Ne. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu
Ne. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

根 (Ne) means “roots.” This kanji character consists of two parts. The left side represents a tree and the right side represents the roots. So “ne” is a tree’s roots.

The Konko founder’s teaching says, “If you take care of the roots of a tree, then its branches will grow lush. Respect your ancestors, then you will prosper.”

The Konko Church of San Francisco celebrated on June 1 its 40th year memorial service for the late Rev. Shinko Fukuda, the second head minister of Konko Church of San Francisco.

She is a foundation or root of the Konko Church of San Francisco and the Nikkei community in the city. It has been 40 years since Shinko-sensei left her earthly form. Fortunately, I met her when I came to San Francisco in 1971. I was 25 years old, still a young man.

At that time, there was no church building in San Francisco’s Japantown. Also, there were no buildings in some areas of Japantown.

The church was located on Post Street, across from the Miyako Hotel, presently the Kabuki Hotel. When I first entered the small church, the Rev. Fukuda was sitting at the mediation desk and she warmly welcomed me.

In the beginning, everything in America was very new to me. I was often confused. Shinko-sensei kindly guided me with her patient heart.

Those days, she visited the Japanese Cemetery in Colma, Calif. every Saturday with church members.

My first task in America was to get a driver’s license so I could take Shinko-sensei and church members to the cemetery. I practiced driving and went to the DMV to take the driving test. The person who gave me the test said,
“Go back, reverse your car.” So I did and ran over something. He said, “Go home.” I responded: “What? I did not even drive yet.” He said, “You hit an orange cone, so you failed.” I was devastated. Before the second driver’s test, I prayed hard to Kami-sama: “I have to take Shinko-sensei and church members to the Japanese cemetery. Please let me pass the driving test this time.” I then took another test and barely made it though I didn’t understand much English. Shinko-sensei was very happy to know I had my driver’s license. I began to drive sensei and our church members to the cemetery every week.

Forty years later, I still stop by the Japanese cemetery on the way to the Konko Spiritual Center in South San Francisco because I was influenced by Shinko-sensei.

She supported many cultural activities. Taiko became very popular in this country because of the chief taiko master of San Francisco Dojo, Mr. Taiko, better known as Seiichi Tanaka. Many people may not know this, but he started his school at the Konko Church’s old building in 1968. In the beginning, the drumming was very noisy and did not yet have a good sound. However, Shinko-sensei did not complain and instead patiently supported the group.

As you know, mikoshi has been the main part of San Francisco’s Cherry Blossom Festival parade. It represents a relationship of 47 years between the mikoshi group and the Konko Church. Sensei greatly supported mikoshi in the beginning.

After the first head minister of the Konko Church of San Francisco, the Rev. Yoshiaki Fukuda, passed away, she took over this heavy responsibility. But she was able to accomplish many great things in many great ways. She raised her many children wonderfully. Her tremendous efforts helped build this new church as well as the Yatsunami apartment. She was able to overcome countless hardship with the support of Kami-sama and the Mitama spirit of the Rev. Fukuda. She built a strong foundation or roots for the Konko Church of San Francisco and the Nikkei community.

I am sure many other people came to this country to sacrifice their lives for churches or communities like the Rev. Shinko Fukuda. They are the roots or foundation of us all. As we appreciate them and follow their legacy and pioneer spirit, we will be able to prosper in the future.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and martial arts. He also gives spiritual counseling and is the author of “An Eternal Journey.” He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

One response to “THE HEART OF KANJI: Roots”

  1. Janine Ito Avatar

    Rev Kawahatsu
    We are in New Jersey
    Justina Mejias is my friend
    We have profound memories of You
    The Konko Church
    Kami-sama and Konkokyo
    Hope to visit you again soon

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