When my husband and I returned to O'ahu in November 2016, the Valley of the Temples was, as always, at the top of our list of places to visit. Yes, we go there every time and yes, we've seen everything there before.
No matter how many occasions we have been, there's something about this peaceful place that is more than its great purpose as a resting place for thousands of souls, and more than just a tranquil spot to be laid to rest in Kaneohe at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains.
If you are able to visit the Byodo-In Temple, make sure you spend some time there: Don't just run through and say, Great, where's the beach? If you are bothered by cemeteries, then no worries: You drive slowly through the grounds to the far back of the property where the temple is hidden far from the street. It's surrounded by serene ponds filled with koi that definitely know who's there and who will feed them; bamboo forests and giant fan palm. The smell of the tropics lingers everywhere, as if it's trapped there, in a good way. Even with a bus load of tourists, the site is heavenly. The coo of the doves instantly releases stress.
Upon arriving, you can ring the Bon-sho sacred bell, a three ton brass bell which hangs spectacularly near the entrance. Ringing it is a customary, and to do so sends a message of calm and peace upon your arrival, bringing you happiness and blessings. I've definitely had to ring it many, many times on each of our visits, mostly so it could be recorded just right by the husband and his myriad video equipment. I am hoping I am super triple blessed by now.
The temple itself is beautiful, a recreation of a 900 plus year-old Buddhist temple in Japan. Constructed in 1968, the O'ahu structure is a memorial to the then 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese people to come to Hawai'i. Around the temple and aforementioned ponds are lush Japanese gardens, Zen and otherwise, and often framed with the backdrop of hovering clouds, secreting away the tops of the volcanic-formed peaks behind it.
Inside the temple replica is the Amida Buddha, a nine-foot tall beautiful creation, said to be the largest of such outside of Japan. It is indeed something to behold, and no matter what your religion or feelings of such, it inspires reverence and awe. As this is a place of worship for local Buddhists (yet not an active temple with actual monks), you must remove your shoes or slippahs when entering. It's part of the experience to plant your bare feet on such a place as you look up into the face of the Buddha and smell the incense.
Whether you arrive here because your tour guide said so or find it on your own, it's an incredible place of meditation and quietude. As I said, we make sure we go each and every time we visit the island, and often stay for hours relaxing, photographing, and just breathing. Make sure you stand back or sit down and take it all in. The entire island is beautiful, of course; yet, the temple valley is a unique, special, and meaningful location to all. We love making it meaningful to us. There is nothing like it we've experienced, even with other beautiful, natural spots on the island.
Let me know if you have any questions on this beautiful spot or about the photos we took!