Here on Oahu there is something called the Valley of the Temples. To get there from the west side of the island you have to drive the H-3, which is incredible. Flanked by towering fortress-like mountains that ascend at a breathtaking angle, lush and vertically channelled, the highway winds through a valley, through a tunnel though the mountains, and eventually reaches the east coast. Many are said to have died in strange ways during the construction of the highway, which took many times more time and money than the military planned to spend on its construction … due in part to concerns over altering the landscape and worries for the local environment. The people of Hawaii are tied to their land, to their ocean, to their mountains and sky.
The mountains we crossed that day are said to be peopled with the Night Marchers – ancient hawaiian warriors that march old battle sites and haunts during the night, spiriting away visitors who dare to look at them, rather than to drop to their bellies and hide their faces. Friends of friends have seen them, reporting beating drums and dancing figures outside their doors during the night. Those who have relatives already co-opted into their ranks are immune, but no one else is …
There are also stories of Pele, who travels the east coast, visiting residents unannounced. She appears as a woman with long, flowing hair, or as an old woman. She’s reported to have knocked on front doors, asking for sugar. Turn her away and face her curse.
The East coast is also home to the Valley of the Temples, a place that intends sanctuary for many religions. It so happens, though, that the place to visit in this valley is the Byodo-in temple.
A blanket of peacefulness and light seems to lay upon the place; after parking and (gladly) paying 3.00 for admittance, visitors turn to the scenic facade of the temple, nestled amid mountains, conifers, and bamboo stands. It waits across a short walking bridge, seeming to calmly invite folks closer. There are black swans, walking paths, coi, and a lovely, rather-grand-though-not-enormous temple that is home to a great bronze statue of the buddha. There’s a ringing bell that clears the mind, a monk wandering about, and a place to buy food for the birds and fish– which delights many visitors, both young and not-so-young.
Hawaii has so much energy, so much movement, that it’s difficult to say which places feel the best and are hardest to leave.
In the end, after exciting days of surfing, hiking beautiful shorelines and forests, snorkeling, and enjoying gorgeous waterfront settings, the temple was the highlight for me and for Inga, my eleven year old daughter. It would be hard to imagine the Night Marchers haunting the temple grounds … but then, who knows?