Oral Histories

Interview of Shumyo Kojima

Immigrant from Japan and a Soto Zen Buddhist monk. Head priest at Zenshuji Soto Zen Mission in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles.
Many Branches, One Root: Buddhist Traditions in the Los Angeles Area
Asian American History
Biographical Note:
Immigrant from Japan and a Soto Zen Buddhist monk. Head priest at Zenshuji Soto Zen Mission in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles.
Cline, Alex
Kojima, Shumyo
Persons Present:
Kojima and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Zenshuji Soto Mission in Los Angeles.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, series coordinator, UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research; musician; member, Order of Interbeing, Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism, ordained 2009 by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Kojima was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
4.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Many Branches, One Root series traces the histories and practices of a range of Buddhist traditions and communities in the greater Los Angeles area. Beginning in the early twentieth century, a succession of Buddhist traditions have put down roots in Los Angeles, each one providing spiritual support and a sense of community for the tradition’s immigrant population. By the late twentieth century many of those traditions had extended their reach beyond their original ethnic base to include an American-born, often largely Anglo, constituency. The series seeks to document the ethnic and immigrant roots of these traditions, as well as the changes that have resulted as traditions have accommodated to an American context. Series participants included monks, nuns, and lay people from Buddhist traditions from Japan, China, Tibet, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam and a mixture of immigrants and American-born practitioners.
Family history in Tokyo— Father is a Zen Buddhism temple priest— Experiences with zazen— Attends Buddhist college, then the Buddhist Institute— Trains at Eiheiji Monastery— Comes to Zenshuji Soto Zen Mission in Los Angeles.
Types of attendees at Zenshuji temple in the 1990s— Zazen practices in America versus in Japan— History of Zenshuji temple and its changes over time— Kojima's increased English proficency— Kojima's wife and children— Traditions are subject to change.
Increased standardization in teaching Soto Zen Buddhism to younger generations— Importance of Los Angeles Buddhist Temple Federation— Kojima sees social engagement as a personal decision— Importance of zazen and stress relief— Japanese Buddhist temples as religious institutions and centers for the Japanese community.