Japanese immigration to Hawaiʻi that began in 1868 marked the beginnings of large-scale settlement and, with it, the establishment of a new religious base.
Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion that evolved out of nature worship, fertility practices, divination, local folklore, notable heroes and shamanism.
Shinto worship natural places like mountains, springs and groves. The Kami are the Shinto deities. Animals are viewed as messengers of the Kami.
In 1882, the Izumo Taishakyo was formally incorporated and recognized by the Japanese government as an independent sect. Since then, the Izumo Taishakyo has been known as a “sectarian” or “religious” Shinto, as opposed to Jinja or Shrine Shinto, which was systematically placed under the management of the Japanese government.
The Rev. Katsuyoshi Miyao was sent by the headquarters in Japan to establish a branch in Hawaiʻi. He arrived in 1906 to offer the first Izumo Taisha service for the pioneer Japanese issei (first generation.) They needed a temple.
Architect Hego Fuchino was retained to design the Izumo Taishakyo Mission for the Hawaiʻi branch. Born (July 15, 1888) and educated in Japan, Hego Fuchino immigrated to Hawaiʻi at age 17 or 18 and worked his way through ʻIolani School and the University of Hawaiʻi.
He worked as a land surveyer and engineer in Honolulu, while he taught himself architecture, and became one of the first Japanese architects in Hawaiʻi. One of his earliest works was the Kuakini Hospital, which he designed in 1919.
He designed numerous churches, shrines and temples; commercial buildings; movie theaters, such as the Haleiwa Theater; residences and apartments; and schools such as the Hawaiian Mission Academy (many of which exist today.) His designs reflect his Japanese heritage.
Fuchino designed a wooden A-frame building, replicating the early Shinto shrine of Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture, Japan. This finely detailed shrine was constructed by Takata, a master builder brought from Japan expressly for this project. Takata used wooden pegs instead of nails in building the shrine. (Hibbard)
It is one of the few Shinto shrines in the US. The temple was a place for worship and community activity they each shared. The shrine was seen as a place to go for healing, meditation and the casting out of devils.
Bishop Shigemaru Miyao, son of the Rev. Katsuyoshi Miyao, succeeded as head of the shrine (from 1935 until 1993.)
During WWII, while Bishop Shigemaru Miyao and his family were interned on the continent, the shrine property became the property of the City and County of Honolulu. (Litigation suggests the mission felt pressured to turn it over to the C&C; the building was moved to Leleo Lane.)
Beginning in 1946, a small building was used as a temporary shrine. In 1953, more than 10,000 signatures petitioning for the return of the Shrine property were presented to the then-Board of Supervisors. Hearings and court actions followed.
In 1962, the court finally ordered the return of the shrine property to the shrine organization. Fund-raising continued from 1962 until 1968.
The dilapidated shrine was moved to its present site in 1966. It was modified to conform to modern building codes, following plans by Robert Katsuyoshi. It was rededicated in 1968 at the present location.
In 1985, the Hiroshima Prefectural Government (a sister city with Honolulu) presented a replica of the Hiroshima Peace bell as a gift to the people of Hawaiʻi, in recognition of their long-standing and strong relationship; it was dedicated at placed at Izumo Taishakyo Mission in 1990.
A visit to the shrine begins by passing under the torii (gate). There are many symbolic steps which follow.
The washing of hands with running water at the basin represents a spiritual cleansing of oneself. The decoration of bamboo and pine represents the resilience and evergreen freshness welcoming the new year.
The shimenawa (straw rope) hung at the entrance to the Shrine was woven by the elder people of Shimane, Japan, and was displayed at the Honolulu Academy of Arts 1994 exhibition, “Traditional Japanese New Years.”
While the head is bowed before the offering box, the priest’s assistant waves the wooden wand (gohei) with paper streamers over the head of the worshipper. The wand and white paper and the waving represent purification and blessing.
The worshipper next approaches the booth where a communion of sake (rice wine) is served and ofuda (amulet for the protection of individuals) are obtained.
The image shows the Izumo Taishakyo Mission on College Walk on Nuʻuanu Stream. Lots of information here from Honolulu Advertiser “Where We Worship.”