Byodo-In Temple is one of many Japanese Buddhist temples in Hawaii.
But because of its connection with the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the same name in Japan, it’s probably the most well-known temple in Hawaii.
Yet it’s still considered something of a lesser-known secret on the island of Oahu.
Like many others, when we were planning our trip to Hawaii, we pictured pristine sandy beaches, tropical forests, friendly natives and exotic wildlife.
Basically, we were expecting an island paradise.
Although Hawaii has all of this and more, the Buddhist temple we discovered in Kaneohe (roughly 30 minutes away from Honolulu) was something completely unexpected!
If you follow in our footsteps and stray away from the glitz and glamour of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, you’ll be rewarded with beauty, tranquillity and kindness in the shape of this picturesque temple.
Here’s what you need to know about visiting Byodo-In Temple aka Hawaii’s stunning Buddhist temple.
A Brief History of Byodo-In Temple in Hawaii
Built in 1968 to commemorate 100 years since the first Japanese immigrant landed in Hawaii, Byodo-In Temple in Hawaii is a replica, (albeit smaller in size), of the 1000-year-old Buddhist temple of the same name at Uji in the Kyoto Prefecture of Japan.
Byodo-In Temple roughly translates as “Temple of Equality – not to discriminate.”
We think this is very fitting because the Hawaiian version of the temple isn’t actively used for spiritual or religious ceremonies, which means people from all walks of life – regardless of faith, spiritual beliefs or anything like that – can visit the temple, its surroundings and even meditate in the temple’s ‘Meditation Pavilion’ if they wish to.
Weddings are the only ceremony you might encounter here as they’re sometimes held in the temple’s grounds. Again, this is very fitting considering this temple was also featured in the popular TV show Lost as the setting for Sun and Jin’s wedding in Korea.
Hawaii’s Byodo-In Temple sits at the foot of the majestic Ko’olau Mountains in the Valley of the Temples, which is also home to a cemetery and memorial park for the thousands of Buddhist, Shinto, Protestant and Catholic residents from Hawaii who are buried here.
Again, this just goes to show the temple’s association with equality and non-discrimination as you don’t have to be of the Buddhist faith to have this extraordinary location as your final resting place. You just have to be a Hawaiian resident (and probably a wealthy one at that!)
If this temple sounds like somewhere you’d want to include on your Hawaii bucket list, (and it should be!), then here are our top tips for visiting this beautiful Buddhist temple in Hawaii.
Visiting Hawaii’s Buddhist Temple aka Byodo-In Temple
Hawaii’s Byodo-In Temple is on the island of Oahu, in Kaneohe, which is roughly 30 minutes in the car from Honolulu and the infamous Waikiki Beach.
When you arrive, you’ll walk across an arched bridge and be able to spot the temple straightaway.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, look to your left and you’ll see a large bell (a bon-sho) partly shrouded by a red gazebo.
It’s customary to ring this bell with the wooden log (a shu-moku) before entering the temple, so you’ll have a long and happy life.
When you do, a loud deep drone will sound, which might seem at odds with the tranquil temple grounds – but it really adds to the atmosphere. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered into Japan for the day!
After you’ve rung the three-ton bell, you can take a slow meander across to Byodo-In Temple itself to see a towering 18-foot Buddha statue, which is covered in three layers of gold leaf to make it shine brightly.
Note that you’ll need to take off your shoes before entering the temple (there are signs on the temple’s doors to remind you of this!)
Once you’ve finished admiring the Buddha statue and have popped your shoes back on, walk across to the gift shop and buy some bird and fish feed.
You’ll see some beautiful koi fish in the ponds that surround the temple, which you’re welcome to feed.
You might also notice some tiny brown birds vying for your attention and the food in your hands.
Hold your hand out and the little birds will eat straight from the palm of your hand. Some may even hop onto your hands!
The food from the shop costs just a couple of dollars for a small bag. But you may find a kind stranger offering you their food for free, which is what happened to us.
