An ethereal Japanese temple, immaculate zen landscaping, a palm-lined drive, memorial gazebos overlooking the Pacific and a Koolau mountain backdrop conspire to create one of Oahu’s most peaceful settings. The valley is a memorial park and the final resting place for thousands of Shinto, Buddhist and Christian Hawaii residents, including early Honolulu developer Walter Francis Dillingham (1875-1963) and Zhang Xueliang, a warlord and northern China Army General who died in 2001 at age 100. Visitors explore the grounds, especially to see the bright red Byodo-In temple that looks like it was dropped in front of its reflecting pond via some portal to ancient Japan.
The temple was built in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first wave of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii and is a replica of the nearly 1,000-year-old Byodo-In temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan. Here, incense wafts from the main temple building and peacocks strut in front of the waterfalls that trickle into koi-filled ponds. When visitors ring the temple’s giant brass peace bell, the sound resonates along mountain walls. In summer and fall, the park hosts annual Japanese Obon dance festivals honoring ancestors here.
Also within the Valley are a triangular-shaped Christian church with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the green mountain face, statues of the Virgin Mary and unique memorial displays including markers shaped like aloha shirts—the Valley is a multi-denominational place of rest for both the living and the dead.
The Valley of the Temples is north of downtown Kaneohe off Highway 83 (47-200 Kahekili Hwy). The memorial park is open from 6 a.m. til dusk daily and the Byodo-In temple keeps regular business hours (9 a.m. til 5 p.m.). There is no admission to explore the Valley of the Temples, but there is a cash-only admission charge for the temple ($3 adult, $2 seniors and $1 child). To access the Byodo-In Temple, follow the entrance road up the hill to the back of the valley.