Koyasan Buddhist Temple

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Koyasan Buddhist Temple
LA Koyasan Temple, 2016.jpg
Koyasan Temple in 2016
Basic information
Location 342 East 1st Street Los Angeles, California 90012
Affiliation Shingon Buddhism
Country United States
Website Official Website
Official Facebook Page
Architectural description
Founder Rev. Shutai Aoyama
Completed 1912

Koyasan Beikoku Betsuin (高野山米国別院 Kōyasan Beikoku Betsuin?, "Koyasan United States Branch Temple"), also known as Koyasan Buddhist Temple, is a Japanese Buddhist temple in the Little Tokyo district of Downtown Los Angeles, California, United States. Founded in 1912, it is one of the oldest existing Buddhist temples in the North American mainland region. The temple is a branch of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism and is the North America regional headquarters for the school.[1][2]


The temple was founded by the Reverend Shutai Aoyama, a native of Toyama Prefecture, who was sent by the Koyasan headquarters to establish a global link in Shingon Buddhism in America. Initially facing personal hardship in establishing a temple in his inaugural arrival, he founded the temple in 1912 with the assistance of Issei and Nisei temple members, and established its first location in a storefront in 1912 near Elysian Park. In 1920, the temple was moved to a larger building on Central Avenue. A tree was planted in front of the new building by Koyasan Temple members to commemorate the move. The Aoyama Tree is a notable landmark in Little Tokyo was given historical status by the Los Angeles City Council in 2008.[3] The Japanese American National Museum stands at Koyasan's second location.

The third and current building located on East 1st Street was built in 1940. One year after its establishment, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, sparking the United States' involvement in World War II. The new temple was closed while its members were forcibly relocated in the various internment camps. During the time period of World War II, the temple was mostly used for storage space for internees.[4] The temple was re-opened in 1946 and the temple had to rebuild its congregational base after families and residents of Little Tokyo were scattered outside Los Angeles.

Over the years, the temple began opening cultural and religious programs and classes for the local community. Prior to redevelopment in Little Tokyo, Koyasan served as the main hub of Japanese cultural events. In 1987, the temple hosted the Kechien Kanjo ritual, a service rarely conducted outside Japan. Two years later the temple was designated the keeper of the Hiroshima Peace Flame, brought over from Japan by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. Starting in 1999, the temple underwent a ten-year renovation of the old facilities to meet with the city building codes; the building was especially retrofitted to fit the needs for the monthly Goma fire ritual service. In November 2012, the temple celebrated its centennial anniversary, hosting a special goma fire ritual service presided over by Bishop Ekan Ikeguchi from Kagoshima.


The temple has had eight head bishops since its inception in 1912. The fourth and fifth bishop, Reverends Seytsu Takahashi and Ryosho Sogabe, pioneered the founding the temple building as it stands today; Takahashi was later appointed the Ho-in (equivalent of deputy abbot) of Kongobu-ji in Mount Koya, serving until his death in 1984. Reverend Taido Kitagawa was a co-organizer of the temple's Boy Scout Troop 379, one of the oldest Boy Scout troops in the United States. Kitagawa's son is Johnny Kitagawa, founder of Japanese production agency Johnny & Associates. Reverend Taisen Miyata, the seventh bishop and translator of Esoteric Buddhist texts, served from 1993 to 2007 and was acting bishop from 2011 to 2013.

  • Rev. Shutai Aoyama (1909-1921)
  • Rev. Hokai Takada (1921-1924)
  • Rev. Taido Kitagawa (1924-1933)
  • Rev. Seytsu Takahashi (1931-1982)
  • Rev. Ryosho Sogabe (1982-1991)
  • Rev. Chiko Inouye (1991-1993)
  • Rev. Taisen Miyata (1993-2007)
  • Rev. Seicho Asahi (2007-2011)
  • Rev. Taisen Miyata (acting: 2011-2013)
  • Rev. Junkun Imamura (2015–present)

Boy Scout Troop 379[edit]

Statue of Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai)

The temple also hosts Boy Scout Troop 379, formed in 1931, one of the oldest troops in existence in California. Future actor and gay rights activist George Takei was one of the troop's members.[5][6]

Other names for the troop include AL Post 525, Koyasan, and Green Giant. The Commodore Perry Scouts were a junior marching and maneuvering corps based in Los Angeles, California. They were sponsored by the Commodore Perry American Legion Post 525 and the Koyasan Buddhist Temple. Associated with the Los Angeles Boy Scout Troop 379, the Scouts boasted 164 Eagle Scouts among their ranks in 1935. Among the corps’ awards were the state American Legion Championships in 1955, 1956, 1962, and 1963. The corps’ colors are green, black, and white.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


Coordinates: 34°02′57″N 118°14′25″W / 34.049289°N 118.240237°W / 34.049289; -118.240237