The Zenshuji temple on Kaua’i had its beginnings when McBryde Sugar Company was expanding. Many villages, called camps, were established to house the imported plantation laborers. In the fall of 1899, a group of recent Japanese immigrants were assigned to McBryde and settled at Wahiawa, Camp 3.
The lack of a social core made life difficult for the camp residents until the Reverend Ryoun Kan arrived in 1903, initiating a change in people’s outlook of settling in a new place and forming a new community. Reverend Kan started preaching in a home, then used the community hall, and in 1904 built a combination church-language school. Finally in 1918, a main temple was built along with the minister’s residence.
The Wahiawa community thrived for decades as the Zenshuji temple was the center of all social, cultural, and religious activities for the camp’s Japanese American community. The demise of the sugar industry fostered the departure of many camp residents, so in 1978, a new temple, hall, and minister’s residence were built by church members in nearby Hanapepe town. The old bell tower of 1934 was carefully moved and restored 1979.