Located at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains on the windward side of Oahu, the Byodo-In Temple may look very familiar to Japanese visitors. That's because it is a scale replica of the 950-year-old Buddhist temple in Uji, Japan that adorns the face of all ten-yen coins.
American visitors may also recognize the temple from its appearance in popular television series. It was used as a location to film episodes of Hawaii Five-O, Magnum P.I., and Lost.
Officially designated as a Hawaii State Landmark, Byodo-In was originally built in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Hawaii. Like its counterpart in Japan, this temple was erected without nails, although concrete was used liberally in the copy's construction.
The temple sits at the entrance to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, founded by Paul Trousdale in 1963 to serve as community cemetery. Byodo-In is a functioning, non-denominational Buddhist temple, open to visitors of all faiths for worship, meditation and the appreciation of tranquility.
The landscaping here is decidedly Japanese, complemented by local Hawaiian flora, with small waterfalls and meditation gardens surrounded by a natural amphitheater of mountains. Spectacular views of the ocean can be seen from the temple's Inspiration Chapel.
Wildlife abounds on the temple grounds. There is a large reflecting pond stocked with Japanese koi (carp) by the hundreds. Wild peacocks and black swans make this their home, too.
Among the unique attractions found here is a golden Amida Buddha, believed to be largest figure of its kind carved outside of Japan. The work of Japanese sculptor Masuzo Inui, it is more than nine feet tall. Its wood surface has been covered with cloth, painted with three layers of gold lacquer, and finished in gold leaf.
Surrounding the Amida Buddha are 52 smaller sculptures of Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings). Some of them float on clouds, while others dance or play musical instruments.
The main hall of the temple is called the Hoo-do, or Phoenix Hall. A pair of immortal birds are perched atop its roof as good omens. Flanking the main hall are two wings, said to reflect artistic beauty and stability, traits highly prized by the ancient Fujiwara aristocracy.
Adjacent to the temple is the Bell House, or kanetru-ki-do. Its five-foot high brass bell weighs three tons and is known as the bon-sho (sacred bell). It was cast in Osaka, Japan under special permit from the Japanese government and resembles the 900-year-old original hanging in Uji's Byodo-In Temple. Removing one's shoes and ringing the bell before entering the sanctuary is customary.
Also on the grounds is a meditation pavilion on the hill behind the temple. Nearby, an original Japanese tea house has been converted into a gift shop, where oriental items, souvenirs, prints and artwork by local artists may be purchased, along with food to feed the koi.
Upon arrangement through the gift shop, the temple may be used for weddings, concerts, classes, workshops, funerals, and commercial photography, although permits may be required and fees charged. Guests are reminded that this is private property and the final resting place of many cremated remains. Due respect should be observed at all times when visiting.
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