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An Appreciation of the IOBT Buddhist Women’s Association (BWA) “Fujinkai” Ladies

December 15, 2022


A special guest article by temple member and friend Melody Smit

During November’s BWA memorial service (which I was able to attend remotely by Zoom from my new home in South Carolina) I was reminded of so many wonderful memories and ladies that I love in the temple and the many Nisei ladies that were so wonderful to me.  They took me under their wing, showed the ins & outs of temple life, and made it possible for me to be a true member of IOBT.


Two rows of BWA women seated and standing

Photo: Several of our Buddhist Women's Association Members with Rev. Dennis taken in 2016

During the BWA memorial service, when our guest speaker, Rev. Melissa Opel of the Spokane Buddhist Temple spoke of the importance of sharing and keeping alive the memories and connections we have with one another, it prompted me to think of my early days in the temple when I was new to the tradition, coming to services and meeting new people. And I wanted to share a few of these memories with you.  I have such fond memories of Sanami Nakano who would save her Wheel of Dharma and bring it to the temple for me when she was finished. She also gave me her old study books on Buddhism so I could better familiarize myself with the teachings. Mary “Nak” (Nakamura) encouraged me to join the choir and attended my dad’s funeral, even donating to St. Jude’s in his name.


People preparing food in a large kitchen area

Photo: Preparing food in our temple basement has been an important contribution to temple life for our BWA ladies

During this year’s BWA memorial service I also learned that our beloved Mary Kameshige passed away. I know that I will be one of many who will miss her, and in order to honor her I will keep many fond memories of her in my heart. One particular memory was prompted by Rev. Anne Spencer talking about the invitations she received to stay for lunch when she first came to the temple--I received those gifts of invitation as well. All those lovely lunches as a “newby” as well as an “oldy” are among the many things I miss since moving away. However, I also have memories of those early invitations to lunch and the walk downstairs; I would be transported back to grade school, lunch tray in hand, looking for where to sit. We have all been there, no matter how old we are, what religious background we come from, what our native language is or what accent we speak English in--we all know what it is like to stand in a room and wonder where to sit. For me, Mary Kameshige was always there to say “come sit over here with me”. I know you all can feel that sense of relief as you read this, of knowing where to sit--it is wonderful to be invited, but to have someone waiting just for you because they saved you a seat, that special gift of complete inclusion, it is something that many of us did not experience in grade school. Thanks to Mary Kameshige, I did experience that in my early days at IOBT.


Quilt square with the words Idaho Oregon Buddhist Womens Association signed Anne Nagaki

Since those early days I have felt loved and included in so many ways by both men and women in the temple. But I especially appreciate the kind of love I have received from the women. I call it being loved with effort. Yes, it takes effort to go to town and buy a card for someone. But the kind of effort I am talking about takes the kind of energy and intention that cannot be had in any other way; to notice what a person needs and provide it without needing to be thanked; like saving a seat for the new person just starting to come to church. I will forever be grateful and count myself fortunate to have known the ladies of the IOBT BWA, their example, their courage and their handwork has made it all possible for me to enjoy the beauty of this tradition and the people who inhabit it.

Namo Amida Butsu,  

Melody Smit