Japanese Buddhism in Hawaii may be the most unique form of Buddhism in the world. Brought over by Japanese immigrants who worked on Hawaii's sugar plantations, the pressures of prejudice, Americanization, and Christianity changed the religion in surprising and unique ways. In Hawaii, Japanese Buddhists built Indian style temples, filled them with Christian church pews, and sang modified hymns that praise the Buddha instead of Jesus. It was all done as part of the 'American Way.'
Today, the religion is fading and the temples are closing. As we talk to elders of the religion, we discover that Japanese Buddhism played a key role in shaping Hawaii's religious identity, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and in establishing Buddhism in America. There is a movement underway to save the religion - by adding a little aloha into the practice.