrants from “purchasing agricultural land, and restricted the leasing of such land to three years.” Yuji Ichioka, The Issei: The World of the First Generation of Japanese Immigrants 1885–1924 (New York: Free Press, 1988), 153. In 1922, the US Supreme Court denied a Japanese immigrant’s petition for citizenship (Kimura, Issei, 18). In the same year, the US congress enacted the Cable Act, according to which “Any Nisei woman who married an alien ineligible for citizenship lost her American citizenship by virtue of her marriage” (Ichioka, First Generation, 253). Finally, the 1924 Japanese Exclusion Act “prevented immigrants and those who were ineligible for citizenship from being admitted to the U.S.” (Kimura, Issei, 15).

                      (6.) David Yoo, Growing Up Nisei: Race, Generation, and Culture among Japanese Americans of California, 1924–49 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 44.

                      (7.) George J. Tanabe Jr., “Glorious Gathas: Americanization and Japanization in Honganji Hymns,” in Engaged Pure Land Buddhism: Essays in Honor of Professor Alfred Bloom, ed. Kenneth K. Tanaka and Eishō Nasu (Berkeley: WisdomOcean Publications, 1998), 227.

                      (8.) Yoo, Growing Up Nisei, 48–54.

                      (9.) Kashima, Buddhism in America: The Social Organization of an Ethnic Religious Institution (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977), 48.

                      (10.) Duncan R. Williams, “Complex Loyalties: Issei Buddhist Ministers during the Wartime Incarceration,” Pacific World 3, no. 5 (2003): 255–274.

                      (11.) Williams, “Complex Loyalties,” 260–263. For the camp experience of Tenrikyō ministers, see Akihiro Yamakura, “The United States—Japanese War and Tenrikyo Ministers in America,” in Issei Buddhism in the Americas, ed. Duncan R. Williams and Tomoe Moriya (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 141–163. For the camp experience of Konkōkyō ministers, see Yoshiaki Fukuda, My Six Years of Internment: An Issei’s Struggle for Justice (San Francisco: The Konko Church of San Francisco, 1990).

                      (12.) Peter Irons, Justice at War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 22; and Williams, “Complex Loyalties,” 256. According to Irons, people in Group B were “‘potentially dangerous’ but had not been thoroughly investigated,” while people in Group C were monitored because of their “pro-Japanese inclinations and propagandist activities” (Irons, Justice at War, 22).

                      (13.) Bunyū Fujimura, Though I Be Crushed (Los Angeles: Nembutsu Press, 1985), 47.

                      (14.) Cited and translated by Williams, “Complex Loyalties,” 257–258.

                      (15.) Fujimura, Crushed, 45.

                      (16.) Fujimura, Crushed, 51–52.

                      (17.) Fujimura, Crushed, 54–62.

                      (18.) Williams, “Complex Loyalties,” 263–265.Tetsuden Kashima categorizes imprisonment camps into ten groups: detention stations operated by the Justice (Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) and War Departments; internment camps by the Justice (INS) and War Departments; assembly centers by the War Department; relocation camps by the War Relocation Authority (WRA); isolation and “pro-WRA” centers by the WRA; a segregation center by the WRA and the US Army; a segregation center by the Justice Department; institutions by the WRA; refugee camps by the WRA; and internment hostels by the State Department. Kashima states, “The imprisonment organization was rife with internal competition, lack of coordination, and ad hoc decision making.” Tetsuden Kashima, Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003), 6, 10–11.) For the categorizations of “internment,” “incarceration,” and “imprisonment,” see Kashima, pp. 8–9.

                      (20.) Rafu Shimpo, March 18, 1942, 7. Issei temple members were, however, concerned about funeral arrangements without Japanese ministers (Rafu Shimpo, March 16, 1942, 3).

                      (21.) Kashima, Buddhism in America, 53.

                      (22.) Eiko Masuyama, Memories: The Buddhist Church Experience in the Camps 1942–1945, rev. ed. (unknown publisher, 2004), 141.

                      (23.) Ama, Immigrants to the Pure Land, chap. 3, n. 104.

                      (24.) Ama, Immigrants to the Pure Land, 84.

                      (25.) Anne Blankenship, “Religion and the Japanese American Incarceration,” Religion Compass 8, no. 10 (2014): 317–325. The caveat of this data is that, as Blankenship points out, “some incarcerees may have been hesitant to officially affiliate themselves with a religion connected to Japan” (Blankenship, “Japanese American Incarceration,” 321). At the same time, Williams states, “The rush to Christian conversion, ironically could be part of a Japanese tradition of subsuming religious identity under political or national identity. But conversions were also born of fear of persecution by neighbors and the government, and many converts returned to the Buddhist fold during the camp years” (Duncan R. Williams, “From Pearl Harbor to 9/11: Lessons from the Internment of Japanese American Buddhists,” in Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America, ed. Stephen Prothero (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 66).

                      (26.) Yoo, Growing Up Nisei, 114–123.

                      (27.) Williams, “Complex Loyalties,” 267.

                      (28.) Cited in Masuyama, Memories, 21.

                      (29.) Fujimura, Crushed, 64, 80.

                      (30.) Williams, “Complex Loyalties,” 266–267.

                      (31.) Blankenship, “Japanese American Incarceration,” 321.

                      (32.) Williams, “Pearl Harbor,” 67–68.

                      (33.) Masuyama, Memories, 35–36.

                      (34.) Williams, “Pearl Harbor,” 68.

                      (35.) Masuyama, Memories, 21. In May 1944, however, sectarian services were suspended and Buddhist internees in Heart Mountain resumed observing transsectarian services.

