Between 1900 and 1904 Japanese immigrants built a miniature replica of the 88 Temples pilgrimage path on Shikoku island in southern Japan. On a hillside above a small Shingon Budhist temple built on the site of an ancient Hawaiian healing center, they carved a path and built 88 wooden shrines and created statues from local wood and stone. In 1954 the rotting wooden shrines were replaced with cement ones.
Two-thirds of those shrines were badly damaged by three hurricanes after 1954. Starting in 1990 volunteers restored the site that had been abandoned and was overgrown. They then began the painstaking work of rebuilding all the damaged shrines. To learn more about the 88 Shrines of Lawai refer to the website for the Lawai International Center.
The stone and wood statues created by the builders of the 88 Shrines out of local materials are a testament to their devotion to the Buddhist path. The shrine builders and statue carvers were Shingon Buddhists so they focus on Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism and Dainichi Nyorai (Great Sun Buddha) the Japanese name for Vairocana one of the five primordial Buddhas. Japanese Buddhism has a big focus on one of the other primordial Buddhas – Amitabha, Amida Butsu in Japanese, so there are lots of Amida Buddha statues as well.When the restoration of the 88 Shrines began in the 1990s the Lawai Center got the help of a Shingon Buddhist priest to identify the different statues.
The precision of the carving of the statues varies from folk art to fine detail. Some of the statue carvers were not pineapple industry workers like many of the other shrine builders. They were stone cutters who worked carving out the tunnels and ditches used to bring water from the mountains down to the sugar and pineapple fields. Created with devotion, the statues of the 88 Shrines continue to serve as gateways for the compassionate and healing energies of the Buddhas of the ten directions to pour blessings into the world.
Numbers before the names of the statues indicate the shrine number the statue will be found in.
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