Located at the feet of the stunning Ko’olau Mountains, better known as the Pali (the distinctive narrow and tall cliffs of the island), Byodo-In Temple is a little oasis of tranquillity within Paradise. The temple is a smaller replica of the original one in Kyoto, which is almost one-thousand-years old, and it was established in 1968 to commemorate the one-hundred-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrant arriving in the islands.
In preparation for next year’s 50th anniversary, the temple has recently undergone a complete restoration, always ensuring, of course, consistency with the Kyoto original. As part of this project, the two bronze phoenix statues on the temple’s roof have been substituted with new ones. The original pieces will remain at ground level for public viewing.
To the right, after the access bridge, you will find the peace bell, a three-ton brass bell called Bonsho (sacred bell). Its deep sound carries far and helps create a feeling of tranquillity – except, of course, in moments when there are a lot of visitors, and everyone turns into a five-year-old and has to have a go.
Inside the temple is a nine-foot statue of the Lotus Buddha, and a gold-covered wooden depiction of Amitabh. Being a non-practicing Buddhist temple, Byodo is open to all people as a place of contemplation, or even just to enjoy its beauty. A private room in the back hosts a columbarium, which is a place where cremation niches are housed.
Then there are the beautiful gardens, complete with Koi ponds, little waterfalls, pretty bridges, wild peacocks and a black swans. At the garden tea shop you can purchase a little bag of special food to feed the Koi fish (Japanese carp), who will eagerly answer your call.
Above and below is the meditation pavilion, which is located off to the left side of the temple and behind some trees, making it the perfect location for some inner peace and contemplation.
The young “samurai” you see in some of these images is a model I photographed as part of his portfolio a few years ago. You can see the full photo story about this shoot at this page.
You may have noticed Byodo-In Temple incorporated regularly in movies and television. I know I have seen it in a scene of the movie Pearl Harbor, and also a few episodes of the recent HI-50. But I have read it has been featured also in several episodes of Magnum P.I., and in one episode of Lost.
The beauty and tranquillity of this location also often attracts wedding ceremonies of both local residents and visitors from Japan.
If you are on O’ahu for more than a couple of days, a visit to Byodo-In Temple is well worth the drive. You can make it part of a drive-around the island, as long as you make sure to stop in before closing time. The temple, which is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, is found at the back of Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, of which it is part, off the Kahekili Highway in Kaneohe, on the windward side of O’ahu. These days, with smartphones and mapping apps, there is no need to give directions, but if you do want some, the temple’s website has them for both driving and public transportation.
A couple of logistics: there is a small token admission fee ($3 for adults) to access the site, and you will be required to remove your shoes to enter the temple. Important tip: don’t forget mosquito repellent!
47-200 Kahekili Highway, Kaneohe, Hi 96744 | ph. (808) 239-8811 | website
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