In 1902, the San Jose Hongwanji Buddhist Church was established to bring together the growing community of new Japanese immigrants to the San Jose area. The current building, designed after the Nishi Honganji Temples in Kyoto, Japan by architect George Shimamoto, has served the community in San Jose’s Japantown since it was built in 1937 by brothers Gentaro and Shinzaburo Nishiura. This authentic Buddhist temple has a number of impressive features, including its side-gabled roof, a Japanese garden with a sculpture, fountain, and bridge, and hand-carved wooden brackets.
During World War II, the building remained vacant for two years but was used to store the belongings of over twenty families who had been interned. Unfortunately, it did not escape the episodes of vandalism, arson, and hostility brought about by the war, and the building suffered extensive damage in a fire which gutted the basement in 1942.
The temple currently includes an annex which houses offices and a gymnasium, and the building underwent a seismic retrofit in 1981 by community leader Jimi Yamaichi. The temple celebrated its centennial year in 2002 with the Centennial Onajin Restoration Project, to restore and upgrade the Onaijin (altar) to its original beauty in honor of the historic contributions of the pioneer Issei ancestors.