East Hawaii News

Papaaloa Hongwanji Bell Located Off Old Onomea Road

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The Papaaloa Hongwanji’s temple bell has been located.

Hongwanji secretary Rose Broughton says she received a call from a member of Papaaloa’s sister church, Papaikou Hongwanji, Thursday afternoon around 1:30 p.m.

Broughton says the member of the Papaikou Hongwanji, who asked not to be named to the media, told her that a man who had stopped at his usual spot off Old Onomea Road around mile marker 9 on Highway 19 found the bell and called her.

“When he pulled off, there was like a driveway that went up to a gated field, and he parked there in the shade and there was the bell,” said Broughton.

The woman from the Papaikou Hongwanji went down and sat with the bell until Broughton arrived.


“We were worried that the bell had been dragged and damaged, but it wasn’t. There was no damage to the bell at all,” said Broughton.

The bell was found with a brown tarp wrapped around the back part of it under a lauhala tree.

Broughton says something extra was found with it. Located beneath the bell was a plastic storage bag with a flyer regarding its stolen status.

“The flyer in the plastic said something along the lines of ‘century old temple bell stolen’ and it had contact information if the bell was found,” said Broughton. “To me, it felt like someone was taking care of it. Five feet away from the bell was a big gulch. They could have just pushed the bell down the gulch and we never would have found it.”


Officers with the Hawai’i Police Department arrived on scene, processed the located bell, and later took it along with the brown tarp as evidence.

“I don’t know if someone kind of felt bad about what happened and put it there or if someone saw the flier and influenced the person to do the right thing, but boy we sure are grateful that somehow, the right thing was done and its back to where it belongs,” Broughton said.

While the bell is not officially in the hands of the Papaaloa Hongwanji, Broughton says that the church community is just thankful that they know where it is.

The missing bell had recently been replaced with a smaller extra bell found in one of the Hongwanji’s storage rooms. The bell is believed to have once hung at a meeting hall just a couple of miles away from the temple, but congregation members aren’t sure of its age.


Once the original bell is returned, Broughton says it will be kept inside until a final decision can be made.

“I think we’ll keep that up [replacement bell] for a little while until we decide what to do. People are kind of scared to hang it [original bell] back up there again,” said Broughton. “There are other people who feel like that’s where it’s always been, so it’s where it belongs.”

The bell was originally stolen between Oct. 14 and Oct. 21 from the Papaaloa Hongwanji property.

Anyone with information about the individuals responsible for taking the bell should call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311,  Officer Robert Panem at 962-2120, or e-mail Sergeant Jefferson Grantz at [email protected].

Those who prefer to remain anonymous should call the Big Island Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300.

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