The Lawai International Center is a protected, lush hidden gem on the south side of Kaua`i. It’s been about two decades since Lynn Muramoto decided to take on the task of restoring the 32-acre site and now heads the Lawa`i International Center, a community project where 88-miniautre shrines have been refurbished to represent the 88 full size Shingon Buddhist temples that provide a route on Shikoku Island in Japan.
Built around the start of the 20th century by some of the first Japanese immigrants to the island who dreamed of a prosperous life working on the island’s sugar plantations in nearby Koloa, the mini-shrines were a supplement to something many of them had left behind at home. Tradition says that back on Shikoku Island, anyone who makes the pilgrimage, which is a thousand year old tradition, will release 88 evil passions by visiting each of the 88 temples by foot.
It was in the beginning of the 1990s when Muramoto first visited the property. She saw everything overgrown – weeds hugged the shrines tightly, all the foliage blocked nearly all hope of views of them, and the property was in complete disarray. Because she could feel the importance of the spirituality on the land, Muramoto eventually quit working as a schoolteacher and started the non-profit Lawai International Center.
Volunteers have happily helped with restoration, and many of the shrines have small tokens of appreciation and spiritual importance such as crystals, sand, beads, and dirt that has traveled world wide. For a meaningful visit while on Kaua`i no matter what your faith may be, stop by Lawai International Center at 3381 Wawae Rd. 808/639-4300. Tours are available at 10 a.m. and 12 and 2 p.m. on the second and last Sunday of every month.