Hawaii has a rich history and one that includes people from many corners of the world, including Japan. The Japanese immigrants to Hawaii brought with them their language, food, and other aspects of their culture — including religion. The Byodo-In Temple in Oahu is a replication of an older Japanese tremble and one that has served as a popular place for locals and non-locals for the many decades since its first construction.
The Byodo-In Temple finished its construction and opened its doors on June 7, 1968, in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the very first Japanese immigrants to arrive in Hawaii. This temple was built to replicate the Buddhist temple Byodo-In in Uji, Japan. That temple was first constructed in 998 during the Heian period as a rural villa for a noble family. In 1052, the property was officially converted into a Buddhist temple. The version in Hawaii is an incredibly faithful reproduction, but there is a pretty noteworthy exception: It isn’t actually a functioning Buddhist temple.
Oahu’s Byodo-In Temple is a non-denominational temple and is open to people of all faiths and backgrounds. The primary reason, however, why it is not considered at large a Buddhist temple is because it does not host an in-house, resident monastic community nor does it have its own particularly active congregation. But that does not mean this building lacks an important role in the community. The Byodo-In Temple is the cornerstone building in what is known as the Valley of Temples Memorial Park. This is an expansive manicured park that contains one of Hawaii’s most beautiful and oft-visited cemeteries and mortuaries, with two air-conditioned temples in addition to the central temple. These are also gardens that include koi ponds and gorgeous tropical plants.
Despite not being an active Buddhist temple, the Byodo-In Temple attracts tens of thousands of worshippers and visitors from around the world every year. Both locals and non-locals enjoy its gardens (although you do have to be a Hawaiian resident to be buried in the attached cemetery) and many choose those beautiful gardens and grounds as the location for weddings and other large gatherings.
It is important to note that while the Byodo-In Temple is open to everyone and plays an incredibly important role in the local community, it is not a public establishment. This is a privately owned and operated building, and you will be charged an admission fee to visit the general grounds as well as enter the Byodo-In Temple. General admission is $5 for teenagers and adults, $ for seniors, and $2 for children up to age 12. Infants of up to age 2 are allowed in for free. You can also schedule a tour for a slightly increased fee by calling the central office.
-Love detective and mystery shows? Then you will probably recognize parts of the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple from popular television series. Hawaii Five-O, Magnum, P.I, and Lost all have segments of their series filmed here. Additionally, this temple is such a fantastic replication of the Japanese one, the 2001 film Pearl Harbor used it for its Japanese scenes.
-When entering the grounds, make sure to check out the massive brass bell just outside the temple. This five-foot, three-ton brass bell is rung by a wooden log known as the shu-moku. Visitors are encouraged to ring the bell in order to encourage happiness and longevity. You might also head to the gold leaf-covered, 18-foot-tall Buddha statue where you can light incense and offer up a prayer or intention for further goodwill.
-In 2017, the U.S. Postal Service issued two stamps in honor of Hawaii, one of which featured the Byodo-In Temple. You can still buy versions of this stamp online to commemorate your own journey to the Buddhist temple.