Filed Under Religion

Ogden Buddhist Church

The Buddhist Church of Ogden has traces its origins to 1912, but the city’s Japanese-American population goes even further back– to the beginnings of the transcontinental railroad.

Japanese pioneers were among the first immigrant groups to settle on Ogden’s historic 25th Street. With the 1888 completion of Union Depot Railroad Station, located at the bottom of the street, thousands of railroad workers and passengers traversed 25th, including many Japanese laborers and families who decided to make their homes in the city. By the end of the 1800s, a Japantown had sprung up around 25th Street, with many Japanese owned or operated barbershops, bathhouses, restaurants, hotels, assorted shops, and other businesses serving the local community. This concentration of Japanese people largely faded by the 1920s due to persecution and changing business prospects. While some Japanese residents remained, their presence on 25th Street was never the same. The Great Depression was the nail in the coffin for Ogden’s Japantown. 

World War II impacted the fate of Ogden’s Japanese community. The West Coast evacuation and incarceration of people with Japanese ancestry led to the creation of Topaz in central Utah. A number of wartime evacuees settled in Ogden during and after the war. 

In 1912, Japan-born “Issei” (subsequent generations of American-born Japanese were termed “Nisei”) residents of Ogden, Utah, reached out to a Buddhist temple in San Francisco, California, asking that a priest be sent to help their community perform funerals and other religious rites. Their request was granted, and the Buddhist community of Ogden held meetings in private homes for a time. A church building was purchased on Lincoln Avenue, between 24th and 25th streets downtown. That building became unsuitable to house the community, and so the Buddhist congregation raised funds for the purchase of a plot of land at 155 North Street, where the Buddhist Temple presently stands. The completed temple was dedicated in 1964. 

Members of the Ogden Buddhist Church practice Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. The faith is headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, though the Ogden Buddhist community is affiliated with the association of Buddhist Churches of America, located in San Francisco, California. Jodo Shinshu Buddhism has been practiced in the United States since 1899. This branch of Buddhism was founded by Shinran Shonin (1173-1262). Jodo Shinshu Buddhism focuses on salvation through faith rather than works and adapts the teachings of Buddha to suit family life.

Ogden has a storied Japanese-American past. The Ogden Buddhist Temple is just one manifestation of this history. Many Japanese-Americans of Ogden today gather at the temple to worship, practice traditions, and celebrate holidays– including the making of mochi for Shu-sho-e, their New Years Day service.

Images

Main Entrance
Main Entrance Photo taken by Isabella Holt
Altar and Pews
Altar and Pews Photo taken by Isabella Holt
Close up of Buddhist Altar
Close up of Buddhist Altar Photo taken by Isabella Holt
Incense and Dragons
Incense and Dragons Photo taken by Isabella Holt
Making New Years' Mochi
Making New Years' Mochi Photo taken by Isabella Holt
Exterior Walkway
Exterior Walkway Photo taken by Isabella Holt

Location

Metadata

Isabella Holt, Brigham Young University, “Ogden Buddhist Church,” Intermountain Histories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/760.