Temple History

Puna Hongwanji (Olaa Hongwanji formerly) is a Pure Land Shin Buddhist temple located in Keaau, Hawaii. It was founded in 1902 on the land which was subleased from Olaa Sugar Company. Puna Hongwanji provided spiritual support and guidance for first generation Japanese immigrants including Japanese school, activities, and Buddhist services. The present temple was built in 1937 with donations from members.

1932 Olaa Hongwanji Japanese School graduation. Rev. Gamon Toda front row, center.

1932 Olaa Hongwanji Japanese School graduation. Rev. Gamon Toda front row, center.

During WWII, all Buddhist ministers were interned in relocation camps and temple facilities including school buildings were taken over by the military. With no resident minister, Reverend Ernest Hunt serviced Olaa Hongwanji. Due to the efforts of President Tsugio Tanaka, the temple was reopened and was allowed to conduct services on Sundays and New Year.

After the end of the war, temple and activities were reactivated. In 1957 the name of the temple was changed to Puna Hongwanji Mission based on the suggestion by Herbert Shipman, W. H. Shipman, Ltd. which was the lessor of Olaa Hongwanji, since it served the entire Puna District.

As the temple’s 60th Anniversary and the Founder Master Shinran’s 700th Memorial celebration projects, a new kitchen, dining room complex and a new columbarium were built in 1963 by temple members. For the 75th Anniversary, various projects — construction of a parking lot, refinishing pews, covering the temple and office floors with vinyl tiles and more — were planned and completed.

two photos: workmen on foundation, completed Columbarium

Building our columbarium in November 1963

The temple grounds were donated by the Shipman family. A deed was officially presented by Roy Blackshear, on behalf of the Shipman family, to Puna Hongwanji Mission on October 17, 1976.

Experiencing the transfer of ministers, and the closing of Puna Sugar Company, Puna Hongwanji continued to carry on the Mission and completed many projects. In 2002 Centennial projects such as installation of an elevator, leveling the social hall floor, building a Japanese garden, and erecting a bronze statue of Master Shinran in front of the temple were done.

Developing clubs such as Taiko, Judo as well as community service, Puna Hongwanji provides spiritual guidance to a larger community so that every single person can live a life of peace and gratitude.