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Lions Roar : September 2018
BY LINDSAY KYTE W HEN AKIKO ROGERS sat down for our inter- view at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California, she placed a packet of tissues on the table between us. I thought maybe she had a cold. But Rogers knew she was about to tell a story that would bring her, and me, to tears. Akiko Rogers knows what it feels like not to belong. Growing up in Cerritos, California, as a mixed white Japanese American, she didn’t feel like she fit in anywhere. Like so many young people, she turned away from the beliefs that had guided her family for generations. Little did she know that years later, she would find the sense of belonging she sought in her home temple of the Buddhist Churches of America. When Rogers grew up, there were four generations of her family close by. “My great-grandmother used to have me doing Buddhist bowing and offering at home,” she remembers. “Buddhism was so engrained in their lives that it happened naturally, not just at church, but as an integral part of Japanese culture.” Rogers’ family were members of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA). Today, the BCA has more than sixty temples and over 16,000 members throughout the U.S. The national headquarters of the BCA sits in the center of San Francisco, a building with pews, a pulpit, and services similar to a Christian church, yet featuring an altar with a golden statue of the Buddha. The building was deliberately designed to look Christian, except for a hidden feature on its rooftop—a stupa containing relics given to the BCA by the Royal Court of Siam in 1935. This Land is Pure Land The Buddhist Churches of America and the Japanese Immigrant Experience in America The BCA has seen generations of Japanese-American families worship, play, and find belonging in its churches. When Akiko Rogers (top right and below as a baby with her Mom and grandmother) felt lost, she found herself back where she started, at her home temple. PHOTOBYKEITHKOJIMOTO LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 43