The Byodo-in Temple in Windward Oahu, Hawaii

The Ko’olau Mountains serve as an unbelievably breathtaking backdrop for many tourist attractions in windward Oahu , including the Buddhist Byodo-in Temple, located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park cemetery in Kahalu’u, a subdivision of Kaneohe, Hawaii. The first Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii around 1868 to work in the sugar cane and pineapple plantations, and the temple, dedicated in 1968, commemorates the 100-year anniversary of their arrival.

Foot bridge leading to the Byodo-in Temple
(c) Copyright 2011 Patrice Walker

To reach the temple complex, you’ll drive slowly on a two-lane road that winds through the cemetery grounds and ends at a small parking lot at the back of the cemetery. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee ($3.00 for adults, $2.00 for children and seniors), you’ll walk across a quaint foot bridge and perhaps stop to snap a family photo with the magnificent temple building in the background.

The Sacred Bell
(c) Copyright 2011 Patrice Walker

Taking the foot path to the left will bring you to the Bon-sho or Sacred Bell, located in the kanetru-ki-do, or Bell House. The government of Japan gave permission for the three-ton bell, made of bronze and tin, to be cast in Osaka, Japan. This bell is a replica of a 900 year-old bell housed in the Uji Byodo-in in Japan. Use the shu-moku, or massive wooden log, to ring the bell before entering the temple. The bell’s deep, pure sound creates an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that prepares you to enter the temple in a contemplative mood.

The Meditation Pagoda
(c) Copyright 2011 Patrice Walker

Before entering the temple, why not climb the short hill to your left, at the top of which is a small meditation pagoda overlooking the temple grounds? It offers yet another opportunity for quiet contemplation and meditation.

The Amida
(c) Copyright 2011 Patrice Walker

You approach the Byodo-in Temple from side entrances on the left or right of the temple sanctuary. Because the temple is a place of worship for the local Buddhist population, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering. Once inside, you are greeted by a nine-foot tall, golden statue of the Buddha, called the Amida. The statue isn’t made of gold but is a wooden carving that is covered in cloth and painted in gold lacquer to which a final layer of gold leaf has been added. There are several small benches across from the Buddha where you can sit and allow the aroma of incense and the air of incredible peace and tranquility to soothe your weary soul.

Japanese koi and a black swan
(c) Copyright 2011 Patrice Walker

As you walk the grounds of the temple complex, visit the Tea House Gift Shop where you can purchase souvenirs of your visit. And if you’re lucky (sadly, I wasn’t the day I took these photos), you’ll see one of several peacocks that are allowed to roam the grounds. But these birds are wild, so please don’t approach them. Small ponds throughout the temple grounds, as well as a reflection pond which surrounds the temple, are filled with gigantic Japanese koi, black swans, turtles, and frogs. You can buy food in the Gift Shop to feed to the koi, which are known to live 100 years or more.

Depending on the day of your visit, you’ll be able to see demonstrations and attend workshops in koi oil painting, ribbon lei making, cloth flower making, and many other activities. Check the Byodo-in Temple’s website for a schedule of events and driving directions..

Saying goodbye to the Byodo-in Temple
(c) Copyright 2011 Patrice Walker

As you leave the Byodo-In Temple, you’ll probably turn around for one last look at this hauntingly beautiful place, stress-free and ready to visit another fascinating attraction in windward Oahu, Hawaii.


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