A statue of Shinran Shonin, the founder of the Jodo-Shinshu sect of Buddhism, has stood in front of the New York Buddhist Church since September 11, 1955, a gift from Seiichi Hirose of Osaka. Shinran Shonin’s statue survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II, and Hirose, an industrialist and devout Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, donated the statue because he wanted it to be a symbol of peace and serenity in a world that had suffered the atrocities of war.
On September 11 of this year, the American Buddhist Study Center and the New York Buddhist Church will commemorate Shinran Shonin’s 60th anniversary, as well as the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 14th anniversary of 9/11.
The statue still bears red burn marks on its robes and a trace of radioactivity as a result of the blast from the atomic bomb. During his sixty years on Riverside Drive, the Shinran Shonin statue lost its cane (it’s presumed to have been stolen in the early 1980s) and has suffered corrosion in a few areas. Fundraising for the restoration is underway, and New York Buddhist Church leaders are hopeful he will be restored just in time for the 60th anniversary rededication ceremony. Bishop Reverend Kodo Umezu of the Buddhist Churches of America will conduct the ceremony, which will also feature a keynote address by Rev. Dr. Mark Unno of the University of Oregon, messages from the city’s interfaith community, and a closing speech by NYBC’s Resident Minister, Rev. Earl Ikeda. Taiko drumming collective Soh Daiko will open the ceremony in front of the statue, and there will be a special performance by the members of Allegiance, a musical about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Inspired by and starring George Takei, an outspoken member of the Japanese American community who was incarcerated in camps with his family, Allegiance will begin Broadway previews on October 6 and will open on November 8.
Bon Yagi, president of TIC Akean Inc., which operates a dozen Japanese restaurants in New York City including Cha-An, Hi-Collar, Sakagura, and Rai Rai Ken; and Hoshina Seki, president of the American Buddhist Study Center; are leading the restoration project. They’ve enlisted the services of Shoji Miyazawa, a Brooklyn-based metalsmith, to make the repairs.
For more information and to see how you can contribute to the restoration of the Shinran Shonin statue, please visit the American Buddhist Study Center’s website.