This building originally served the Tenrikyo religion as the Sonohara Grand Church in Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan. In 1974, it was dismantled and rebuilt in Nuuanu. Set in its own garden, terraced above the surrounding property, the building is sheltered by a two-tier irimoya (hipped gable) roof with kawara (clay tiles). The building is constructed of Japanese cypress and remains unpainted. shōji (translucent, sliding screens) enclose the sanctuary on three sides, making for a well-lit worship space.
One of Japan's “new religions,” Tenrikyo was started in 1838 by Miki Nakayama, based upon visions she had experienced. Tenrikyo focuses primarily upon life on earth, with less emphasis on the afterlife. Its goal is to lead a “joyous life” through charity and abstaining from anger, greed, selfishness, hatred, and arrogance. In the late nineteenth century, Tenrikyo commenced a missionary program, and missionaries landed on the island of Hawaii in 1899. Proselytizing began in 1907 in Honolulu, where Hawaii's first Tenrikyo church was built in 1929. Today there are thirty-five Tenrikyo churches in the Islands.