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Japanese American Buddhist Reaches 110 Years Old


At 110 years old, Yoshiko Miwa is the oldest person of Japanese descent living in the United States today, according to the Gerontology Research Group. Despite having lived through many challenging events, including the 1918–20 influenza pandemic, the US Prohibition era, 솓 1929 New York Stock Exchange crash, and World War II, Miwa likes to focus on positive thoughts.

Additionally, her parents died when Yoshiko was very young, but she encourages people to not dwell on the negative things in life.

Born on 28 February 1914, Miwa began life on a farm in Guadalupe, California, one of seven children. Her father was an industrious man—an amateur blacksmith who made his own farm tools, harnesses, and horseshoes. He also raised many different kinds of animals on the farm; including cows, chickens, pigs, and horses.

Sadly, her father was unable to care for his large family and complete his farm chores after his wife and one of his infant sons died in 1919. As a result, he sent his children to live with Reverend Matsuura and his wife at Guadalupe Buddhist Church.

“The church then started a children’s home and taught us Buddhism, Japanese language, Japanese culture, and responsibility,” Miwa recalled. “I’ve always been indebted to Rev. and Mrs. Matsuura.” (Today)

In spite of the many difficulties she faced in her early childhood, Miwa managed to graduate from Santa Maria High School in 1932, going on to major in business at the University of California, Berkeley. Seven years later she married Henry Miwa in 1939. Unfortunately, the couple’s marriage had a difficult start as they were among the many Japanese Americans imprisoned in internment camps during World War II. They were held at Poston Internment Camp in Arizona.

On their release, Miwa and her husband moved to Hawthorne, California, where they opened a plant nursery and Yoshiko earned her nursing license. They went on to have three sons. And over the years, the family has grown to include 10 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.

In addition to her many accomplishments, Miwa is the author of an autobiography, in which she details what life was like as a child growing up on a farm with her parents and siblings. She has many hobbies to occupy her, including walking, reading, sewing, furniture refinishing, and practicing ikebana (flower arranging).

One source of Miwa’s great energy is her Buddhist faith. She describes her time living at the children’s home at Guadalupe Buddhist Church after her mother died:

Living in the Guadalupe Children’s Home is especially meaningful to me because I was one of 30 children nurtured under the guardianship of Rev. and Mrs. Issei Matsuura. My elementary and high school days were spent with (the) reverend and his family.

(Buddhist Churches of America)

Miwa noted that the home placed a strong emphasis on moral and ethical principles. Children were required to attend Japanese-language classes and keep strict study hours in the evening.

“The strict training had disciplined me, which later influenced and gave me direction in life,” Miwa said. (Buddhist Churches of America)

Guadalupe Buddhist Church, a member organization of Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), was founded in the early 1900s by Japanese immigrants who arrived in the Santa Maria Valley to work in the sugar beet fields. The Japanese population grew quickly in the valley, reaching roughly 500 people by 1909. The residents began to organize themselves first by founding an organization called “Kyogikai” which was designed to work for their collective benefit.

Eventually, it was decided that a religious organization was needed for Japanese people living in the valley. They wrote to Buddhist and Christian organizations for assistance, eventually deciding to found a Buddhist Church.

Buddhist Churches of America appointed Rev. Izumida as the first leader of the Guadalupe congregation in January 1909. The congregants rented a house to hold services in and used an image of Amida Buddha as their central point of worship.

See more

Oldest living Japanese American, 110, who still gets her hair done weekly, shares tips for long life(Today)
Honoring Yoshiko Miwa, a BCA Supercentenarian (Buddhist Churches of America)
Guadalupe Buddhist Church

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