Sunday, January 18, 2004


Holoholo Honolulu

Shinto shrine fits
together like
giant puzzle

Surveys of folks visiting Hawaii show that something like 80 percent want to experience cultural attractions in addition to the usual draws of sun, surf and shopping.

That means historical and ethnic sites that are completely unlike what they've got back home.

After all the Victorian and Beaux Arts architecture of the little old core of downtown Honolulu, the Izumo Taishakyo Mission on Kukui Street qualifies as an ethnic and religious change of pace. Not only are Shinto shrines rare in the Midwest, so are buildings created by one craftsman and fitted together without nails, like a giant puzzle.

Although there has been a Shinto mission on this site since 1906, this wooden A-frame -- inspired by Shimane Ken's classical Japanese shrine Taisha Machi -- was created by Japanese immigrants: Architect Hego Fuchino and master carpenter Ichisaburo Takata.

During World War II, Shintoism -- along with all other things Japanese -- was a no-no and the mission was seized by the city. It didn't reopen until 1968.

The primary god in this temple is Okuninushi-no Mikoto, who deals in love, happiness, marriage and agriculture. Here, ritual is important: Visitors wash their hands at the edge of the temple grounds in a physical and spiritual cleansing before, with clean hands and spirit, pulling on a thick rope that sounds a muffled brass bell, which alerts sacred spirits (kami) that the mission has visitors.

At the entrance, bow twice, clap twice, then bow again and offer coins to the box on the ground. The temple is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Also on view at the mission is the Hiroshima Peace Bell, given to the city more than a quarter century ago and hidden in Honolulu Hale. In 1990, the bell moved in front of the mission.

The mission also is the site of Hatsumode, a traditional New Year's Day visit by Shinto Buddhists seeking a cleansing blessing. Non-Buddhists flock there as well, and as many as 10,000 visitors crowd the mission on that one day. It's an island tradition.


Izumo Taishakyo Mission

Opened: 1906
Architect: Hego Fuchino
Style: Classical Japanese
Address: 215 N. Kukui St.
National Register: No
Hawaii Register: No

In visiting the Izumo Taishakyo Mission, one experiences a cleansing ritual.

Quicktime VR Panorama
Click on pictures to view panaromas


Every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin Travel section, rediscover the charms of old Hawaii through a tour created by the Honolulu Historic Trail Committee and Historic Hawai'i Foundation and supported by the city's Office of Economic Development. The yearlong project commemorates Honolulu's bicentennial.


See Honolulu City Highlights

Various Honolulu historical organizations have clamored for years to have some sort of survey created of downtown Honolulu's historical sites. The mayor's Office of Economic Development stepped in last year to create order, and 50 locations were chosen as representative of Honolulu's history.

There is, of course, far more history in Honolulu's streets than indicated here, but these sites give the high points and can be visited on a walking tour lasting about three hours.

Click to view enlarged map

To commemorate Honolulu's bicentennial, the Star-Bulletin kicks off "Holoholo Honolulu" today, a year-long project to examine these historic properties. For the next 50 Sundays in the Travel section, stories and photographs will illuminate these sites.

But that's just the tip of the architectural iceberg. Viewers can step right into these locations via the magic of QuickTime Virtual Reality, a computer process that allows visitors from around the world to feel as if they're standing right there on the street.

WE'RE ALSO looking for old photographs of these sites to scan for public use. If you have anything, let us know:

Write to:
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
7-210 Waterfront Plaza
500 Ala Moana
Honolulu, HI 96813.



E-mail to Features Editor


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