Located in Oahu, Hawaii within the Valley of the Temples, the Byodo-In Temple is a non-denominational traditional temple honoring Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, modeled as a replica of the 900-year-old Uji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto. The original Byodo-In Temple was constructed in 998 in Uji, the second-largest city within Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture. Founded as a monastery by Fujiwara no Yorimichi, the original Byodo-In was famous for its classical statue of the Vairochana buddha, which was lost in 1053 and replaced by a wooden statue of the Amitabha buddha.
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The Japanese site is recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
In 1968, a half-scale replica of the temple was commissioned for construction in Oahu to honor the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, who arrived on the islands alongside Chinese, Korean, and Filipino immigrants as laborers for pineapple and sugarcane plantations. In August of that year, the temple was officially dedicated by Governor John A. Burns, noted for his commitment to Japanese rights issues during Hawaii’s term as a United States territory.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Today, Byodo-In Temple is used as a nondenominational place of worship, welcoming worshippers of all faiths. Though it is commonly believed to be a Buddhist temple site, no active monastery or congregation opens on site, although the temple’s worship facilities are open to individual visitors. The temple’s grounds span 11,000 square feet of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, which contains multi-denominational sites of worship and burial grounds for Hawaiian residents, including several mausoleums for notable area political figures. The temple was widely known as a temporary interment site for Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose body was held at a mausoleum on the temple grounds until it was transported back to a refrigerated tomb in the Philippines.
Unlike its Japanese predecessor, which was built with wood construction techniques avoiding the use of nails, the Hawaiian Byodo-In is primarily constructed of concrete. It is home to the Amida Buddha statue, a nine-foot golden statue by sculptor Masuzo Inui that is believed to be the largest buddha statue crafted outside of Japan. 52 sculptures of enlightened boddhisattvas surround the buddha, depicted playing instruments and floating on cloud shapes. The buddha is located within the temple’s Phoenix Hall, named after the statues of the legendary birds located on each end of the structure’s roof.
Inside the Kanetru-ki-do Bell House, a five-foot sacred bell referred to as bon-sho is modeled after the instrument at the original Byodo-In’s Bell House. The three-ton bell, sculpted from brass, is customarily rung using a shu-moku wooden log before entrance into the temple, traditionally thought to induce mental purification and protection from evil spirits in preparation of worship and meditation. Behind the temple, a Meditation Pavilion offers a private space for worship, and a garden of koi ponds spans two acres. Traditional Japanese gardens surrounding the facility are home to peacocks and sparrows and offer views of the Ko’oalu Mountain area.
The facility’s traditional Japanese Tea House now serves as a gift shop, located next to the temple building. Traditional Japanese and Buddhist items are offered to visitors, including Goddess of Mercy figurines, buddha statues, kimonos, ichi-ban headbands, and art works by local traditional Japanese artisans. Food to feed the fish within the koi ponds is also offered.
Ongoing Programs and Events
In addition to traditional worship services, the Byodo-In Temple offers group tours for students, cruise excursion participants, and small groups and organizations. Guided and customized tours may be booked by contacting the facility’s Event Coordinator. The temple facility is also available for rental for weddings and other private special events, with special packages offered for photography shoots.
A variety of workshops and special events are held at the temple throughout the year, including performances and demonstrations by traditional artists and crafters. All artists who showcase work at the temple must donate a portion of proceeds to temple operations. Weekly yoga and meditation sessions are held at Ocean View Terrace, and Buddhist mindfulness meditation sessions are conducted on Saturday afternoons. Concerts are also held on the temple’s grounds, including a regular Jazz at the Temple performance series.
Funeral and burial services are offered for Hawaiian residents at the Valley of the Temples park, including end-of-life pre-planning consultations, obituary services, and grief and healing therapy resources for family members and loved ones. A large selection of funeral and sympathy floral bouquets and vase arrangements are available on the Valley of the Temples website, offering flower delivery and international shipping rates.
47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744, Phone: 808-239-9844