Benevolent Society Commemorates 120 Years of Japanese Cemetery with Virtual Memorial Day Service

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Japanese Benevolent Society of California, Jikei Kai, will hold its annual Memorial Day service on Monday, May 31, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.

The Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, the Japanese American Religious Federation of San Francisco (JARF), and the Japanese American community of Northern California will join in commemorating 120 years of the Japanese Cemetery in Colma.

Because current COVID-19 restrictions limit the size of public gatherings, this year’s service will be held via Zoom. All are invited to be present for the virtual ceremony. While families and community members are prevented from being present together for this meaningful annual event, for the first time, participants from across the country and around the world will be able to attend.

Jikei Kai President Dean Hedani will present opening and closing remarks, with Executive Director Seiko Fujimoto providing translation. Statement and remarks will be presented by Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Toru Maeda. Religious ceremonies will be conducted by the member churches of JARF:

Ceremonial chanting, Rev. Soryu Suezawa, Honnoji Temple

Japanese Dharma, Rev. Koshi Kurotaki, Sokoji Soto Zen Temple

English Dharma, Rev. Henry Toryo Adams, San Mateo Buddhist Temple

Japanese invocation, Rev. Grace K. Suzuki, Christ United Presbyterian Church

English invocation, Rev. Debra Low-Skinner, Sei Ko Kai

Purification ceremony (Japanese message), Rev. Masato Kawahatsu, Konko Church

Purification ceremony (English message), Rev. Rodney Yano, Konko Church

Professor Michael Svanavik, College of San Mateo, wrote, “This is the tiniest and most humble burial ground of the 14 cemeteries comprising San Francisco’s giant necropolis at Colma, California. It is barely more than two acres along Hillside Boulevard.”

The Japanese Cemetery serves as an important location where history of the early Japanese pioneers and families is told through the monuments of those who have been laid to rest at the cemetery, including sailors of the Kanrin Maru, the first Japanese ship to sail to the U.S. in March 1860 and return to Japan, and the family histories of Japanese Americans throughout the U.S.

The Japanese Benevolent Society of California was established in 1898. The pioneers of the Japanese American community built the first cemetery and received a grant from the Meiji Emperor of Japan in 1906 to provide “for the relief of sick, disabled or destitute persons of the Japanese race” in California and to provide “a suitable burial ground for deceased Japanese.”

The society performed its historic mandate over the years, assisting those in need and acquiring the land in Colma in 1901. It has also served as a unifying force in the Japanese American community by bringing together Buddhist, Shinto and Christian religious organizations, and by participating in local historical, cultural, and memorial events that honor the Japanese heritage in the U.S.

The Japanese American Religious Federation of San Francisco is composed of: Buddhist Church of San Francisco, Hokkeshu Buddhist Church, Soko-ji Soto Zen Mission, Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhist Center, Nichiren Buddhist Church of America, Christ United Presbyterian Church, Pine United Methodist Church, Christ Episcopal Church (Sei Ko Kai), Konko Church of San Francisco, Tenrikyo America West Church, St. Benedict Parish at Francis Xavier Church, and San Francisco Japanese Seventh-day Adventist Church.

To register for this event through Eventbrite, click on or enter this link into your web browser: http://bit.ly/JapaneseCemeteryMemorialDayRegistration

Once registered, you will receive an email with instructions on how to join the virtual event. The deadline for registration is 11 a.m. PST, May 31.

For questions or other information, contact the Japanese Benevolent Society of California.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (415) 771-3440

Website: https://www.japanesecemetery.org

Facebook: http://bit.ly/facebookjapanesecemetery

Instagram: http://bit.ly/instagramjapanesecemetery

YouTube: http://bit.ly/youtubejapanesecemetery

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