Byodo-In: My Old Stomping Grounds

Byodo-In
Byodo-In, a beautiful temple nestled in the Valley of the Temples.

I was born on the island of Oahu, where I lived for the first 3 years of my life thanks to my father’s stint in the US Marine Corps (thanks dad!). I’ve always had bits and pieces, and general impressions of my time in Hawaii floating around in my memory that’s been augmented by pictures and some home movies. Despite spending only my earliest years in Hawaii, I’ve always identified that more as my home than upstate New York, where I’ve lived most of my life. From a young age, I swore I’d make my way back just as soon as I could – I just never imagined it would take 21 years to make my first trip back.

So, when Kim and I decided to make our way there, I was more excited than I have ever been as we boarded that 12-ish hour flight from JFK to HNL, but exactly how much this meant to me didn’t settle in until I saw Oahu come into view. The weather was perfect as we landed and I could see the island that I was born on in all its beauty for the first time in 21 years. I was thrilled. I felt like I was home.

Kim and I had only lined up one full day for ourselves on Oahu – we tend to travel fast and try to do as much as we possibly can. In all honesty, I think we were there mostly for me – Kim was more excited at the time for our days on Kauai and Maui. Given this small window of time, we had planned out our day on Oahu in quite a bit of detail. I was insistent that we visited Pearl Harbor, even though I had never visited when I lived in Hawaii because of my interest in World War II history. You can read more about that excursion here.

The other big thing on my list may seem strange. I desperately wanted to visit Byodo-In – a Buddhist temple that my mom had taken me to a number of times. We went because it was a beautiful, open space and – well, it was cheap. Basically, it was a nice alternative to the beach (not that you really need one!) for young kids to visit. I had vague memories of a huge bell that I used to ring, the red of the temple and a ton of koi. What I didn’t remember were the mosquitoes.

Still, Byodo-In is beautiful and a great place to visit that doesn’t get too overwhelmed by tourists. It’s quiet and offers a nice change of pace from the crowded beaches of Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. Byodo-In is nestled back in a cemetery known as Valley of the Temples Memorial Park a few minutes away from Kaneohe (my old home town). It’ll run you $3.00 per adult ($1.00 for kids) to get in to the grounds. After a short, slow drive into the valley, you’ll come to a small parking area.

You’ll cross a short bridge and arrive on the main temple grounds. Byodo-In is a smaller replica of a temple of the same name in Uji, Japan, and it is beautiful. Koi ponds surround the temple and they are absolutely jam packed with fish. Black swans, turtles, frogs and peacocks (as well as the aforementioned mosquitoes – bring some good bug spray) can also be found on the grounds. The bell, known as Bon-sho (sacred bell), is near the entrance and is rung to purify the mind and bring you happiness. Be prepared to wait just a few minutes while the small handful of other visiting families ring the bell and get their pictures. Afterwards, you can make your way to the temple or stop by the meditation pavilion.

You’ll need to remove your shoes before entering the temple out of respect. Inside stands a 9-foot tall, golden Buddha, which is remarkable to see. After stopping in to see the Buddha, you can make your way to the small gift shop and purchase a pouch of food for the koi. It sounds silly, but you should absolutely do this. There are so many of the fish in the koi ponds that it is really entertaining to watch them swarm over each other trying to fight it out for the food you toss.

You don’t need long to visit Byodo-In. It’s a half-hour or hour trip at most, but it can be an interesting and beautiful little side trip. If you are big in to visiting places where TV or movies have been shot, apparently the temple has been worked into episodes of Lost, Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-O.

Overall, I was surprised at how well I remembered Byodo-In and I’m really glad we visited. Beyond my personal reasons for wanting to go, we got some nice pictures and experienced something a little different. Also, after spending the rest of the day surrounded by other tourists, it was refreshing to go someplace a little calmer to round out our day.

What to know if you go

Admission: $3.00/adult, $2.00/seniors, $1.00/children.

Bring your bug spray!

Places

Byodo-In

47-200 Kahekili Highway
Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808)239-8811

Byodo-In

47-200 Kahekili Highway
Kaneohe, HI 96744
(808)239-8811
http://www.byodo-in.com/

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: