The origins of the present day Manitoba Buddhist Temple may be traced to its first Minister, Reverend Hideo Ryokan Nishimura.
Working among many Japanese-Canadian evacuees who were forced to move to Manitoba during World War II, Hideo Nishimura and his wife, Setsuko worked in the sugar beets fields. As they settled in the province, he was chosen to organize Buddhist activities and act as their lay minister in 1946.
Ryokan Nishimura (3rd from left) and wife, Setsuko (1st on left) (courtesy Naomi Miyai)
In 1948, Rev. Nishimura journeyed to Japan returning to Winnipeg five months laters as a fuly ordained Minister.
Rev. Nishimura and his wife lived in the temple in a very small and modest apartment. Setsuko NIshimura taught Dharma school and Japanese language school. She also offered lessons in flower arranging and the art of Japanese tea. He continued to work full-time at a box factory to make a living.
As the longest serving minister at this temple, a bust of him sits on the shelf by the stairs leading to the basement. The briefcase that he faithfully carried for 25 years sits nearby.
Many remember, Rev. Nishimura for his kindness. He would often hand out candies to the Sunday School students who had to sit patiently through his Dharma talk as Japanese was the only language that he spoke.
Rev. Nishimura at wedding ceremony for Mas and Naomi Miyai
He was a modest and generous person and lived the life of a good Buddhist. Rev. Nishimura left an indelible impression on three generations of Japanese Canadians attending the Manitoba Buddhist Temple. His legacy continues as the dharma is spread throughout Manitoba.
In 1970, he retired to Vancouver. Passing away On February 7, 1971 while on official business in Lethbridge, Alberta. He and wife never had children. She died in 2008.
The day is now recognized as one of annual services on the calendar of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple.