Sunday, December 12, 2010

Things to Do: Byodo-In Temple, Valley of the Temples Memorial Park

The Byodo-In Temple is located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park and is unique in Hawaii.  The temple name translates to "equality" or "not to discriminate".  Which is apt, since the Byodo-In Temple is a non-denomination Buddhist temple that welcomes all faiths and visitors whether it be to meditate, worship, or just tour the grounds.  Occasionally, you might see a photography group or a wedding on the grounds.

The Valley of the Temples is located on the north east side of O'ahu at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains past the Pali Lookout and Kaneohe Bay.  The temple occupies 2 acres of lush foothills in the back of the park and if you have any questions the front gate will direct you where to go.  This would make a good stop after visiting the Pali Lookout or Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens.

The Temple is an exact 1/2 scale replica of a temple in Uji, Japan and constructed entirely without nails.  If this place looks familiar, you might have seen it on Magnum PI , Hawaii Five-O, Lost, or a clip from the movie Pearl Harbor.   

Serenity, peace, and renewal are reoccurring themes throughout the temple and the grounds.  Overlooking both ends of the hall roof are two Chinese phoenixes which are hard to see in the picture.  Hoo in Japanese is phoenix, hence the name Phoenix Hall or Hoo-do.  The phoenixes are an omen of good luck, symbolizing rebirth, renewal, and hope.

Surrounding the temple are large koi ponds.  Koi, or carp, was introduced into Japan via China approximately 400 to 600 years ago.  Koi was bred for color in China thousands of years ago, but it started in Japan as recently as 1820 in the town of Ojiya.  Extensive breeding of this fish led to a variety of colors and patterns as seen in the picture.  Visitors are allowed to feed the fish and you can buy fish food at the gift shop.

As you walk the grounds, you might hear the peaceful, resonating tone of the bell being struck.  The Bell House or kanetsu-ki-do, contains a five foot high, three ton brass bell (bon-sho or sacred bell).  The bell was cast in Osaka Japan from a mixture of bronze and tin.    
The bell is struck with a soft wooden log (shu-moku) and is customarily rung before entering the temple.

The Buddha Amida resides in Phoenix Hall.  Please remove your shoes before entering the Hall, as is customary for Buddhist temples.  The Buddha is over 9 feet high and is the largest wood carved figure in the modern era.  It is the work of the famous Japanese sculptor, Masuzo Inui.  After completing the carving, the Buddha was covered with cloth and painted with three applications of fold lacquer.  Later gold leaf was applied over the lacquer finish.  Behind the Buddha are 52 smaller scupltures depicted enlightened beings or Boddhisattvas.

You can walk around the grounds and enjoy the garden with the other "guests".    
Swans, peacocks, geese, and sparrows frequent the Temple grounds.
Remember, the birds are wild, so don't feed them or let your kids get too close.  

To the right of the temple is the gift shop, a converted Japanese tea house.  Tea isn't served here, but you can get a cold drink, buy fish food, or get something to remember this place.  Restrooms are in the rear.  

Temple hours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily and check the events on the website for chinese water color seminars, book signings, koi oil paintings or other special events.  Admission is $3 for adults, $2.00 for senior citizens, and $1 for kids and is cash only.     

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