Lawaʻi International Center

Top choice historic site in Kalaheo

Spiritual. Stirring. Enchanting. Such words are often used to describe this quiet place. Originally this was the site of a Hawaiian heiau, but in 1904 Japanese immigrants placed 88 miniature Shingon Buddhist shrines, each about 2ft tall and made of wood and stone, along a steep hillside path here to symbolize the famous 88 pilgrimage shrines of Shikoku, Japan. For years, island pilgrims would journey here to meditate upon these shrines.

The site was abandoned by the 1960s and half of the shrines were scattered in shards. In the late 1980s, a crew of volunteers, led by Lynn Muramoto, formed a nonprofit group, acquired the 32-acre property and embarked on a back-breaking project to repair or rebuild the shrines.

Today, all 88 are beautifully restored and there is a wonderful wooden temple, the Hall of Compassion, that has also been built. Leisurely tours include a detailed history and hillside trail walk that amounts to a mini pilgrimage. Everyone is welcome, since the center is a nondenominational sanctuary.