Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chinatown Temple for sale

Fresno Buddhist  Betsuin Temple - For sale or lease

Fresno Buddhist Temple
By David Owens

There are a few landmark buildings that define the character of Fresno's Chinatown:  the Bow On and Bing Kong , the Azteca Theater, The Basque Hotel, Di'Italia Hotel, Mexican Baptist Church, and most notably, The Fresno Buddhist  Betsuin Temple. It is definitely the most beautiful.

Since 1901 it has been the Buddhist  center in the San Joaquin Valley. The outdoor Obon Festival, was the largest outdoor event in downtown Fresno with  3,000 to 5,000 people participatiing.
The last Obon was held there in 2009.

Now, for more than a month,  the 11,000 sq ft building is listed for sale with Colliers. The Buddhist temple altar is still upstairs, but most likely will be removed and the building re purposed for offices.

The Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple
1340 Kern Street
Fresno, CA 93706-3320
(559) 442-4054

Why?  the members of the church have moved North and East and find a Clovis venue more in line with their needs for the foreseeable future. Sale of the building will help pay for the temple in the new facility.

The Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple belongs to the Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land) denomination of Buddhism.  

Founded by Shinran Shonin (1173-1262), a Japanese priest who lived during the medieval Kamakura period of Japan.  The title "Shonin" is give to honor a Japanese priest. His statue stands in the front garden of the temple.

For more than 100 years the  Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple was the center for the Japanese Buddhism community in the Valley.

The last major Obon festival was held in Chinatown in 2009. Now it is held in North Clovis on Alluvial. It is not the same.

The Business Journal has a story about the building sale.

The Story of the Fresno Buddhist Temple, from their site

     "The history of the Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple begins with the first "Howakai", or religious gathering, held in mid-November of 1899.  The Rev. Kakuryo Nishijima of the San Francisco Bukkyo Seinenkai conducted the service.  Later, through the efforts of Dr. Katsugoro Haida of San Francisco, a Bukkyo Seinenkai was established in Fresno as a branch of the San Francisco Young Men's Buddhist Association.  In January of 1900 it was officially recognized by the San Francisco headquarters and later went on to become the Fresno Hompa Hongwanji, the official title of the Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple.

Members gathered for their meetings at 825 "F" Street.  The average age of the members then was only twenty-four years old.  In January of 1901 the first resident minister, the Rev. Fukyo Asaeda, was assigned from the mother temple Hompa Hongwanji of Kyoto, Japan, ant the first service was held on January 27, 1901.  Not long afterwards a three-story temple building was completed on April 8, 1902, it was dedicated.  Fifteen years later in January of 1917 the name was changed and the Fresno Buddhist Church was born. 

Unfortunately, in May of 1919, a fire destroyed the wooden building, leaving nothing but the adjacent dormitory standing. The members were disheartened but not defeated, soon gathered enough funds to replace the wooden structure with a concrete building.  This building was dedicated in November of 1920.  It is the same structure  that is currently standing at the 1340 Kern Street site.  

On November 4, 1936, the Fresno Buddhist Church was elevated to the status of "Betsuin" by the mother temple Hompa Hongwanji of Kyoto Japan. A "Betsuin" temple indicates direct branch status with the tmother temple and is a great honor.  This new status confers the title of "Rimban" to the head minister, who is said to serve as the representative of the "Abbot", or Monshu who is the religious head of the the denomination.  The Rev. Enryo Shigefuji was the first minister to be granted the title of Rimban of Fresno Buddhist Temple." 

Currently, Rev. Nobuo Miyaji is the Rimban.  He is assisted by Rev. Hidetaka Yoshii.  The membership consists of over 1,400 people stretching around the San Joaquin Valley.

Currently the group meets in North Clovis.at the
Fresno Buddhist Temple Dharma Center, 2720 E. Alluvial, Clovis 93611 Dharma Center.
The First Obon Festival in the new Clovis center was held in 2010 and you can visit their Facebook page to see pictures.

Obon Festival 2010 held in North Fresno.

It is sad when it is easier to raise money for Japanese tsunami victims than to preserve the Japanese Buddhist Temple in our own city.

A nice photo essay from The Fresno Bee: