Aloha Buddha

Japanese Buddhism in Hawaii may be the most unique form of Buddhism in the world. Brought over by Japanese immigrants who came to work on the sugar plantations, the pressure of politics, Americanization, and Christianity reshaped Japanese Buddhism in surprising and unique ways. In Hawaii, Japanese Buddhists built Indian style temples, filled them with Christian church pews, and sang modified hymns which praised the Buddha instead of Jesus. It was all done as part of the “American Way.”

Today, the religion is fading and the temples are closing. Now there is a rush to save Japanese Buddhism’s history before it is gone altogether. As we talk to the elders of the religion, we discover that Japanese Buddhism played a key role in shaping Hawaii’s religious identity and was pivotal in the establishment of Buddhism in America. There is also a movement underway to save the religion – by adding a little aloha into the practice.


72:00 Minutes


Hawaii Architectural Foundation, Cooke Foundation, Atherton Family Foundation, Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Alexander & Baldwin Foundation, Central Pacific Bank, & Swinerton Builders.


Produced and Directed by Radiant Features. Co-produced by Lorraine Minatoishi Palumbo.

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature, Hawaii International Film Festival 2011.

Broadcast on PBS Hawaii.