A New Chapter for Temple KukuriMay 21, 2021 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Shaunna Boyd
Sawako Ama and Steve Bash, founders of Temple Kukuri, are looking for an additional tenant to share the space if they are going to remain at 10723 Fair Oaks Blvd. Photo by Shaunna Boyd.
FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - Temple Kukuri is a place of connection. In Japanese, the word kukuri means to tie or bond, and that is the mission of the non-profit and non-denominational holistic living sanctuary, which offers traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, meditation, breathwork, drum and dance circles, massage therapy, cooking classes, and more. But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced shutdowns last year, Temple Kukuri lost the ability to create that space for connection.
Founder and Executive Director Sawako Ama explained that Temple Kukuri is centered on bringing people together. She said, “Everything we do here is so connected to people gathering in person.” Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Ama was determined to find ways to continue those connections: “As long as we have the urge of connection, we always find a way.” Temple Kukuri shifted some of their offerings online, such as breathwork and cooking classes. Whether in person or online, Ama said, “You can create a deeper connection when there is intention.”
One of the central elements of Temple Kukuri is the traditional tea ceremony, which celebrates nature and our connection to the natural world. The ceremony is very intimate, and the experience is not easily translated online. So, Temple Kukuri hosted an outdoor pop-up tea ceremony under the cherry blossoms in Belle Cooledge Park in April.
To maintain those important connections with its members during the pandemic, Temple Kukuri held Bento Box To Go fundraisers and continued their weekly Morning Meditation walk to the river, with just a few members meeting each Tuesday to walk together to the bluffs.
Temple Kukuri’s next fundraiser is a Plant Sale and Bento Box To Go event on May 30 from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM. The outdoor patio will be open for dining and desserts will be served. Temple Kukuri Co-founder Steve Bash explained that food is central to the idea of holistic living, and their bento box ingredients are sourced from local organic farmers. Ama said, “Food gets us closer to nature because we’re taking nature into our body.” Although many people take the act of eating for granted, Ama described it as “a very sacred ritual.”
As restrictions are now lifting, Ama reflected on the impact of the pandemic, noting that many people felt a deep sense of loss as they were disconnected from their support systems. For the Temple itself, Ama said the worst aspect has been “the stress of the unknown”—not knowing if or when they would be able to reopen. Financial concerns also caused significant stress: shutdowns led to loss of income from Ama’s massage therapy services as well as loss of income they received from other tenants offering classes and services in the space.
Temple Kukuri’s landlords allowed them to remain in the space during the shutdown while paying half the rent, which they paid out of pocket since no income was coming in. But that help will run out at the end of July—the owners are looking for new tenants if Temple Kukuri isn’t able to resume paying the full rental cost. But even as restrictions are lifted and the Temple’s services begin to reopen, they won’t be able to afford the rent on their own. Bash said they are looking for an additional tenant who aligns with their values to share the cost for the space. If they don’t find one, Temple Kukuri will be looking for a new home.
Although it would be disappointing to leave the space where Temple Kukuri began four years ago, Ama and Bash are looking at the possible move as an opportunity to refocus, and they are optimistic about a new chapter for Temple Kukuri. They are hoping to find a smaller space where they can focus on the tea ceremonies, massage services, and teaching holistic living practices. They plan to remain in Fair Oaks because they are very connected to the community here. If they can find a place where the owners share their vision and values, Bash said it will truly become a community space, a safe haven where people can find the support they need.
The mission of Temple Kukuri has always been to create a space where “people can open up their hearts to find joy,” said Ama. She touched her heart, saying, “Our temple is always here. … We can carry our mission still without the place.”
Temple Kukuri is currently located at 10723 Fair Oaks Blvd. Visit https://www.templekukuri.org/ to learn more or to contact Temple Kukuri.