HONOLULU (KHON2) — “It is pain for me to see and hear that people around the world suffer from COVID because I have been praying for the ending of the pandemic soon.”

Despite his prayers, Rev. Takamasa Yamamura says the pandemic never ends and people continue to suffer. He says it’s something that has recently changed his way of prayer.

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Rev. Yamamura is the head minister at Honolulu Myohoji Mission, a Honolulu-based Buddhist temple. He says the temple closed its doors when the lockdown began in March 2020, but about half a year later, it went back to holding regular ceremonies when COVID-19 cases were down.

While the pandemic has created personal struggles for the Reverend, he says it is one that is needed. His prayers now accept and appreciate the current situation.

“The pandemic still continues because a pandemic will be necessary for global environmental conservation,” he explained, “but I am praying for the health and inner peace of people all over the world every day.”

Even with the partial closure, Rev. Yamamura was able to connect with people all over the world through social media and technology.

“Especially with the followers in Southeast Asia,” he said. “The other day, I preached the Dharma with Zoom for Brazilians followers.”

Another digital strategy the temple began using in earnest is its YouTube channel to reach Japanese tourists who can’t visit Hawaii during the pandemic. Rev. Yamamura hopes the site will also reach local people who don’t know they exist.

“We upload a movie twice a month to share Buddhist messages and solutions of worries and problems in daily life,” said Rev. Yamamura. “The language I speak is Japanese, but there is English subtitles. The singing of my opera will also be uploaded.”

During the pandemic, the temple underwent renovations to their parking lot and community hall to create a warmer atmosphere for visitors. Rev. Yamamura wants to welcome more activities at the temple as part of their mission to serve the community.

The Hawaii Japanese School, also known as the “Rainbow School,” began using the space in November 2021 to teach Japanese to local keiki. The school was previously renting from a public school in Kaimuki.

“There used to be no in-person classrooms due to the pandemic restrictions for kids,” he said, “but throughout our offering to utilize our space for them, kids are finally able to learn in-person classes through our space.”

The newly renovated space at Honolulu Myohoji Mission. (Courtesy: Rev. Takamasa Yamamura)

Another organization using the temple’s space is The Domestic Violence Center to hold meetings. Those interested in attending can call Ella Mojca, Ohana Services Program Manager, at (808) 534-0040 or email rayellam@stoptheviolence.org.

Next on the list is Rev. Yamamura’s long-standing wish to start a preschool at the temple.

“We must have an early childhood education facility in our temple because educating children will make a good future for the community,” he said. “We will try to create the early childhood educational method based on the teaching of Buddhism.”

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Rev. Yamamura adds that he found a local early childhood educational planner to help him see this project through. The plan is to keep tuition affordable and to offer scholarships to families that can’t pay the price. The school will welcome all children, including those with disabilities.