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Japanese Buddhist Temples in Hawai‘i

An Illustrated Guide

George J. Tanabe and Willa Jane Tanabe

Publication Year: 2012

Upon entering a Japanese Buddhist temple in Hawai‘i, most people—whether first-time visitors or lifelong members—are overwhelmed by the elaborate and complex display of golden ornaments, intricately carved altar tables and incense burners, and images of venerable masters and bodhisattvas. These objects, as well as the architectural elements of the temple itself, have meanings that are often hidden in ancient symbolisms. This book, written by two local authorities on Japanese art and religion, provides a thorough yet accessible overview of Buddhism in Hawai‘i followed by a temple-by-temple guide to the remaining structures across the state.

Introductory chapters cover the basic history, teachings, and practices of various denominations and the meanings of objects commonly found in temples. Taken together, they form a short primer on Buddhism in Japan and Hawai‘i. The heart of the book is a narrative description of the ninety temples still extant in Hawai‘i. Augmented by over 350 color photographs, each entry begins with historical background information and continues with descriptions of architecture, sanctuaries, statuary and ritual implements, columbariums, and grounds. Appended at the end is a chart listing each temple's denomination, membership number, and architectural type.

While many Buddhist temples in Hawai‘i are active social and religious centers, a good number are in serious decline. In addition to being an introduction to Buddhism and a guide book, Japanese Buddhist Temples of Hawai‘i is an indispensable historical record of what exists today and what may be gone tomorrow. It will appeal to temple members, pilgrims, residents, and tourists interested in local cultural and historic sites, and historians of Buddhism in Hawai‘i.

363 color illus.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

We are deeply grateful to the Hawai‘i Buddhist Council for a grant supporting the research and publication of this book. The council consists of the bishops of the traditional Japanese Buddhist denominations in Hawai‘i, and Rev. Irene Matsumoto was a gracious liaison with the council. We would...

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pp. xi-xiv

If we had to pick one word that describes most Buddhist temples, it would be “ornate.” This is especially true of the altar area, where golden ornaments dangle from ceilings, altar tables are carved in intricate detail, rich brocades hang as curtains and coverings, incense burners are teeming with dragons and other mythic...

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From India to Japan to Hawai‘i

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pp. 1-16

If Shakyamuni, the prince-turned-mendicant who founded Buddhism more than twenty-five hundred years ago in India, were to visit Hawai‘i today, he would be amazed at the many different forms his religion has taken. Some things he would recognize as having originated with himself, such as the Four Noble Truths, the teaching...

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Architecture and Interiors

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pp. 17-42

Japanese Buddhist temples in Hawai‘i were built in a remarkable range of styles, some of which are unique to the islands. Early Japanese immigrants were intimately familiar with the rich tradition of temple designs in Japan, and some of them were skilled craftsmen who had knowledge about building temples. But Hawai‘i was not...

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Temples on O‘ahu

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pp. 45-110

The temple’s striking entryway and roofline are done in the traditional karahafu style, which is a graceful, flattened, upside down U-shape. At the center of the entryway karahafu is the Honpa Hongwanji wisteria crest. While the karahafu shape is often seen in exterior architecture and altar shrines, it is rarely incorporated...

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Temples on the Big Island

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pp. 111-166

The windows and the entryway of the temple have scalloped Mughal arches reminiscent of the Jōdo headquarters in Honolulu, although the roof is plain and flat. The apricot flower crest of the Jōdo sect crowns the entryway, while two flanking dharma wheels symbolize the teachings. A more recent addition, the stone...

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Temples on Kaua‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, and Lana‘i

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pp. 167-219

Except for the crest above the entry, the exterior of Hanapepe Hongwanji temple could easily be mistaken for that of a Christian church and is very similar to Kapaa Jōdo Mission. The temple has a high gable roof supported at the entry with four pillars. A temple bell is barely visible in a narrow arched niche at the right...

Temples of Special Interest

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pp. 221-223

Temple Statistics

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pp. 225-231


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pp. 233-238

About the Authors

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p. 239

E-ISBN-13: 9780824837280
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824836634

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 830023838
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Japanese Buddhist Temples in Hawai‘i

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Subject Headings

  • Buddhist temples -- Hawaii -- Guidebooks.
  • Buddhist architecture -- Hawaii -- Guidebooks.
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