At Lordsburg there were close to a hundred Buddhist, Shinto, and Christian ministers, pastors, and lecturers—quite an amazing number. Fifty-four Buddhists represented various sects. The twenty-five in the second battalion organized a Buddhist association, and the twenty-nine in the third battalion established a Buddhist ministers' organization. Each organization held study sessions and a service every Sunday. Among the special events were the Bon Festival, equinoctial service, and Buddhahood attainment service. Twenty-three ministers were from Hawaii, thirty-one from the Mainland. Other Buddhist groups included the Jodoshu Mission, the second battalion's Sodoshu Mission, the second and third battalion's Buddhist hymn group, and a Kannon sutra reading group....Thus wrote a Japan-raised journalist during the 1940s.
Shinto associations in the camp included Daijingu and Konko-kyo. Twelve Shinto ministers hailed from the Mainland, two from Hawaii.... Mr. Miryo Fukuda of the Konko-kyo San Francisco Mission was said to be a graduate of Tokyo Imperial University, but he was an ultranationalist and a troublemaker....
Christians from the Mainland and Hawaii organized the United Church of Christian Sects here. Of the eleven pastors, four were from Hawaii. They held Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday prayer meetings, bible lectures, special meetings, and hymn study meetings. Rev. Kiyoshi Ishikawa, a graduate of Doshisha University, and Rev. Takashi Kamae, a graduate of Aoyama Gakuin University, were devoted scholars. They were both from California....
Whenever a funeral was held in the camp, if the deceased happened to be a Buddhist, dozens of clerics would line up at the service in colorful, beautifully decorated surplices. In the outside world one could never expect to see such an assemblage of ministers in such finery. Upon seeing this spectacle, someone joked, "If you have to die, now is the time." I had to agree, and I mean no disrespect, but I question the character of some of these religious leaders. Frankly, many of them disappointed me in that they did not know the way of Buddha or God. Most important of all, they did not know the way of Man, since they knew too little about the world. They could not understand the ever-changing international situation. They secluded themselves in their sect or religion and did not know or care to know anything beyond it. It seems perfectly clear to me why they failed to enlighten or inspire others....
At the outbreak of the war between the United States and Japan, a disagreement divided the Hongwanji Mission on the Mainland into two opposing groups: those ministers who sided with the United States and those who sided with Japan. The Reverend Ryotai Matsukage of the Honpa Hongwanji North America Mission issued a statement early on, saying that Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was cowardly and dishonorable. He encouraged other ministers on the Mainland to break off their relations with the head temple in Japan and support the United States. His views were published in English-language newspapers and endorsed by the Reverend Okayama, his successor. Whether or not because of this statement, Rev. Matsukage and his supporters were not interned.
Many Japanese accused Rev. Matsukage's group of speaking against Japan and the head temple to save themselves. In mid-March 1943, the minister sent thirty dollars to the Hongwanji ministers interned at Lordsburg. After a heated discussion involving diehards and moderates that nearly led to an exchange of blows, the ministers decided to return the money.
There is no one more despicable or troublesome than a hypocrite. I was surprised to discover so many of them among the religious men and teachers in the camp. A man from the Mainland told me the story of a high-ranking monk who supposedly lived according to Buddha's teachings and was arrested by the FBI. When agents searched him, they found more than a thousand dollars in cash in his coat pockets. Interrogation followed, and when his residence was searched agents discovered a bundle of love letters from a married woman. His followers were shocked by the deception. Here was a man who had gained their sympathy and respect by appearing to embrace poverty and a strict moral code of behavior. He is not an exception among those of his profession.
Like many ministers, a surprising number of teachers fail to comprehend anything beyond their own limited experience. They lack even the simplest and most basic knowledge of international affairs. They hardly have the will to study. Because they have spent so much of their lives teaching, they feel they can educate anyone—even adults—when they have taught only children. They want to help others to learn, which is admirable, but many of them have lost the humility necessary to learn from others and fail to realize that they are behind the times.
03 December 2007
Tessaku Seikatsu: An Embarrassment of Clerics
From Life behind Barbed Wire [鉄柵生活 Tessaku Seikatsu]: The World War II Internment Memoirs of a Hawai‘i Issei, by Yasutaro Soga [1873–1957] (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2008), pp. 90-93