This article is a part of series of articles about my 2017 trip to Hawaii. Please see the table of contents that contains links to other chapters.
Izumo Shrine and Chinatown
Each culture has their own associated religions and belief systems, and two of Japan’s predominant ones are Buddhism and Shintoism. Because of the large number of Japanese people either travelling or raising a family in Hawaii, it wouldn’t be surprising to see influence of these religions there.
In fact, I saw sure signs of both. For example, when I was exploring our hotel room, I noticed that the bedside cabinet had not just a copy of the Bible but also contained “The Teachings of Buddha”, a thick tome that outlined Buddha’s teachings in parallel Japanese and English. I read a little bit of it and the English translation seemed pretty high quality, and when glancing at the back of the book I saw it was something like the 1000th edition. It’s pretty amazing to see books that have went through that many editions.
For Shintoism, Hawaii has is the Izumo Shrine which is a fairly short drive from Waikiki. It’s official name is “ハワイ出雲大社” (Hawaii Izumo Taisha), was originally built in 1906, and is one of the few active Shinto Shrines in the United States.
The shrine grounds are relatively small, with a large white Torii gate at the entrance, and a chouzuya (手水舎) where you perform ritual purification of your hands with water. There was even a modern-day towel dispenser which I do not remember seeing in shrines in Japan.
Once you purify yourself, you climb the steps until you come to the place where you give offerings and pray, below three large bells with thick ropes dangling down. Inside the main building there was some seats and other Shinto ornamentation, but nobody was there at the time. I presume they may hold ceremonies on certain occasions. Overall, seeing the shrine further heightened the sensation that were were somehow in Japan, or at least half in Japan, if that makes any sense.
Right outside of the main building was a smaller building that has a tiny gift shop selling omamori protective pendants and other related products. We bought a few, and then had them loan us the key for the bathrooms which are next door.
Just a block or two away from the shrine is Chinatown. The neighborhood around that area is quite rundown, with groups of homeless-looking people milling about and doing something that seemed like gambling. Nobody approached us, but I would still be careful around there, especially if you have kids.
The main part of Chinatown is a plaza that was surrounded by several chinese shops: a dim sum restaurant, bookstore, community center, and convenience store, among other things. There is also a religious place (shrine?) with incense and a statue of a figure that looked like a god. We tried the dim sum, which was reasonably priced and pretty tasty, although some of the waitresses’ English was pretty rough (probably a good thing). The bookstore, cluttered and cramped, even had a selection of English books and some Chinese books I would probably be interested in had I been learning Chinese.