While traveling overseas many tourists are interested in cultural experiences. Art, music, and so on. But one way to really understand a culture is through religion and philosophy. During your stay, how about experiencing the pursuit of knowledge through a different lens?
In Japan, there are many temples and shrines that are great to visit. But… how about trying something that even many Japanese people have yet to try–you can feel a deeper connection to Japanese culture than ever before. It doesn’t matter where you’re from; anyone can join and enjoy!
So, how about experiencing Zen Buddhism during your stay?
There are many doctrines within Buddhism including zazen and dietary restrictions. But these practices are just a means to achieving the goal–not the goal itself. So, what is the purpose? Simply put enlightenment. To become enlightened, one must be free from their desires.
(KYOTO) Daitokuji Daijiin Buddhist Temple – Evening the Zen 大徳寺大慈院 夜空の坐禅
Zazen is seated meditation… but there’s more to it than that. During zazen, you keep your body immobile and stable, in a specific position, while concentrating your mind. Your breathing is ultimately important as it unites your body and mind. Thus, this way of sitting will unite your mind, breath, and body.
At “Evening the Zen,” zazen is practiced in the evening time until night. While the scenery is dramatic, it is a quiet and calming atmosphere–the only sounds from the surrounding area are of the wind and the grass. As you listen to the monk’s warm words, you will certainly feel relaxed in your body and mind.
As this is a nighttime event, you can participate and unwind after work or after a day of sightseeing. As a private temple, Daitokuji Budoin Hall is usually closed, and there are not many chances to enter, especially at night. So, why not take the chance to free your mind and relieve some stress at night at “Evening the Zen.”
-18:00 – Open
*You may explore the grounds freely until open
-18:30 – Introduction
*About the temple, zazen, proper breathing, etc.
-15 Minute Session: Practice session for trying zazen for a short time, practicing breathing
-30 Minute Session: Trying zazen for a longer period, realize differences between this attempt and the previous attempt
-30 Minutes Session: Refreshments and discussion between monks and participants. Discuss what you noticed, how you usually spend your days, etc.
At “Evening the Zen,” you not only get to experience zazen, but also interact with other participants, as well as the monks.
For refreshments, sweets and tea will be prepared.
|Address|| 京都府京都市北区紫野大徳寺町4-1 大徳寺大慈院|
4-1 Murasakinodaitokujicho, Kita-ku, Kyoto
|Dates & Times|| Check the website for details|
**Subject to cancellation in case of inclement weather
|Participation Fee||2,000 JPY / person (tax included)|
|Nearest Station|| -From Kyoto Station, take the Kyoto City Bus 101, 205, or 206 and get off at Daitokuji-mae Stop|
-From Shijo Kawaramachi, take the Kyoto City Bus 12 or 205 and get off at Daitokuji-mae Stop
-From Sanjo Keihan Station, take the Kyoto City Bus 12 and get off at Daitokuji-mae Stop
-From Kyoto Municipal Subway Kitaoji Station (Karasuma Line), take the Kyoto City Bus 1, 101, 102, 204, 205, or 206 from the Kitaoji Bus Terminal Blue Platform and get off at Daitokuji-mae Stop
(KYOTO) Kyoto Kinkazan Hosenji Temple Goma Prayer Experience 金花山宝泉寺 護摩行体験（護摩祈祷体験）
In Japanese “goma,” and in Sanskrit “homa” refers to the same ritual.
During goma, offerings are sacrificed or offered with the use of fire. During the ritual, you think of yourself as the offering, with your trouble burning away with the votive. Then, the ashes are spread with prayers.
Goma Prayer Experience:At Kyoto Kinkazan Hosenji Temple, you can experience the goma prayer for yourself. This experience starts with explanations of goma as well as prayer methods, followed by a prayer to welcome Acala, also known as Fudo Myo-o in Japanese, one of the Wisdom Kings in the Buddhist religion. After the wood is burned, you may go up to sit and pray.
~Rough Schedule – About 2 Hours~
-Explanation: Explanation of the goma prayer experience (~10 minutes)
-Preparation: Writing wishes on the goma wood, change clothes (~15 minutes)
-Instructions: Prayer to Acala (Fudo Myo-o) (~10 minutes)
-Practice: Practice praying together (~15 minutes)
-Break (~10 minutes)
-Goma prayer (~30 minutes, depending on the number of participants)
|Address|| 京都府京都市右京区京北下熊田町東旦15 （金花山 宝泉寺）|
15, Higashidan, Keihokushimokumata-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
|Dates & Times||Check the website for details|
|Participation Fee|| - Adults (1~2 participants): 24,000 JPY/person|
- Adults (3~4 participants): 18,000 JPY/person
*Must be 15 or over
*Separate fee for goma wood
|Homepage|| - Take JR West Bus “Ritsumeikan University, Togano, Shuzan” line to the final stop, Shuzan. |
From there, take the Keihoku Furusato Bus “Utsu” line, get off at “Minamimachi” or take a taxi from the Shuzan bus stop (about 5 minutes).
(WAKAYAMA) Mt. Koya (Koyasan) Shingon Buddhism – Kongobuji Temple 高野山真言宗 総本山金剛峯寺
You may have heard of Mt. Koya, as it is a popular stop for tourists. Even the website has detailed explanations in English. Plenty of activities don’t even need a booking for you to participate, so it’s easy to join in.
In fact, there are many different activities to participate in and learn more about Buddhism:
-Shakyo: copying the sutra by hand
-Koyasan flower arrangement
-(Kongo sect) hymns
-(Kongo sect) religious dance
-Forest therapy tours
– Ajikan Meditation –
Forget about the stress of your daily life! With ajikan meditation, you can get a one of a kind experience: practice ajikan meditation at Japan’s largest rock garden (normally closed to the public!!), all with the beautiful backdrop of Mt. Koya. If it’s your first time meditating, don’t worry because monks will be there to help guide you.
|Days||About 4 times a week (generally: Friday~Monday). Please check the homepage for more details.|
|Address|| 和歌山県伊都郡高野町高野山132 総本山金剛峯寺 阿字観道場|
132 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
|Times|| 9:30, 11:30, 13:30, 15:30 |
*Each time slot is limited to 20 participants
*No reservations. First come first served.
|Participation Fee||1,000 JPY for ages 12 and up|
– Buddhism and Shakyo –
Shakyo is literally copying the sutra by hand. It’s one thing to read it, but when you write it surely you will feel a deeper understanding for the sutra. It is less than a page long and may be considered relatively simple, and yet it is also considered exceptionally profound. Some believe that studying the scripture will lead to enlightenment. As you concentrate on writing the scripture and the meaning of each word, you will find yourself in slipping into a state like meditation as you forget about your daily life and worries.
|Hours|| 8:30-15:00 every day|
*Depending on the day’s events, this activity may be unavailable
|Address|| 和歌山県伊都郡高野町高野山347 高野山大師教会内・写経室 |
347 Koyasan, Koyacho, Itogun, Wakayama
|Participation Fee||1,000 JPY|
Mt. Koya (Koyasan) Shingon Buddhism – Kongobuji Temple
|Address|| 和歌山県伊都郡高野町高野山132 |
132 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
|Visiting Times, Fees||Please check the homepage|
|Nearest Station||- From Gokurakubashi Station on the Nankai Koyasan Line, take the Nankai Koyasan Cable to Koyasan Station|
Come and experience Buddhism in Japan during your trip to Kansai! Visit a Buddhist temple in Kyoto or Wakayama and take part in meditation, and more!