By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
Rev. Shoki Mohri, former rimban of Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, passed away on Oct. 13. He was 86. He was preceded in death a week earlier by his wife, Michiko, who died on Oct. 6. She was 83. A joint service for the couple was held on Friday at the temple where the reverend, supported by his wife, served as head minister from July 1976 until March 1994.
Rev. Mohri fell ill as his wife Michiko, who was recovering from surgery to repair broken bones, succumbed to pneumonia.
“For the most part, they did everything together, and in the end, they left together,” their son Tabo said.
Rev. Mohri was born on Feb. 17, 1924 in Hiroshima, Japan. At the end World War II, he served with the Japanese Army and went on to graduate from Ryukoku University in Kyoto. Michiko, a Kibei Nisei, was born in Oregon on Sept. 24, 1927 and went back to Japan to be raised. During the war she was interned at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas.
Rev. Mohri received his ordination in 1944 and came to the United States 10 years later. The couple met at the original Nishi Hongwanji Los Angeles Betsuin (current site of the Tateuchi Demoracy Forum) in Little Tokyo and were married there on May 27, 1956. Before becoming rimban of Nishi Hongwanji, Rev. Mohri served in Pasadena and Tacoma, Wash.
Retired Rev. George Matsubayashi, former Hompa Hongwanji rimban, said that Rev. Mohri was one of the first ministers to marry a Nisei.
“My wife is Nisei too, it helps us to be involved in American society. She very much helped the mission of sensei,” said Matsubayashi.
The couple had three children, sons Tetsuro and Tatsuro (Tabo) and daughter Yoko. Tabo said his mom was often the go-between between the reverend and his Japanese American kids.
“She was in the true sense a reverend’s wife and mother,” said Tabo.
Rev. Mohri was among a group which helped to establish satellite temples of Nishi Hongwanji throughout Southern California, including Orange County, San Fernando, Venice, Long Beach and Hollywood, a number of which became independent temples.
During his ministry in Los Angeles, he not only provided religious leadership but also served the Japanese American community in other ways. He was a part of the Pasadena-Mishima Sister City Committee in 1963, headed a bicentennial project in Tacoma, planted cherry blossom trees along Fawcett Ave. in 1976. He also served in an advisory capacity to the Nanka Hiroshima Kenjinkai.
Upon being appointed minister at the Nishi Hongwanji, he led the first mission to Mexico City after the war to conduct Obon services for the Japanese community, eventually establishing a congregation there that is still active. In 1994, he was honored with the Nisei Week Community Service Award, and two years later, received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Rays, from the Japanese government and as a Nisei Week Pioneer in 2005.
After his retirement, Rev. Mohri stayed active ministering to Buddhist patients at St. Vincent Medical Center, serving as guest speaker at various temples and also helping Japanese tourists at LAX. Tabo said that his parents enjoyed traveling, taking trips together.
Rev. and Mrs. Mohri are survived by by their children, Tetsuro Mohri, Yoko Mohri-Lew, and Tabo Mohri; grandchildren Jay, Garrett and Nathan Mohri, Darrin and Cameron Lew; great-grandchild, Isaiah Mohri. Also survived by many nieces, nephews and other relatives.