In 2003, Chaminade University of Honolulu, in concert with the Buddhist communities in Hawai’i, and with the support of the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism, established the Reverend Yoshiaki Fujitani Endowed Lecture Series to promote interfaith dialogue and search for understanding, peace, and justice. Donations from benefactors will fund in perpetuity public lectures, research, and workshops designed to nurture mutual understanding between faiths and communities.
The Reverend Yoshiaki Fujitani Endowed Lecture Series honors the Reverend Yoshiaki Fujitani, a friend of Chaminade University and its programs in Buddhist Studies. Reverend Fujitani is a gentle and insistent voice in the Hawai’i community, nurturing dialogue and understanding across cultures and religious institutions. The Lecture Series is a concrete expression of the combination of these two great traditions, and will make a tremendous impact on the lives of students and scholars for generations to come. The Marianist tradition of education places a strong emphasis on the development of intellectual curiosity within a moral context. Caring, self-discovery, and promoting mutual respect form the foundation upon which a Chaminade education is based.
The Lecture Series is composed of two major lectures, and one minor presentation, per year by leaders in interfaith dialogue, peace, justice, and related fields. Additionally, the endowment will generate resources for student research and travel to enable both faculty and students to present papers and conduct research in the field. Additionally, funds will be used to host workshops with the Buddhist community including resources, stipends for students, as well as teachers.
"The opening days of World War II were dark ones for young Yoshiaki Fujitani, and not only because Hawai’i had been attacked."
Maui-born, a McKinley High School graduate and a University of Hawai’i student, Yoshiaki was inducted into the Hawai’i Territorial Guard, which then, through a stratagem, squeezed him out along with other young Nisei. Called together by Hung Wai Ching, then a YMCA executive, the young men were challenged to rise above the situation. They did, volunteering as laborers to help construct roads and barracks.
Yoshiaki’s father, a Buddhist bishop, was interned as “potentially dangerous” and held briefly at Sand Island before being shipped off to the mainland for three years. An embittered Yoshiaki vowed not to work for the U.S. government. But then he saw his friends going off to army units and began to relent. At the end of 1943 a military intelligence instructor from Camp Savage, Minnesota, came to Hawai’i to recruit qualified young men, and Yoshiaki Fujitani volunteered.
He was assigned to Fort Ritchie, Maryland, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, then to the Pacific Military Intelligence Research Section. He found himself in Tokyo as a translator when the war ended. Using the GI Bill, he went to the University of Chicago, taking his father’s advice to study Buddhism. His degree was called the History of Culture. Afterward, he spent three years in Kyoto.
Now, far from being unwanted, he was in demand. A delegation came to Kyoto from Wailuku and asked him to return to his home island of Maui and take the reins of the mission there. He stayed on Maui for four and one-half years. In 1960 he was assigned to the Honpa Hongwanji to head the English department. At a legislative assembly in February 1975 he was elected Hawai’i’s second Nisei bishop, beginning long years of service. He retired in 1992.
Yoshiaki Fujitani was the catalyst for the Living Treasures program, being receptive to the idea when presented to him by Paul Yamanaka. Through Fujitani’s efforts, the program rooted and blossomed. Fujitani brought it about because it is his nature to serve; he never thought he, himself, would one day be a Living Treasure.”
"From Living Treasures of Hawai’i: 25th Anniversary of the Selections of Outstanding Persons As Honored By The Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i by Scott Stone, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai’i, 2000.
(Reprinted by authorization of Honpa Hongwanji Missionof Hawaii)