Historic Temple On Borrowed Time

January 18, 2009

Author: Lehia Apana

Source: The Maui News


Hawaii is known as the endangered species capital of the world, and now there's something else that's in danger of being lost forever. It doesn't fly in our tropical skies, grow in our rain forests or swim beneath our ocean, but the nearly century-old Maui Jinsha Shinto Shrine is facing its own kind of battle as it struggles to survive.

"This an old building," says the Rev. Torako Arine, 95, as she surveys the inside of the church. "You cannot find this kind anymore."

The site was recently named as one of the state's nine most endangered historic sites by the Historic Hawaii Foundation, an annual distinction that is sure to cause either anxiety or a flicker of hope for those who are deeply familiar with these places. Inclusion on the list doesn't necessarily protect those sites, but the hope is that it will bring awareness and prompt the community to take action.

In the case of Maui Jinsha Shinto Shrine, years of termite damage, salt water and extreme weather have masked the building's former glory, but the church still stands as an important piece in Hawaii's history. One of several Shinto shrines built on Maui, it's the last one standing and one of only a few left in the state. In its heyday, the church attracted hundreds of members, but its aging congregation, most in their 70s or older, has since dwindled to around 15. On most days the church lies empty, but Arine continues to hold a Japanese-language service every first Sunday of the month, along with New Year's and Autumn Festival celebrations.