Originally published in Sonoma West Times & News on June 30, 2010.
SEBASTOPOL — The only standing 1933 Chicago World’s Fair exhibit must have had good karma because it’s enjoying its life as a Sonoma County Buddhist temple for the 76th year.
To celebrate the anniversary, the members of Enmanji Buddhist Temple in Sebastopol are hosting a jam-packed cultural event to share their Japanese heritage with the public.
They will be serving up about 5,000 plates of the signature dish while showcasing their traditions at the 56th Annual Teriyaki Barbecue and Bazaar at the temple from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 11.
The Japanese community in the Bay Area credits this event as the “grandfather of Bay Area teriyaki barbecues” since Enmanji members were the first group to share this historic dish with the general public. At that time, marinating and barbecuing chicken was only privy to the Japanese, said the temple’s minister, Rev. Carol Himaka.
As well as being the pioneers of teriyaki chicken in the Bay Area, Enmanji is known as “the oldest chicken barbecue fundraiser of all the BCA [The Buddhist Churches of America] Buddhist temples,” Himaka said.
After getting a taste of original Japanese cooking, flirt with Lady Luck and enjoy a full day of cultural activities. Members will be raffling off cash prizes of $1,000, $250 and $100, plus many other prizes. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the fundraiser for $1 each.
The event will feature martial arts demonstrations on the outdoor stage from the DeLeon Judo Club at 11 a.m. and the International Budo Academy at noon. Also on the outdoor stage, Sonoma County Taiko will perform the Japanese art of drumming at 1 and 4 p.m.
Other activities include a bonsai exhibit from Redwood Empire Bonsai Society, Ikebana flower arrangement demonstration and sale, a plant sale, handicrafts, bingo games for kids and Himaka will conduct a dharma talk about the Buddha’s teachings. Enmanji member Henry Kaku will also curate an exhibit of Japanese-American internment camp artifacts.
For those unfamiliar with the Japanese-American internment experience, members will screen a short film that touches on the subject and uncovers the story of how a small group of young people protected the temple from being destroyed while its members were forced into internment camps. The film, “Leap of Faith: How Enmanji Temple was Saved” will play at 2 and 3:30 p.m. in the temple.
The documentary illustrates Japanese-Americans strong involvement in Sebastopol and the town’s tight-knit community.
“A lot of people were very lucky in the sense that their neighbors were very supportive and agreed to take care of their (the Japanese Americans) property or possessions while they were away. And so when they came out (of the internment camps), they were able to come back and resume their farms and had not lost everything because they were only given permission to take a suitcase with them (to the camps),” Himaka said.
The film’s director, Lina Hoshino explains that Sebastopol teenagers weren’t caught up in politics and simply thought the vandalism attempts on the temple were wrong.
“I’m hoping what the young people did in the movie will provide inspiration for young folks today,” she said.
The Enmanji Buddhist Temple has a lot to celebrate on this 76th anniversary, considering it was never meant to be a permanent structure.
The building started its days as Manchurian Railroad Company’s exhibit hall for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. The Manchurian Railroad Company built the structure to show off its unique architectural styling of a 12th century Kamakura Japanese temple, Himaka said.
After the fair, the company donated the building to the Buddhist Mission of North America, which eventually was given to the Sonoma County Buddhist Temple under the condition that its members paid to transport the dissembled building to Sebastopol by rail.
Enmanji members hired Japanese artisans from San Francisco to reassemble the temple in the traditional Japanese cross-beam construction style without the use of nails. They started the project on Jan. 26, 1934 and finished on Oct. 15, 1934.
“But over the years, since Japanese wood tends to dry out here in the Americas, they had to put a lot of screws and nails in to keep it together,” Himaka said.
The Enmanji Buddhist Temple is located on 1200 Gravenstein Highway, South at Elphick Road in Sebastopol. For more information about the fundraiser or the temple, visit their Web site at http://www.sonic.net/~enmanji or call 823-2252.
The cost of a chicken teriyaki plate with half of a chicken, potato salad, rice and tea or coffee is $10.
Ready to heat boxed dinners will be available starting at 8 a.m. for drive-through pick-up. If teriyaki chicken doesn’t tickle the taste buds, members will also be serving hamburgers for the first time.
Proceeds from the teriyaki bazaar will support the local Enmanji Buddhist Temple and community activities.