Sunday | November 19, 2017
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A new era for 75-year-old country temple in Paauilo

The holiday season started early in Paauilo on Nov. 11, when the congregation of Kongoji Mission hosted its annual Thanksgiving luncheon and celebrated the completion of a yearlong facility renovation. The event was highlighted by a ceremony rededicating the dojo attached to the 75-year old Shingon Shu Buddhist temple and an announcement of the temple’s plans to relaunch judo and other classes for the community in 2013.

Temple minister the Rev. Clark Watanabe conducted the Buddhist ceremony before a gathering of some 60 people, including several of the dojo’s former students, who had received their training through the temple’s Paauilo Judo Club.

Kyodan (congregation) President Kenji Shiba spoke about the important role that martial arts instruction played in the temple’s early years, under the direction of his late father, the Rev. Kakuo Shiba, who arrived in Paauilo from Japan in 1935 and oversaw the building of Kongoji Mission two years later.

Bartering judo instruction for help from the community with construction of the new temple building in the late 1930s, the senior Shiba taught the original judo classes outdoors in the temple yard, with piles of cane stalks serving as mats. The current covered dojo structure was added in 1940, marking the first rededication of judo at Kongoji. With the exception of the wartime years, judo instruction continued at the temple until the 1980s.

Along with the rest of the Hamakua coast, Paauilo has changed from a bustling plantation town at the height of the sugar industry. Over the past decades, the face of Japanese Buddhism in Hawaii and the membership of Kongoji have likewise changed, but the temple intends to regain its role as a community center through new program activities to be started in 2013.

Along with judo classes, the temple plans to offer instruction in meditation and exercise, and it is also exploring plans for an after-school program centered around computer-based learning.

Speaking on behalf of the kyodan, Kenji Shiba commented, “In the spirit of Shingon Buddhism’s emphasis on aligning one’s body, speech and mind to attain enlightenment, our temple will again be a place that provides training in all three dimensions: the physical (body), the mental (speech), and the spiritual (mind). Reaching out to our membership and beyond, we invite everyone to join us in helping to re-energize our temple as a vibrant part of the community.”

The dojo renovation at Kongoji was part of a larger facility upgrade designed to make the temple safe for the planned expansion of activities. This project included a complete rewiring of the entire temple, repair of ceiling/wall damage, and the installation of a new bathroom. In the dojo, the building structure was reinforced, the heavy tatami mats imported from Japan were refurbished, and the walls decorated with wooden plaques bearing the names of the original students, along with formal portraits of the first instructors.

To learn more about Paauilo Kongoji or to volunteer ideas or assistance with its community outreach project, please contact Shiba at


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