Hanyu Buddhist Chaplaincy Chair Carries on Legacy of Dana
Gesshin Claire Greenwood | November 8, 2022
The Noboru and Yaeko Hanyu Buddhist Chaplaincy Professorial Chair is the IBS-endowed chair created by the legacy gift of Mr. Noboru Hanyu, in memory of his wife, Yaeko. This title has been held by Rev. Dr. Daijaku Kinst since 2015.
Noboru (Nobi) Hanyu was born in San Francisco in March 1917 during a difficult time for Japanese and Japanese Americans trying to forge their lives in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood.
In this environment, he learned how to work. While still in high school, Nobi worked on weekends at a grocery store. He also worked at Tenkin, a tempura house, doing odd jobs.
After graduating from high school, he worked at the restaurant full time, doing everything from washing dishes, cooking rice, making tsukemono, and prepping the tempura ingredients. Before the restaurant opened, he worked at the flower market.
Nobi and his family were sent to the Topaz detention camp in Utah in 1942. The family returned to San Francisco after World War II to re-establish their lives.
He asked a friend who had a car if he could attend YBA events, and it was at one of these events where he met Yaeko Sakai, an active member of the Stockton YBA. They were married in 1948.
Nobi got a job with the U.S. General Service Administration, where he worked until he retired in 1983. He was also an active member of the Buddhist Church of San Francisco (BCSF).
With Yaeko’s encouragement, he used his business expertise to benefit the Japanese American Buddhist community and rose to multiple leadership positions in BCSF.
He served as: BCSF President and as Treasurer; BCA President; chair of the Minister’s Pension Program: chair of the Sustaining Membership Program; BCA Administrative Officer; and as Treasurer for the Campaign for Buddhism in America: He was Treasurer of BCA Endowment Foundation from 1965 to 2008.
In 2009, he was awarded the BCA Lifetime Service Award for his 60 years of service.
Nobi was a stern, serious man, and many would admit to finding him an intimidating figure. But he also had a soft side, embodied in his beloved wife, Yaeko.
I first met Nobi in 1957 at the BCA ceremony promoting the Berkeley Study Center. At that time, the Berkeley Study Center, under the direction of Rev. Kanmo Imamura, was tasked with preparing ministerial candidates, including me, for their studies at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan.
In 1981, I became involved with the BCA administration and came to realize the magnitude of Nobi’s work for his church and the BCA. He was involved in the development of many programs and held many leadership positions.
The most devastating event in Nobi’s life was the death of his wife, Yaeko, on Nov. 1, 2002, after 54 years of marriage. She was the light of his life and the one who encouraged Nobi to get involved in so many church- and BCA-related activities. She endured his many absences to attend meetings without complaint.
In 2009, Nobi called me and asked, “I’m thinking about donating to IBS. What would be best?”
I gave him a few options. He replied: “Let me think about it. I have things to work out.”
He called back in November 2010 and said, “I want to create a Professorial Chair Endowment for IBS to honor my late wife, Yaeko. Without her support, understanding, patience, and encouragement, I would not have been able to help BCSF and the BCA.
“I would like the chair to exemplify her spirit of Dana,” Nobi continued. “Also, I would like the chair to be for Buddhist chaplaincy. I feel the IBS needs to share the Buddha’s compassionate teaching to all students, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, through the work of chaplaincy. This will broaden the scope of ministerial and chaplaincy students to the work of addressing the needs of all people. In this way, the IBS and BCA can participate and contribute to society.”
The Noboru and Yaeko Hanyu Buddhist Chaplaincy Professorial Chair was established on Jan. 26, 2011, with a $500,000 gift from his living trust, in honor of his late wife, Yaeko.
At the signing of the papers, Mr. Hanyu stated, “This gift is not sufficient to fully endow a chair, but I hope others will realize the importance of this fund and will join in its endeavor.”
Dr. Richard Payne, the IBS Dean at the time, said: “On behalf of the IBS, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Hanyu for his generous gift. Buddhist chaplaincy is a new development, one that allows the propagation of the Buddhist teaching in hospitals, and hospices, jails, and prisons, in military and university settings. Chaplains are trained to serve anyone and everyone in need, no matter what the person’s religious affiliation. The purpose is to serve that individual, to make real the spirit of compassion that is the heart of the Buddha’s message.
“This is an important area of future growth for Buddhists in the United States today, and the support of the Noboru and Yaeko Hanyu Endowment will make it possible for IBS to train a new generation of Buddhist leaders, manifesting compassion in the most difficult of life situations, those of disease and death, punishment and servitude, loneliness and isolation,” Dr. Payne said.
Noboru Hanyu passed away on March 3, 2014, at the age of 97. His was a life well lived.
Please help us sustain the Hanyu’s Dana and vision. In this time of division, anger, and despair, the compassion, comfort, and healing offered by Buddhist ministers and chaplains are needed more than ever.
Contributors to Rev. Dr. Yamaoka’s article included Rev. Henry Adams, Supervising Minister for the Buddhist Church of San Francisco (BCSF); Arlene Kimata, BCSF President; and Susan Sakuma, BCSF office and staff.