A century after Captain James Cook’s arrival in Hawaiʻi, sugar plantations started to dominate the landscape. Sugar was the dominant economic force in Hawaiʻi for over a century.
A shortage of laborers to work in the growing (in size and number) sugar plantations became a challenge; the answer was imported labor. Starting in the 1850s, when the Hawaiian Legislature passed “An Act for the Governance of Masters and Servants” (providing the legal basis for contract-labor system,) labor shortages were eased by bringing in contract workers from Asia, Europe and North America.
The first to arrive were the Chinese (1852.) Then, in 1868, approximately 150-Japanese came to Hawaiʻi to work on sugar plantations and another 40 to Guam. This unauthorized recruitment and shipment of laborers, known as the gannenmono (“first year men”,) marked the beginning of Japanese labor migration overseas. (JANM)
In March 1881, King Kalākaua visited Japan during which he discussed with Emperor Meiji Hawaiʻi’s desire to encourage Japanese nationals to settle in Hawaiʻi; this improved the relationship of the Hawaiian Kingdom with the Japanese government. (Nordyke/Matsumoto)
The first 943-government-sponsored, Kanyaku Imin, Japanese immigrants to Hawaiʻi arrived in Honolulu on February 8, 1885. Subsequent government approval was given for a second set of 930-immigrants who arrived in Hawaii on June 17, 1885. More followed, and they brought their religion with them – some were Shinto.
Shintoism is not Buddhism; but, the two religions are compatible. While Shintoism involves the prehistoric deities of Japan, Buddhism worships the Buddhist gods imported from India, as well as the departed spirits of the family. (Johnson)
The name Shinto is translated to mean ‘The Way of the Gods;’ it embraces natural and ancestor worship. Shintoism has no system of theology or ethics, nor sacred scriptures or books such as the Bible or Koran. It teaches the innate goodness of the human heart. (Johnson)
There were once six Shinto shrines on Maui, located at Wailuku, Pa‘ia, Ma‘alaea and Kahului. The Maui Jinsha Shinto Shrine is the only remaining original Shinto shrine on Maui, and one of very few left in the entire state.
The Maui Jinsha was established in 1914 by Masaho Matsumura who was born in Hiroshima and came to Maui from Kona. More than 460 names were gathered, representing those who supported the establishment of the Maui Jinsha shrine. From this group, a nine member Board of Trustees led by Mr. Kaneko was formed.
A building committee, made up of seventy-six local officials from various Maui communities, served under the Board of Trustees. The building committee selected the shrine’s original site in Kahului, next to the Japanese Elementary School. (Mason)
Construction of the Haiden began in 1916 (the fifth year of Taisho) with the help of the 1,014 individuals who each pledged a dollar. The painting of the “1000 Horses” by the artist Seppo Sawada commemorates the dollar contribution effort
The Maui Jinsha was built in commemoration of the Emperor Yoshihito (the Taisho Emperor). Up until this point, there were no shrines dedicated to the emperor of Japan in Hawaii.
The Emperor Meiji passed away in 1911 and Emperor Taisho took his place the same year. This event sparked interest in establishing a shrine dedicated to the emperor of Japan, who was thought of as a god.
The shrine houses three gods directly connected to the emperor of Japan: the Amaterasu Omigami, the Okuni Nushi-no-mikoto, and the Meiji emperor.
The Amaterasu Omigami is the central god of the Ise Jingu and is said to have come down from earth and landed on Izumo Kuni and gave birth to Japan.
The distinctive entrance structure of Shinto shrines is called a torii, usually described as a gateway or mystical gateway. Nearby is a washbasin where the physical act of washing one’s hands and rinsing one’s mouth symbolizes spiritual cleansing in preparation of entering the church.
As originally constructed, the Maui Jinsha exhibited the traditional form of a Shinto shrine, with the Haiden (worship space) and the Honden (space for the gods) built as two separate structures. The Honden and Haiden were built as open structures connected by a small bridge or stairway (tsuro).
The Honden was completed in 1915 and the Haiden was finished a year later due to budgetary constraints (Fig. 6). Another structure for the presentation of shibai (Japanese folk plays) was completed at that time.
The structure was built by local craftsmen under the supervision of a master carpenter trained in Japan. The structure is made of wood using the traditional Kiwari system as the design and construction guidelines for this structure.
The Kiwari system can be compared to the orders of ancient Greece, because it uses the column span and diameter to establish the proportions of the entire structure.
The Kiwari uses the post span (a) and the post diameter (1/10a) to establish rafter spacing, bracketing size, beam size and roof size and height of several types of structures in Japan including temples, shrines, and halls.
The Kiwari developed as a system during the Edo Period (1603-1868). It is also likely that the Japanese measuring unit of the shaku was used to build this structure. The builders of the Maui Jinsha were somewhat limited to the extent with which they could adhere to these principles, due to the limitations of materials, time, and funds.
In 1924, the Maui Jinsha Kyodan formally applied for the “incorporation of the Maui Jinsha Kyodan of Kahului, Maui”, and on September 22 of that year they received the charter and were recognized as an official religious organization by the Territory of Hawaii.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the shrine was closed, and in 1942 the Shinto priest and his family were evicted from their adjacent home.
In 1951 they moved the shrine to Wailuku, The Honden was moved intact and the Haiden was disassembled and reconstructed on the new site, which was completed in 1954.
The shrine shares the site with three other structures: a Hall for shibui performances which also served as a Japanese language school (no longer active), a kitchen building and a private residence for Reverend and family.
The Hall was moved from the original site along with the shrine, and the kitchen building appears to have been constructed in 1954, at the time of the shrine relocation. The two-story residence was built in the mid- 1980s. (Lots of information here is from Mason, NPS and Historic Hawai‘i.)