The New York Buddhist Church (NYBC), a temple in the Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land) school of Japanese Buddhism, will present a series of online events between 20 December and 1 January to celebrate the new year. Planned events include cultural demonstrations, workshops, readings, special services, and musical performances by artists, educators, and religious leaders from the community.
The activities, focusing on Japanese culture, Japanese American life, and Japanese Buddhism, will support fundraising for the temple. The celebrations in part welcome 2021, the year of the Ox in the lunar calendar observed by many Asian cultures, which will be celebrated from 12 February in traditional Asian settings.
“This holiday season is different from all others as we are confined to our homes and unable to visit and gather with friends and family,” said Rev. Earl Ikeda, NYBC’s resident minister, in a news release. “We decided to create an online presence that would bring people together to learn about the significance of Japanese New Year’s traditions, and how Buddhism influences different practices in the visual, literary, and performing arts. It is our wish to share this with the broader community in New York and beyond.”
The first event will be on Sunday, 20 December at 1pm EST, when leaders will give an online introduction to the New York Buddhist Church, including its history, activities, and connections with the community in Manhattan.
Sunday, 27 December, 2pm EST: demonstration of kadomatsu (gate pine) of the traditional Japanese New Year decoration with Gail Inaba and Don Thompson; and flower arrangements for the New Year with Masako Gibeault of the Ryusei-ha school of Ikebana.
Monday, 28 December, 7pm EST: New Year interactive poetry workshop live on Zoom with Rev. Dr. Mark T. Unno, professor of religious studies at the University of Oregon (registration required).
Tuesday, 29 December, 7pm EST: Buddhist sculpture demonstration with artist Thomas Matsuda, who will discuss his training in Japan and his singular interpretation of Buddhist sculpture.
Wednesday, 30 December, 7pm EST: mochi-making demonstration and assembling kagami mochi (traditional New Year’s decoration) with Rev. Earl Ikeda, resident minister of the New York Buddhist Church; a reading of the children’s book Thank You Very Mochi by author Paul Matsushima with his children; and a kakizome (First Calligraphy Writing of the New Year) demonstration with Yuri Ishizuka, calligraphy teacher, Japanese American Association of New York.
Thursday, 31 December, 7–9pm EST: Joya-e (New Year’s Eve) service at New York Buddhist Church led by Rev. Earl Ikeda; music by shakuhachi flautist Auguste Elder; memorial candle lighting and ringing of the gongs; Toshikoshi Soba (crossing over the New Year noodles), a preparation demonstration of the traditional midnight meal by Rev. Earl Ikeda.
Friday, 1 January, 11:30am EST: Shusho-e (New Year’s Day) service at New York Buddhist Church with Rev. Earl Ikeda; 2pm EST: kamishibai storytelling with Donna Tamaki; and 2:45pm EST: performances by jazz flautist and composer Christian Artmann and Duo YUMENO: traditional and contemporary world music for the New Year with Yoko Reikano Kimura (koto/shamisen/voice) and Hikaru Tamaki (cello).
The New York Buddhist Church traces its roots to a head temple in Kyoto called Nishi-Hongwan-ji. The Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism was founded by Shinran Shonin (1173–1262). The NYBC was founded in 1938 by Rev. Hozen Seki, who went on to found the American Buddhist Academy in 1948 to facilitate the study of Japanese Buddhism and world religions. The NYBC is a member of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), the oldest Buddhist organization in the mainland United States. The BCA currently has more than 60 independent temples and some 16,000 members throughout the US.