For centuries, the Lawai Valley in southern Kaua‘i has been a place of spiritual and religious importance. Fringed by forests and crisscrossed by streams, the valley has been associated with peace, tranquility, and healing by every group and people that has come across it. Hawai‘i’s Queen Emma wrote about the spiritual and healing properties of the water here, and the valley was prominent in the spirituality of native Hawaiians. As new ethnic groups arrived in the islands, the valley welcome Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Filipino worshippers as well; to date, the Lawai Valley has been the site of a Hawaiian heiau, a Taoist temple, a Shinto shrine, and a Buddhist temple.
Today, the 88 shrines built by the first generation of Japanese immigrants to Kaua‘i still stand in the valley, a recreation of the ancient pilgrimage to the 88 temples of Shikoku, Japan. Built in 1904, it is the only such site outside of Japan, and the oldest Buddhist temple in the United States. The Lawai International Center Kauai oversees continued restoration efforts on the shrines while promoting the important historical and spiritual role the valley has played throughout the centuries.
The Lawai International Center is a community project that preserves the archaeological and cultural treasures of this sacred valley. Set on 32 acres of pristine forest with extensive walking trails, the site is home to an information center, the Pavilion of Compassion modeled after a 13th century Japanese temple, and the numerous shrines that dot the valley floor. The Lawaii International Center Kauai center hosts educational, musical, artistic, and dramatic events for the local community, dedicated to preserving this unique place that has resonated with so many people from so many cultures and religions across the century.
Visiting the Lawai International Center
As the center hosts many special events, tours are only held on the second and last Sundays of every month at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. Private tours can be arranged by appointment. Visitors should wear comfortable shoes as the tour is outdoors and spans the beautiful grounds of the center and surrounding valley. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.