The geography of Hawaii astounds most first-time visitors as these eight islands are pretty equidistant from three different continents. Tokyo is only an eight hour flight while Sydney sits only 10 hours away by air. North America is closest. Los Angeles is six hour by plane.
This is the most remote chain of islands in the world, and, given its proximity to both America and Asia, it’s no surprise that the Hawaiian islands have a healthy Asian population. In fact, those of Asian descent make up the majority of the populace which makes Hawaii one of five American states with a “majority minority” population.
Hawaii is a true melting pot of cultures, and you can see it in the cuisine. Dishes like taco rice, bento boxes and spam musubi dot the islands to fuse Asian, Hawaiian and American cultures. But there’s a true monument to Hawaii’s diversity, and it is open to the public -- the Byodo-In Temple.
The Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing buddhist temple from Japan that stands in Oahu’s Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. All are welcomed into its peaceful confines to meditate and enjoy the beauty of its gardens. And if you’re looking for relaxation during your Hawaiian vacation, then there’s no better way to find zen than in the Byodo-In Temple.
The temple was completed on June 7th, 1968, and it was constructed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to the islands. And the Byodo-In Temple is a scale replica of a near 1,000-year-old temple in Uji, Japan, which just so happens to be a United Nations World Heritage Site.
The beautiful replica temple has been featured in movies and television over the years. Hawaii Five-O, Magnum PI, and Lost have all included the temple in its plots. The temple has even won television awards for being the best temple in Hawaii. And in 2019, the Byodo-In Temple was named one of the world’s 20 most beautiful Buddhist temples by National Geographic. The magazine cited the temple’s exquisite attention to architectural details as well as its lush tropical surroundings.
You might just witness a wedding on the grounds of the Byodo-In Temple when you visit Oahu’s Valley of Temples, and that’s because the traditional Japanese grounds are absolutely spectacular. You’re also likely to visit the temple alongside tourists from Japan as they inspect the replica of the temple in Uji.
The Valley of Temples itself is absolutely spectacular. Nestled against the 2,000-foot Koolau Range, this lush valley is full of dense Hawaiian flora and fauna. Torch ginger, Birds of Paradise and other tropical flowers have been carefully planted throughout the hilly landscape to add to its otherworldly beauty.
The temple itself was designed by Kiichi Toemon Sano, and the famed Kyoto-based landscaper paid attention to every little detail. As you walk up to the temple, you can marvel at how the gravel ripples out ahead of you and how the intricate koi fish pond bridges sparkle in the sunlight peeking through the canopy of trees.
The beauty is accented by the peacocks that roam the temple as well as the glittering gold koi fish in each of the temple’s ponds and streams. The landscaper even integrated small waterfalls into the grounds to add to the tranquility.
Inside the temple grounds, you’ll find a large reflecting pool, and you’ll be delighted to discover a myriad of little meditation niches. You’ll find yourself meditating without effort as you get lost in the intricacies of the building’s architecture, and you’ll be blown away by the fact that this beautiful building was constructed without any nails.
You’ll find a large bell at the entrance of the temple grounds, and it’s customary for visitors to ring the bell for joy, happiness and longevity. You’ll have to maneuver a log on a system of ropes to ring the five-foot-tall and three-ton bell, but the ring isn’t what you expect. It resonates through the grounds with a soothing vibration that aids meditation.
At the center of the grounds, you’ll find a massive 18-foot-tall buddha covered in gold. It’s customary to say a prayer or meditate and then light a stick of incense at the buddha’s feet. You can feel free to join the prayer, or just sit back to watch the spiritual spectacle.
The temple sits only 13 miles from the airport and is relatively easy to find. From Honolulu, simply take H1 West for about two miles. Take exit 20A to merge onto HI-63 North and stay on 63 for seven miles. The highway will then split. Stay in the right two lanes to take HI-83 West for about three miles. You’ll then turn left onto Hui Iwa Street at the Valley of Temples. The Byodo-In Temple is three-quarters of a mile down the snake-like Hui Iwa Street inside the valley.
The temple is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, and the entrance fee is only $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children. But the entrance fee is cash only, so make sure to hit an ATM before you head to the Valley of Temples.