For the first time since 2019, we were able to hold our Hanamatsuri Service in-person in the gym! As you can see from the pictures above, the hanamido was beautifully decorated with flowers and the Sangha was able to give offerings. Reverend Mikame was especially thrilled to experience her first “live” Hanamatsuri service and mentioned that this was the first time she’d seen flowers on a hanamido as said they are not decorated like that in Japan.

I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to all the people that helped make our Hanamatsuri Service a success, including our ministers and minister assistants, the office staff for making the programs, Alyssa Nagatani and Trevor Villanueva for serving as chairpersons, our San Jose Junior Choir and San Jose Betsuin Choir for their beautiful choral performances, Rinban Sakamoto and Reverend Sakamoto for their Dharma talks, Mas Nishimura for serving as the pianist, the Dharma School teachers and students for their Hanamatsuri displays, and the advisors and members of San Jose Jr. YBA for setting up and taking down the chairs in the gym, the tasty desserts at their Bake Sale, and especially for decorating the hanamido!

I would also like to thank all the volunteers, especially the Lotus Preschool staff and parents, who helped make the Generations Unite Casino Night held on April 1st a tremendous success. Everyone really enjoyed eating the delicious food items, bidding on items in the silent auction, and gambling with their fake money at the blackjack, roulette, or crap tables. It was great to see members of the Sangha having such a good time. The most enjoyable part for me was seeing people that I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

Obviously, one of the most difficult consequences we’ve had to deal with during the last few years of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the lack of social interaction with each other. I personally believe that we saved many lives through changing our behaviors by wearing masks and socially distancing which helped us prevent a lot more suffering and protected our vulnerable populations. But not seeing most of our friends and family was extremely tough on us.

On the other hand, what we endured during that time gives us a greater appreciation for the lives we led pre-pandemic. It has taught us that we should treasure our interactions with people at everyday events like going out with friends, visiting family, going to school and work, and countless other activities.

So, I encourage you to find joy in everyday life events that you probably used to take for granted. That is the joy that I saw at the Hanamatsuri Service and the Generations Unite Casino Night. That is the joy I felt when I met my two brothers and their families at an A’s game a few weeks ago. That is the joy I feel when I golf with my friends each week (although we haven’t played much this year due to the rain!). That is the joy I feel doing anything with my wife and children. That is the joy I feel when I go to Sunday services and encounter fellow Sangha members. And that is the joy I will feel when I volunteer at our Obon Festival in July and greet friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. The Betsuin is not just a place for religious learning but also serves to give us an opportunity to socially interact, and I encourage you to take advantage of that.