by Joana Varawa
photo by Dana Edmunds
If you ever find yourself frazzled by Lahaina’s souvenir-shopping frenzy, just head north on Front Street until you reach Ala Moana, a small lane leading to the ocean. There, next to the beach, are the peaceful gardens of the Jodo Mission.
The mission’s scenic, meditative atmosphere is reminiscent of Japan’s great temples. Facing the sea, and framed behind by the exquisite West Maui Mountains, sits the serene presence of a great bronze Buddha, installed in 1968 to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawai‘i a century before. At twelve feet tall and about three and a half tons, the statue is the largest of its kind outside Japan.
Nearby, a ninety-foot pagoda, its roof sheathed in copper, contains the funeral urns of deceased mission members. Another structure houses a grand bronze bell, weighing 3,000 pounds, which is rung eleven times each evening to signify key Buddhist principles. The temple hall itself—constructed in 1970 after the original mission, built in 1912 by Japanese plantation workers, burned to the ground—is adorned with gorgeous floral paintings and murals of events in the life of Buddha.
The mission’s grounds are open to the public, and visitors are welcome to attend services, which are held on the third Thursday of each month, and on special occasions.
Lahaina Jodo Mission