We were watching and smiling as a young boy fed the fish and birds when a lovely lady offered us the rest of her feed, saying: “I’m just passing on the karma as someone else gave me this food.”
This was such a beautiful moment of kindness (thank you lovely lady!), and naturally, we also passed the bag onto someone else behind us once we were done. Hopefully, something like this happens to you on your visit!
Once you’ve admired the fish and birds, take a slow walk to follow the pond as it curves around the temple’s grounds and you may just spot a tiny turtle or two emerging from the water.
Tours To Hawaii’s Buddhist Temple
Because Hawaii’s Byodo-In Temple was in the TV series Lost, we visited the temple as part of a Lost filming locations tour around the island of Oahu.
If you’d like to see all the other places we visited as part of this tour then take a look at this roundup of Lost filming locations.
But even if you’re not fans of the TV show, a visit to this beautiful Japanese-inspired temple is well worth including in your Hawaii itinerary, and as it’s only a 30-minute drive from Honolulu, it’s fairly easy to arrange a visit here.
If you’d rather not drive yourself then here are some tours you can join, which include Hawaii’s Buddhist temple as a pitstop:
- Oahu 120-Mile Full-Day Tour Including Dole Plantation
- Oahu Grand Circle Island Day Tour
- Ultimate Circle Island Adventure with Waimea Waterfall
Other Top Places To Visit On Oahu
If you’re looking for other must-sees on the island of Oahu, then we think the following shouldn’t be missed…
If you like the sound of visiting Hawaii’s Buddhist temple then you’ll probably also enjoy visiting Waimea Valley, which is about an hour away.
While you won’t find any Japanese Buddhist temples here, you will find yet more tranquil surroundings.
Waimea Valley is home to a large nature park and botanical garden, which is a joy to wander through and very relaxing – especially as it seems to be yet another of Hawaii’s secret spots.
You can follow various walking trails through the valley where you’ll be met with different types of flora and fauna, trickling rivers, arched wooden bridges and – perhaps the pièce de résistance – Waimea Falls.
While this waterfall is most known for being used in the TV show Lost, it’s other biggest draw is that you’re allowed to swim in the 30-foot-deep pond that the waterfall flows into (providing it’s safe to do so at the time of your visit).
During your visit to Waimea Valley, take a trip to the onsite cafe as you may also spot the majestic peacocks that roam freely through the cafe looking for scraps.
A word of caution: don’t feed them as they can be aggressive! But they’re fun to watch wandering around the cafe as you enjoy a spot of lunch.
Sticking with the Japanese theme, Pearl Harbor is another must-see on the island of Oahu – if a more sombre one.
Found less than ten miles away from downtown Honolulu, this is the site of the Pearl Harbor attack on the United States by the Japanese in December 1941.
Today, this historic site is home to several exhibitions and small museums where you can learn more about the attack and how it sparked the USA’s formal entry into World War II the very next day.
You can learn all this and more through a self-guided audio tour through the exhibitions.
You can also pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial here, which is accessible only by boat; of which there are multiple tours daily from the main Pearl Harbor base.
There are also various warships and submarines for you to admire and even some you can investigate onboard as part of the same audio tour that took you through the other Pearl Harbor exhibits.
Although this is a sombre day out in Hawaii, it’s a must if you’ve never been before, especially given how prevalent this site is in world history.
You’d likely be staying in Honolulu if you’re on the island of Oahu as this is both the state capital and largest city in all of Hawaii. It’s also where many international flights fly into.
Although many people think Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is overrated, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there as the beach was sandy and clean, and the bay was the perfect temperature and calm enough for swimming in for what felt like several hours of bliss at the time. You can also see a beautiful sunset over the ocean from here.
Beyond Waikiki Beach, other top attractions in Honolulu include Diamond Head, which you can hike to.
We hope this guide to visiting Hawaii’s Buddhist temple, Byodo-In Temple, has been helpful! Do you want to know anything else about a trip here? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll reply asap!
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