Konko Church of San Francisco

Konko Church of San Francisco

Konko Church of San Francisco

Konko Church of San Francisco
4
What people are saying
Vincent M
By Vincent M
A Unique Cultural Attraction in SF
Sep 2017
I stumbled across this church on the corner of Bush and Laguna, while walking from Japantown to Nob Hill, and felt compelled to take a look. I’ve wandered about in Japan a bit and have reviewed numerous attractions in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and so on, for TripAdvisor. But I’d never actually encountered a Konko-kyo church in Japan itself. This one’s very existence here underscores how cosmopolitan a city San Francisco truly is. I do have ambivalent feelings about this church as an “attraction.” There are some churches in San Francisco which should be high on tourists’ to-do list, either due to historic importance (e.g. Mission Dolores) or stunning architecture (e.g. Grace Cathedral). This church doesn’t get high marks on either of those categories. The physical church is quite modern, and their entire religion is less than 200 years old. As for architectural interest, the exterior of the church is as plain as can be (see Exterior photo), its only photogenic detail being a stone monument to a former Konko bishop of California (see Bishop Memorial photo). The interior is quite minimalist, but is somewhat serene. I’m tempted to describe it as Zen-like in its simplicity of line and form, but that would be seriously barking up the wrong theological tree: Zen is a variant of Buddhism, whereas Konko-kyo is a variant of Shintoism. That means you won’t find a thousand-armed Kannon (Guan-yin) or any photogenic guardian deities in samurai armor here. No sitting, standing, or reclining Buddhas or Boddhisattvas either. If you offered an iconoclast ten thousand dollars for every graven image he smashed up, the poor sucker wouldn’t make a dime in this church. There’s not a single anthropomorphic image in the house. There are a few vases, and what appear to be bottles of sake or plum wine, on simple shelves (see Interior photo). The center area is an “altar” where Kami is “worshipped” and a second, smaller “altar” to its right is where ancestors are respected and honored (though they don’t burn spirit money in ovens a la Taoism). I will admit that all the panels and shelves are in warm blond-wood, beneath a nicely-proportioned beamed ceiling. So the space is really rather serene in a minimalist sort of way. There are, of course, other reasons to go to any church. I’ve seen people going to the Cathedral in Lima, the temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, and the Sultan mosque in Singapore, simply to pray, because they’re Christians or Buddhists or Muslims. And I’ve seen folks go to such places because they want to learn about other religions. So, if you already believe in Konko-kyo, and are visiting the USA from Japan, you’ll be happy to find this church right in the heart of the town. If you’re interested in learning about Konko-kyo, the folks inside are more than willing to explain their beliefs to you. Downright eager to, as a matter of fact. While they believe in Kami as a vital universal force, the minister explained to me that they don’t refer to Kami as a “god” in the USA, because that’s a loaded word to Westerners and conjures up images that are antithetical to the concept of Kami (e.g. Jehovah on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the Sistine ceiling). Oddly enough, the Konko-kyo religion is quite willing to admit you to their congregation for purposes of heightening your spiritual life’s-journey, even though you are primarily a Scots Presbyterian, Hindu, Mormon or Sikh. As far as they’re concerned, it’s perfectly alright for you to believe that, and participate in their religion as well, as they consider the other religions to be complementary to Konko-kyo. Altogether, what these folks have to say is so intriguing culturally, that even though the physical church would be lucky to rate a “3” as an attraction based on architecture alone, I’d have to say that as an intellectual or philosophical attraction, the Konko-kyo Church of San Francisco rates a 5. So, I'm going split the difference and rate this as a 4 overall: Very Good. San Franciscans should consider themselves singularly blessed to be able to discuss Konko-kyo right here in their own backyard, without having to fly all the way to Japan to do so.

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Vincent M
New Orleans, LA2,197 contributions
A Unique Cultural Attraction in SF
Sep 2017 • Solo
I stumbled across this church on the corner of Bush and Laguna, while walking from Japantown to Nob Hill, and felt compelled to take a look. I’ve wandered about in Japan a bit and have reviewed numerous attractions in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and so on, for TripAdvisor. But I’d never actually encountered a Konko-kyo church in Japan itself. This one’s very existence here underscores how cosmopolitan a city San Francisco truly is. I do have ambivalent feelings about this church as an “attraction.” There are some churches in San Francisco which should be high on tourists’ to-do list, either due to historic importance (e.g. Mission Dolores) or stunning architecture (e.g. Grace Cathedral).

This church doesn’t get high marks on either of those categories. The physical church is quite modern, and their entire religion is less than 200 years old. As for architectural interest, the exterior of the church is as plain as can be (see Exterior photo), its only photogenic detail being a stone monument to a former Konko bishop of California (see Bishop Memorial photo). The interior is quite minimalist, but is somewhat serene. I’m tempted to describe it as Zen-like in its simplicity of line and form, but that would be seriously barking up the wrong theological tree: Zen is a variant of Buddhism, whereas Konko-kyo is a variant of Shintoism. That means you won’t find a thousand-armed Kannon (Guan-yin) or any photogenic guardian deities in samurai armor here. No sitting, standing, or reclining Buddhas or Boddhisattvas either. If you offered an iconoclast ten thousand dollars for every graven image he smashed up, the poor sucker wouldn’t make a dime in this church. There’s not a single anthropomorphic image in the house. There are a few vases, and what appear to be bottles of sake or plum wine, on simple shelves (see Interior photo). The center area is an “altar” where Kami is “worshipped” and a second, smaller “altar” to its right is where ancestors are respected and honored (though they don’t burn spirit money in ovens a la Taoism). I will admit that all the panels and shelves are in warm blond-wood, beneath a nicely-proportioned beamed ceiling. So the space is really rather serene in a minimalist sort of way.

There are, of course, other reasons to go to any church. I’ve seen people going to the Cathedral in Lima, the temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, and the Sultan mosque in Singapore, simply to pray, because they’re Christians or Buddhists or Muslims. And I’ve seen folks go to such places because they want to learn about other religions. So, if you already believe in Konko-kyo, and are visiting the USA from Japan, you’ll be happy to find this church right in the heart of the town. If you’re interested in learning about Konko-kyo, the folks inside are more than willing to explain their beliefs to you. Downright eager to, as a matter of fact. While they believe in Kami as a vital universal force, the minister explained to me that they don’t refer to Kami as a “god” in the USA, because that’s a loaded word to Westerners and conjures up images that are antithetical to the concept of Kami (e.g. Jehovah on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the Sistine ceiling). Oddly enough, the Konko-kyo religion is quite willing to admit you to their congregation for purposes of heightening your spiritual life’s-journey, even though you are primarily a Scots Presbyterian, Hindu, Mormon or Sikh. As far as they’re concerned, it’s perfectly alright for you to believe that, and participate in their religion as well, as they consider the other religions to be complementary to Konko-kyo. Altogether, what these folks have to say is so intriguing culturally, that even though the physical church would be lucky to rate a “3” as an attraction based on architecture alone, I’d have to say that as an intellectual or philosophical attraction, the Konko-kyo Church of San Francisco rates a 5. So, I'm going split the difference and rate this as a 4 overall: Very Good. San Franciscans should consider themselves singularly blessed to be able to discuss Konko-kyo right here in their own backyard, without having to fly all the way to Japan to do so.
Written 30 September 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
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