Looking Back – Buddhist Temple Boards

When Garnet Morse set to work remodelling the Two Brewers Pub on Dewdney Trunk Road in 1991, in preparation for reopening, he did not know the to do with two curious wooden boards.

About eight inches wide and ten feet long, they carried a message written in large black Japanese characters. Rather than throw them into the dumpster with the rest of the building rubble, he made some inquiries, and sent them to the Maple Ridge Museum in August, where they caused quite a stir.

In a coincidence that beggars fiction, the next week Douglas Oike came to the museum inquiring about information pertaining to the large Japanese Canadian community that once thrived here, in preparation for a reunion in 1992. When he saw the boards, he was able to translate most of the Japanese characters, including his own father’s name.

Board One gives the date of the temple’s completion, November 8th, and identifies master carpenters Koga Shiro, his assistants Ariza Enji and Takashima Testujiro; site supervisor Oike Kyusuke and congregation president Fujita Yanosuke and vice-president Ishikawa Jusuke. Following Japanese convention, their surnames are reported before their given names.
Board Two repeats a religious message: “We are embraced with the Boundless Light of the Amide Buddha, which goes forth universally to illuminate the numerous worlds to protect us and dispel the darkness of Ignorance.”

The boards were written in archaic Japanese script that has fallen out of regular use. They have been translated for the museum by Kajiura Hiroshi, Nagai Yasuo and Douglas Oike.

When the building was originally erected in 1933, it replaced another Japanese Canadian hall that burned down. Mr. Oike headed up the committee that built the Japanese Buddhist Temple, and the boards record the name, date and those who contributed to it. Douglas Oike remembers attending services there, as well as learning Japanese after regular school classes.

These Japanese Canadian farmers had their own version of a farmer’s institute with 55 members in Hammond, 105 members in Haney and 30 members in Pitt Meadows. The Oike family farm was on 8th Avenue (224th Street), 23 acres stretching from Alouette River to Blackstock Road (124th Avenue).

Douglas Oike proudly related that he was the second Japanese player in the well-known Dewdney Baseball League in his youth. He was married in the Buddhist Temple in 1941, a year before the Japanese Canadian residents of Maple Ridge were loaded onto a train and taken to the interior of the province.

Garnet Morse, who has not reopened the building as a Honeymoon Bay Pub, is the grandson of his namesake Dr. Morse, our first resident doctor in Maple Ridge. Can you absorb another coincidence? It was Dr. Morse who brought Douglas Oike into this world.

Sheila Nickols, published in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows NEWS Sept 25, 1991