Early Spokane had more ethnic and religious diversity than we often realize. Many Japanese immigrants were drawn to Eastern Washington's railroad and mining jobs in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some returned to Japan when employment ran out, but others chose to stay and make a life in the Spokane area. By 1910 the Japanese population topped a thousand, though by 1935 that number had decreased to around 383 due to families returning to Japan and a government ban on Japanese immigration. Paradoxically, the Japanese population of Spokane increased again after the bombing of Pearl Harbor raised fears of espionage and sabotage, prompting the government to establish Japanese relocation camps along the West coast. Spokane, which was outside the evacuation area, became a safe haven.
Many Japanese settled in the South Perry neighborhood. Some were Christian, and founded the Japanese Methodist Mission in 1902. Others, however, practiced traditional Buddhism, and in 1945 the first service of the Spokane Buddhist Temple was held in the Jodo Shinshu tradition, commonly called Shin Buddhism in America. The service consisted of six Buddhists in a rented apartment, led by Reverend Eiyu Terao, who had been sent to Spokane from a Japanese relocation camp at Hunt, Idaho. A residence was purchased a month later at S. 628 Cowley, and a shrine (a gift from the Toppenish Buddhist Church) and a scroll were installed in 1946, both originally from Japan. The statue of Amida Buddha, also from Japan, was enshrined and the Temple dedicated in 1948 in a ceremony officiated by Bishop Enryo Shigefuji. By 1950, the Spokane Buddhist Temple had a following of more than three hundred members, and the services were held in Japanese. Reverend Terao's brother William became the minister in 1952.
Membership continued to grow, and the South Perry Street building and gymnasium were purchased in 1965 from the Liberty Heights Baptist Church and dedicated in 1966. Reverend William Terao left in 1972, and Reverend Ikuo Nishimura filled the post once a month until June 1973 when Reverend Shingo Hattori took over as resident minister. He left in 1976 , and Reverend Ichiju Yamana replaced him in 1978. In 1992 an arson fire destroyed the original Perry Street Temple, though the shrine was saved by firefighters and placed in the current Spokane Buddhist Temple, which was rededicated on October 1, 1994.
The Spokane Buddhist Temple, also known as the Spokane Buddhist Church, is part of the Buddhist Churches of America. It is run entirely by volunteers with no paid staff, and services are now held only in English. The gymnasium next door, now the home of the South Perry Buddhio Yoga Studio, was a dojo from 1969 until 2010 and has been a functional part of the temple and community, housing the winter farmers market and hosting various Temple events. In July 2014, the Temple celebrated its 20th anniversary since the fire in an Obon Festival that included a history of the Temple. The Spokane Buddhist Temple is an active participant in Japan Week, a festival in Spokane dedicated to teaching about Japanese culture.