The Byodo-In Temple is an unexpected treasure on Oahu. Against the backdrop of the endlessly impressive Ko’olau Mountains, the Temple grounds are home to not only the Temple itself, but also to wild peacocks, hundreds of massive Japanese koi carp fish, a reflecting pond, meditation pavilions, small waterfalls, mountain streams, and a stunning traditional Japanese bon-sho (sacred bell) that visitors are allowed to gong themselves.
The star of the site is of course the Temple itself, a replica of the over 950 year old Byodo-In-Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan. Inside the incense-filled temple is Amida, an over nine feet tall golden Buddha believed to be the largest figure carved outside of Japan. The Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple and is extremely welcoming of people of all faiths.
I found that one of the best parts of the Temple complex (for both children and adults) is the three-ton brass sacred bell originally cast in Osaka, Japan. The bell is set in a bell house, called kanetru-ki-do, and a long wooden log called a shu-moku is used to strike it, giving off a beautiful resonant sound that adds a very special atmosphere to the valley.
I admit that I was not expecting very much from the site. Usually the word ‘replica’ is a stand-in for ‘not-that-great.’ But in this case, I was very pleasantly surprised. I would actually put the Byodo-In Temple as one of the top experiences on Oahu, both for the natural beauty of the setting and for the Temple itself. Particularly for visitors from the mainland, you really get the feeling of genuine cultural experience unlike anything else I have come across in America. For me, this is a must-see attraction on Oahu, and one that still remains a bit of a secret (meaning, with luck you will have relatively few people visiting at the same time).
The Byodo-In Temple is set at the end of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, a larger park and cemetery and some of the most beautiful grounds on all of Oahu. It is very accessible for children and families, with easy-to-navigate walking paths and plenty of interesting animals and sites to look at. For more information about visiting hours and location check the website.