What is the Byodo-In Temple?
Byodo-In Temple was built in 1968. It commemorates the 100-year-anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to the islands of Hawaii. The O’ahu Temple is actually a smaller scale replica of the over-950-year-old Byodo-In Temple located in Uji Japan. This non-practicing Buddhist temple welcomes people of all faiths to visit, meditate, and take in the beautiful surroundings.
Where is the Byodo-In Temple Located and When Can You Visit?
The Byodo-In Temple is located within the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains. The drive to the temple is absolutely breathtaking. You can see beautifully maintained graves as you wind closer and closer to the Ko’olau Mountains.
The temple grounds are open daily from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM. The last entrance to the temple grounds take place at 4:45 PM. Byodo-In Temple is closed on Christmas day. It also has slightly different opening times around other holidays. Click their website here for further information on days with different times.
Why did we decide to visit Byodo-In Temple?
Time to enjoy my own island
After being a little frustrated lately that I still wasn’t going to be able to travel this summer (for various reasons), I decided to make it an effort to experience as many new things as I could on the island. And surprisingly, despite being a Hawaii resident for 23-years, I had never visited Byodo-In Temple. In addition, my work schedule has been a little more hectic than usual. Visiting a place where I could slowly meander along, taking in the beautiful surroundings, was exactly what I needed.
Okay, I’ll admit – it’s a very Instagrammable place
In full disclosure, I also came here because I was interested in taking pictures for my Instagram account. Intent on getting pictures that depicted the serenity of the location, I was disappointed when I pulled into the parking lot and saw that it was almost full. My hopes of getting that token picture of crossing the bridge without anyone else in the shot were initially dashed. However, the temple grounds were large enough that my daughter and I rarely were near anyone.
It wasn’t a full day activity
I was working under a time constraint when we visited the Byodo-In Temple. My daughter’s dance class kept us from showing up earlier in the day. My own work schedule meant we couldn’t go anyplace for too long. The temple grounds were perfect because we probably only spent an hour there before heading out to grab lunch. It was the perfect thing to rejuvenate me from life’s everyday stresses and celebrate my family’s culture.
The toddler had made other plans
My original plans included taking both my 6-year-old and my 2-year-old with me. However, at the last minute my 2-year-old ended up having other plans. (How is he cooler than me?) Only my 6-year-old daughter ended up visiting Byodo-In Temple with me. That turned out to absolutely be for the best. My son would have loved it so much there. He would have squealed loudly at all the koi and the black swan. He would have raced around the grass at full speed. And, he would have wandered in and out of the temple, bellowing out his comedic and contagious laugh. And I would have had to quickly leave Byodo-In Temple with the kids in tow. It just wouldn’t be the right place for Mr. Boundless Energy to show off his hilarious personality.
How much does it cost?
- General Admission (ages 13-64) is $5.
- Seniors (age 65 & up) are $4.
- Children (2-12) are $2.
As for me, I flashed my Hawaii State license and asked for the Kama’aina discount. I’m not sure what the breakdown was but I was charged a total of $4 for 1 adult and 1 child.
What can you expect to see?
Ring the Bon-sho
The bon-sho, or sacred bell, was cast in Osaka Japan. It closely resembles the over-nine-centuries old bell hanging at the Byodo-In Temple in Japan. The bell, housed in the kanetru-ki-do (i.e. “bell house”), is over 6 feet high and weighs over 7 tons. Visitors are invited to ring the bell with a soft wooden log called a shumoku before entering the temple. It is believed that the sounds of the bon-sho clears the mind of negativity, imparts deep peace and brings happiness, blessings, and long life.
The Amida Buddha and Entering the Main Room
I’ve experienced sacred spaces which are less welcoming to those of different faiths. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised that visitors of all faiths are welcome in the main room of the Byodo-In Temple. All they ask is that visitors remove their shoes before entering as a sign of respect.
As soon as you enter, you are greeted with a single white candle that visitors can use to light incense. And looming over 9 feet in the air, behind the incense, is Amida, a golden Buddha. It is thought to be the largest statue of a Buddha carved outside of Japan.
The grounds of the Byodo-In Temple include a large pond filled with koi, turtle, frogs and black swans. Peacocks have also been known to roam the grounds but were not there during our visit. Don’t forget to lather up with bug spray, because the mosquitos call the temple grounds their home as well. We would have probably stayed a little longer but we were tired of being lunch.
What are the guidelines due to COVID-19?
This is actually something you should expect to experience everywhere in Hawaii. As of this writing (May 2021), the CDC has stated that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to remain masked while outside. However, CDC’s guideline changes have not changed to rules for the state of Hawaii. The state’s mandate dictates that if you are over the age of 5, you need to remain masked regardless of if you are indoors or outdoors.
I hate to mention this because in all honesty, when it comes to mask wearing I’m one of its biggest cheerleaders. But most tourist areas I’ve visited state that you cannot take of your mask even for picture taking, and Byodo-In Temple was no exception. I agree with that rule because I think it can easily get abused. But I’ll admit, my daughter and I would look all around and if there was no one within approximately 15 feet or more of us, we did drop the masks for some picture taking.