A Buddhist Leader in Canada Retires

He was the first Canadian-raised minister to head the largest Buddhist organization in Canada and now, after faithfully serving the Buddhist community for over five decades, Reverend Susumu Kyojo Ikuta is retiring.

Kyojo Ikuta was born Kyoto, Japan in 1926. At the age of ten, his family immigrated to Canada. He grew up in New Westminster, B.C. with his mother, Mino and four siblings. Kyojo Ikuta would continue the work of his father, Rev. Shinjo Ikuta. The senior Ikuta was an early pioneer Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Minister.

During WWII, like all Japanese-Canadians living on the Canadian west coast, the Ikuta family was removed from B.C. during the internment of people with Japanese ancestry. The Ikuta family was relocated to Raymond, Alberta and Susuma spent his teenage years working on a sugar beet farm. The uprooting almost ended Japanese Buddhism and institutional Buddhism in Canada. But, the hard times would lead to a spiritual re-awakening. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Alberta would eventually become the most important place for Buddhism in Canada and would further become the birthplace of the academic study of Buddhism in all of North America.

The lifting of the War Measures Act in 1949 restored freedom to those who were interned. And while some Japanese Buddhists returned to BC, many would stay in Alberta. Kyojo explored this new freedom and attended the University of Toronto where he received his Masters in Philosophy. His quest for spiritual knowledge would continue. He attended and received his kyoshi (minister training) at Ryukoku University in Japan. During this time, he also met his wife, Teruko.

With his new bride, Reverend Kyojo Ikuta returned to Canada and was first assigned to work at the Kelowna Buddhist Temple. He later moved to the Vancouver Buddhist Church were he resided until 1965. Further studies brought him back to Japan, where Rev. Ikuta obtained his PhD in Buddhism. 

Sensei Ikuta with family and friends at the JSBTC 2008 AGM in Vancouver

Rev. Ikuta returned to Canada in 1970, and served as the Head Minister of the Calgary Buddhist Temple. In 1998, he was elected to become the Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of Canada. The Bishop was the spiritual leader of temple ministers and reported to the Hongwanji, the mother temple in Kyoto, Japan. Rev. Ikuta later returned to the Calgary Buddhist Temple and was the Head Minister until his retirement in 2008.
During his time in Calgary, Rev. Ikuta also became a business entrepreneur opening many restaurants, including the successful “Edo Japan” franchise. Always caring for his small congregation, he created this venture so that the Calgary temple was able to have a full-time minister, without the burden of his income.
Full of energy, and devotion to the dharma, Rev. Ikuta lectured and promoted Buddhism across Alberta. He introduced study clubs on Buddhism and engaged in pastoral care. He wrote and published articles and books. He also taught at Calgary’s Mount Royal College. Also a fifth degree black belt, he was instrumental in bringing the Japanese sport of kendo to Calgary. But above all, his proudest accomplishment are his four children, Grant, Lester, Mari and Roland.

Rev. James Martin, once a student of Rev. Ikuta, has respectfully succeeded Sensei Ikuta at the Calgary Buddhist Temple.