Being a member of the temple’s Girl Scout troops is about learning together and being there for each other throughout years of projects, activities and having fun.
It’s been that way since the Betsuin’s first Girl Scout troops were formed in 1971.
“To me, Girl Scouts is all about community and having people to rely on when I need them,” said Kory, a member of a Betsuin Girl Scout troop. “I always know that my Girl Scout sisters are there for me.”
Cora, a younger scout said: “I like that we can learn things together and we can always be there for each other and discover our differences. My favorite activities are doing art projects and playing games.”
The Betsuin Boy Scout troop began in 1968, followed by the Cub Scouts in 1969. Roy Iwamoto, the then head of the temple youth programs, and others felt the temple should help provide similar opportunities to girls in the Sangha. He approached Ricki Miyahara, mother of two young girls at the time, to start organizing the program. Ricki was motivated by remembrances of the Scout programs at the San Francisco Buddhist Church.
Two Girl Scout troops started in 1971, the Juniors and Brownies. A Cadette troop started the following year. A Senior troop in 1977, followed by a Daisy troop in 1985 and an Ambassador troop in 2008. Currently, the Betsuin sponsors 13 troops, from kindergarten through 12th grade, with well over 100 girls and about three dozen adult leaders. The troops are open to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.
The temple’s Girl Scout program has been a pioneer in integrating Shin Buddhism into scouting. Scouting had been a predominantly Christian-based organization, so scout leaders within the temple worked hard to establish Buddhism within scouting. The BCA already had a Boy Scout religious badge in place and Rev. Hogen Fujimoto of the BCA believed the Girls Scouts should also have one. He initially worked with Reiko Iwanaga to create the Padma Award with four levels. They wrote the requirements to correspond somewhat with the Metta and Sangha programs of the Buddhist Boy Scouts so that one teacher or minister could teach the boys and girls together. They were later joined by Jean Wilson, another Girl Scout mother and leader, who had Scout experience. Jean was instrumental in getting the badge accepted by the national organization and successfully lobbied to replace “God” in the Girl Scout Promise with a religious word of the scout’s choice. Jean became the chairperson of the BCA Scout Committee and Reiko continues to serve on that board where Padma badge requirements were recently revised (to meet the current needs of a wider Buddhist community).
Reiko, another founding member of the first troops, combined the Girl Scout Law with the Six Paramitas, the six practices of a Buddhist life: Dana (giving), Sila (discipline), Ksanti (patience), Virya (Diligence), Dhyana (Concentration), and Prajna (wisdom). The scouts still recite that melding of the scouts’
law and Buddhism every year. She has taught the Padma Brownie level for over 45 years and Rinban Sakamoto has taught the upper levels throughout his long tenure in San Jose.
In addition to working on scout projects, the girls participate in a wide variety of temple and community activities, providing a much needed pool of volunteers. They work on the Obon Festival and Bazaar, Church Cleanup, cleanup at Oak Hill Cemetery, Betsuin mochitsuki, Yu-Ai Kai mochitsuki and Keiro Kai, and Nikkei Matsuri. The Girl Scout groups rotate responsibility for decorating the yagura, the main stage for the Obon dancing. One time in the early years of scouting, the Girl Scouts brought Obon dancing to the Eastridge mall. And of course, the troops sell a small mountain of Girl Scout cookies every year.
Those activities leave a strong imprint on the scouts as they grow older.
Ashley, an Ambassador Girl Scout reflected on her journey through the program:
“Girl Scouts has taught me many life lessons such as money management skills from selling cookies and leadership through hosting events, but something that I will cherish forever are all of the memories I’ve made, including Bon Odori dancing at night and going ziplining with my troop. All of the activities that you get to do makes Girl Scouts so much fun!”
Currently, our program is open to girls beginning in Kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Daisies Troop 273 – Kindergarten & 1st grade
Brownies Troop 1052 – 2nd & 3rd grades
Junior Girl Scouts Troop 260 – 4th & 5th grades
Cadette Girl Scouts Troop 404 – 6th, 7th & 8th grades
Senior Girl Scouts Troop 782 – 9th &10th grades
Ambassadors Troop 782 – 11th &12th grades
Girl Scouts of Northern California
Girl Scout Awards
We are Girl Scouts (Ashley H., Hailey H., Lauren G., Rina M., Hannah K. and Marissa P.) from Troop 61302 and we chose the Sow What Journey as our second Journey to complete in order to be able to begin our Gold Award. During our Journey, we volunteered at Sacred Heart, toured the Shuei-Do Manju Shop in Japantown, and had a video conference with a food scientist to learn more about food waste, planting seasons, eating locally, food labels, and nutrition. We have all learned so much in this Journey and if we can change the way 1, 5, 10, or 20 people think about food, we feel we have been successful. Please enjoy our information pamphlet.