Nestled at the base of the lush Ko'olau mountains in Hawaii sits a nod to the state's Asian heritage — the beautiful Byodo-in Temple.
Built in 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, the Byodo-in Temple should be a must-visit for all visitors to the Hawaiian island of Oahu. This nondenominational Buddhist temple, located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, is open to people of all faiths to worship, meditate, or simply visit and appreciate its beautiful surroundings.
The temple is a half-scale replica of a 900-year-old structure in Uji, Japan, and is built in the traditional way — without any nails.
I visited this scenic spot on an overcast day as part of a circle island tour. And, while the Byodo-in Temple has turned into a bit of a tourist attraction, I was pleasantly surprised to still find an atmosphere of quiet respect and contemplation.
The temple may often be filled with tourists, but it feels anything but touristy.
Arriving to the temple requires a winding drive through a cemetery, before arriving in a small carpark. My breath was completely taken away when I first set eyes on this view:
Before entering the temple itself, we were all invited to ring the bon-sho, or sacred bell, that sits in a small bell house to the left of the temple. It is said ringing this 3-ton brass bell just once before entering the temple will purify the mind of evil spirits and temptation before meditation. It's also supposed to bring the ringer happiness, blessings, and a long life.
After ringing the bell, it was on to the temple itself. The building is beautiful and intricate, with the vibrant red and yellow and crisp white colors contrasting with the lush green surroundings. It was quiet, with birds chirping and a few fat raindrops plopping into the surrounding reflecting pools.
All visitors of all faiths are welcome to enter the main room of the temple where a 9-foot-tall Lotus Buddha statue sits — you're just asked to remove your shoes as a sign of respect.
Once back outside, you might notice that the temple's reflecting pools are filled with hundreds of colorful koi. If you want to see them in action (meaning squirming all over each other in one huge fishy mass), you can purchase some fish food from the nearby tea house gift shop.
It started pouring just as we got to the far side of the temple. And, while it left most of us rather soggy and a bit chilly for the next half hour or so, the temple itself still managed to look peaceful and impressive.
If you ever find yourself with some free time on Oahu, I highly recommend visiting the Byodo-in Temple.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: The Byodo-In Temple is located in the Valley of the Temples, on the eastern side of the island of Oahu in Hawaii. A visit is usually included in most Circle Island Tours of Oahu.
WHEN: The temple grounds are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
HOW MUCH: Admission to the temple is $5 per adult.
Would you ever expect to find something like this in Hawaii? I know I sure didn't!
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