Shrine to Drowned Fishermen
Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
Just before reaching the crowded scenic overlook for the Halona Blowhole, we noticed a ridge with a small pull-off area, a narrow black stone staircase and platform. On the platform stands a large chunk of volcanic rock, surrounded with offerings of potted flowers, plates of fruit and food. A small statue of a female deity faces the sea. An old inscription credits the monument to the "Honolulu Japanese Casting Club."
Fishing along Hawaii's rugged southeastern coast can be productive, and also treacherous -- countless fishermen have been caught off guard by giant waves and drowned. In the 1930s, members of the Honolulu Japanese Fishing Club took on the voluntary but vital task of posting signs at the most dangerous spots that were known to be frequented by "casters." While placing signs at Bamboo Ridge, one of them was swept off the rocks and drowned.
The club placed a "Jizo" (Buddhist guardian) statue of O Jisan at the location to protect future fishermen. Fishermen and the faithful would visit to leave offerings for the blessings of the deity.
A group of Vietnamese Buddhists now care for the site, replacing the Jizo (which had been vandalized years earlier and ultimately removed) with a statue of equally protective Quan Am Nam Hai. An annual memorial service is held in November.
Of course, we didn't know any of this when first looking at it. But we quickly realized, when asking another visitor to take our photo "in front of the weird shrine," that calling it "the sacred shrine" is much more polite and respectful. And ten seconds later a family was walking up from the highway with a fresh plate of fruit for Quan Am Nam Hai.
Aside from the offerings around the statue, there was a tidy plate of food, along with a canned soft drink, out on the lava shelf...
Find out more about these seaside deities in the book Guardian of the Sea: Jizo in Hawaii by John R. K. Clark (2007).