                      (36.) Tana Daishō, Internment Camp Diary, 4 vols. (Tokyo: Sankibo busshorin, 1976–1989), 2:423–424.

                      (37.) Kashima, Buddhism in America, 55.

                      (38.) Kashima, Buddhism in America, 55. Among the loyalty questions, numbers twenty-seven and twenty-eight were controversial, given the fact that most of the Nisei were American citizens: “the first dealt with the respondent’s willingness to serve in the armed forces of the United States, and the second, in essence, asked for a renunciation of any allegiance to Japan” (Kashima, Buddhism in America, 58).

                      (39.) Kashima, Buddhism in America, 58–59.

                      (40.) Kashima, Buddhism in America, 59–61; and Williams, “Pearl Harbor,” 69. The preface to A Book Containing an Order of Ceremonies for Use by Buddhists at Gatherings is reprinted as “Julius Goldwater, Wartime Buddhist Liturgy (1940s)” in Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History, ed. Thomas A. Tweed and Stephen Prothero (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 172–177. Initially the WRA allowed the incarcerees to communicate only in English, but because many of the Issei were unable to speak English, it allowed them to speak the Japanese language. Nevertheless, in order to avoid misunderstanding, the Nikkei Buddhists voluntarily conducted Buddhist services in English (Susan Davis, “Mountain of Compassion: Dharma in American Internment Camps,” (Summer 1993): 46–51, 49).

                      (41.) Davis, “Mountain,” 50.

                      (42.) Williams, “Pearl Harbor,” 69.

                      (43.) Fujimura, Crushed, 79.

                      (44.) Tana, Camp Diary, 1:308, 320–321, 373; 3:421–422.

                      (45.) Tamotsu Shibutani, The Derelicts of Company K: A Sociological Study of Demoralization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 39–40, 55, 59, 62.

                      (46.) Kyōgoku Ituzō, The Silver Moon (May 30, 1949): 10–11. It was “dedicated to Nisei soldiers who sacrificed themselves in defense of their country.”

                      (47.) Ituzō, Silver Moon, 8–9.

                      (48.) Kyōgoku Ituzō, “Naniga nisei heishi o kaku yūkan narashimetaka,” Jikishin 5, no. 2 (July 1949): 4–10.

                      (49.) Shibutani states, “Though Americans, the Nisei were also conscious of being part of a proud ‘race’—one characterized by high ideals. But their understanding of Japanese values was both imperfect and stereotyped” (Shibutani, Derelicts, 25).

                      (50.) Fujimura, Crushed, 98.

                      (51.) Luis O. Gómez, The Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light; Sanskrit and Chinese Versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutras (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1996), 215.

                      (52.) Tana Daishō, Hotoke no kyōbō (Kyoto: Hyakkaen, 1972), 466.

                      (53.) In his sermon, Fujimura cited the letter of a Nisei Buddhist solider addressed to his mother: “Even if, unfortunately, I fall in battle, I will go to the Buddha’s land that I heard about from sensei from the time I was a child, so there is nothing for you to worry about. Please give my regards to sensei. And please take good care of yourself. Sayonara” (Fujimura, Crushed, 99).

                      (54.) Yoo, Growing Up Nisei, 154.

                      (55.) Buddhist Churches of America, ed. Buddhist Churches of America: A Legacy of the First 100 Years (San Francisco: Buddhist Churches of America, 1998), 193, 250, 323.

                      (56.) Michael K. Masatsugu, “Reorienting the Pure Land: Japanese Americans, the Beats, and the Making of American Buddhism, 1941–1966” (PhD diss., University of California, 2004), 70.

                      (57.) Masatsugu, “Reorienting,” 67.

                      (58.) Masatsugu, “Reorienting,” 88–98.

                      (59.) Williams, “Pearl Harbor,” 71–72.

                      (60.) Michihiro Ama, “A Jewish Buddhist Priest: The Curious Case of Julius A. Goldwater and the Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temples in 1930–1940s Los Angeles,” Southern California Quarterly 100, no. 3 (Fall 2018, forthcoming).

                      (61.) Stephen S. Fugita and Marilyn Fernandez, “Religion and Japanese Americans’ View of their World War II Incarceration,” Journal of Asian American Studies 5, no. 2 (June 2002), 132.

                      (62.) Fugita and Fernandez, “Religion and Japanese Americans,” 134.

                      (63.) Tana, Camp Diary, 1:20.

                      (64.) Davis, “Mountain,” 50.

                      (65.) Tana, Camp Diary, 4:806–808.

                      (66.) See Michihiro Ama, “A Neglected Diary, A Forgotten Buddhist Couple: Tana Daishō’s Internment Camp Diary as a Historical and Literary Text,” Journal of Global Buddhism 14 (2013): 45–62.

                      (67.) Davis, “Mountain,” 49.

                      (68.) Carol van Valkenburg, An Alien Place: The Fort Missoula Montana Detention Camp 1941–1944 (Missoula: Pictorial Histories, 2009), 54, 109. Among the list of Japanese internees in Fort Missoula, Nitten Ishida, bishop of Nichiren sect, is found (van Valkenburg, An Alien Place, 125).

                      (69.) van Valkenburg, An Alien Place, 110. Van Valkenburg cites Patsy Sumie Saiki, Ganbare! An Example of Japanese Spirit (Honolulu: Kisaku, 1982), 133.

                      (70.) Williams, Duncan R. American Sutra: Buddhism and the World War II Japanese American Experience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019, forthcoming).

                      (71.) Kashima, Tetsuden. Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003).