“Aloha Buddha” – Award Winning Documentary Comes to North Hawaii

Aloha Buddha,” winner of “Best Documentary” at Hawaii International Film Festival last year, tells the story of Japanese Buddhism in Hawaii—from its historic temple buildings, many of which have fallen into disrepair, been demolished or abandoned altogether.  The film will be screened on Saturday, October 20 at 2 p.m. at Hawi Jodo Mission and on Sunday, October 21 at 9:30 a.m. at Kamuela Hongwanji, and 3:30 p.m. at Honokaa Peoples Theater.

In it, filmmakers have gathered interviews with priests and elder temple members across the state—including Hawi Jodo Mission in North Kohala—and painstakingly restored 16mm color film footage from the early 1900’s.  At that time, according to the website, www.AlohaBuddhafilm.com, Buddhism was a major religion in Hawaii, with about 50% of the population belonging to one of 170 temples across the islands.  However, according to the 2010 census, the number of Buddhists in Hawaii has shrunk to less than 5%.

From the site: “What has happened over the past 80 years to the people of Hawaii to cause such a shift, and why, with the tremendous upswing and interest in Buddhism on the mainland U.S. doesn’t Hawaii increase its membership even today? The answers to this are simple, yet complex at the same time, and a final question remains: is there any way to save the foreseeable death of Buddhism in Hawaii from happening?”

Filmmaker/producer Dr. Lorraine Minatoishi, PhD, AIA, will be available to talk story at informal receptions following the film screenings.  Founder and owner of Minatoishi Architects, Inc. and certified Historic Architect and Architectural Historian, Dr. Minatoishi earned her Doctorate of Engineering from Waseda University in Tokyo where she focused on ancient traditional Japanese architecture and the preservation thereof.

“I was looking at the architectural style of the temples focusing only on that,” said Minatoishi.  “However, I realized that the memberships of the temples were going down and I saw that most members were already older nisei and sansei generation.  I also realized that this story of the architecture was much broader…  The architecture reflected the story of immigration and settlement of the Japanese people in Hawaii.”

“I would like people to come away with a much greater and better understanding of the history of Hawaii—a big part of the history that has been largely untold,” said Minatoishi.  “For Japanese Americans, I would like for them to come away with a greater appreciation of the sacrifices that our ancestors have gone through.  Finally, I would like people to come away with an appreciation of Buddhism as a religion. The ministers and members were able to be flexible enough to change the religion to relate to the immigrants and to the larger society to meet the needs of the people.”

A donation of $5 is suggested for the screenings.  “Aloha Buddha” film presentation and talk story with filmmaker/producer Lorraine Minatoishi, Ph.D., AIA are presented by the Hawi Jodo Mission (889-5456), Kamuela Hongwanji (885-4481), Honokaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (775-7232) and the Peace Committee.