July 9-15, 2007 Jodo Shinshu Center Berkeley, CA
On the morning of Monday, July 9 th 2007, I boarded a plane and headed down to Berkeley, CA to attend the third BCA YAC Retreat “Threetreat.” I had no idea what to expect, but Travis Suzaka, who went to last year’s retreat, told me that I was in for a fun filled week with numerous services. According to the sheet of attendees, everyone was around my age, but from all over the West Coast, so I was excited to meet people and make new friends.
When I arrived at the airport I was greeted by Susan Bottari, co-chair of YAC. I also met a few fellow “threetreaters,” Brandon Yanari (Palo Alto), and Lauren Hiroshima (Orange County). It was there I was also introduced to Rev. Fumiaki Usuki of the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple. I was then taken to the Jodo Shinshu Center where I met the rest of the threetreaters who I would be spending the next week with. I first met Marisa Sanwo (San Fernando Valley) and Keith Sawada, the other co-chair of YAC. Soon after I arrived more people began to pile into the dinning room. David Fukunaga and Ken Yuzuriha, both from Oregon, were next; followed by Lisa Horikawa (Florin), Mimi Kameshige (Idaho-Oregon), and Joe Weissbuch (Enmanji). Then Ryan Yamaguchi and Nicole Kawahira from Salinas arrived and all the threetreaters were present. I had met a Brandon and Sydney Shiroyama (Palo Alto) before in a previous visit to California with the Jr. YBA’s of Salt Lake City and Ogden, but besides them I knew nobody. I was also introduced to Rev. Kodo Umezu, (Director of the CBE), Rev. Harry Bridge (Lodi), and Rev. Dean Koyama (Mountain View). Rev. Koyama was the only person I knew well. Since I was a good friend with his son back when he was minister at the Seattle Betsuin, it was nice to see him again.
After introductions we were broken into two groups: Toban A and Toban B. I was in Toban B and I soon became friends with everyone in my group. We then made toban flags and renamed our two tobans to: “What Would Socho Do?” and “Toballin’.” Then we all went to sleep waiting what had to come the next day (or the same day depending on who went to sleep when).
The next day started bright and early at 8am with a service, which we came accustomed to, as we had service every morning. Waking up was probably the hardest thing to do, since we probably went to bed around 2 each morning. For the next few days we were put back in school, going to long lectures and many services. In total we probably went to about 4 months of services in that one week. But, even though lectures were long and tiring, and we were required to conduct service, we learned a lot about Buddhism.
During our week we took a trip up to UC Berkeley with Rev. Bridge and went to Jamba Juice, we went to visit Socho Koshin Ogui and saw the Stupa at San Francisco Buddhist Temple, and we met the participants of the past YAC retreats at Sacramento Betsuin.
Meeting the past retreaters was really great and we had a lot of fun together, especially at Obon. It was really cool to see all of us together, years one, two and three. I met a bunch of new people and we learned a lot of things from our past retreaters — including the infamous caterpillar. Even though our week was long and tough we still had fun, mainly at night or during those few free times we had. As a group we bonded throughout the week and really became good friends. I’m sure that most of us remember our last night together, which was arguably one of the most fun nights we had at the JSC, from practicing the caterpillar out in the hall, hanging from those metal beams, getting those Styrofoam planes caught in the wheel of dharma chandelier, or doing acrobatics and Rev. Umezu’s horse battles in the lobby. We probably stayed up until at least four-thirty in the morning because we said goodbye to the security guard that stays till 4. I personally got a lot out of this retreat. I learned so much about Buddhism and made some really great friends. Keith said to us on the first day that “You’ll get as much out of this retreat as you put in, so make it yours” and I think we really did get what each of us wanted. When we talked about why we came to the retreat most of us said that we wanted to learn more about Buddhism, and quite frankly we did learn a lot. I know this probably sounds corny but we learned more about ourselves and our capacities whether it be leading chanting, or ringing the kansho. I think that overall this was an amazing experience, and I’ll never forget my fellow threetreaters, and I look forward to seeing all of them at our reunion in January 08.
Jason Yokoyama, Seattle Betsuin