When you ask why someone visits a temple, a lot of people might say they’re going to pray, or for talismans. But what you may not know is that many other programs exist that offer other experiences. Here we’ll guide you through three such programs in the Tokyo area that let you enjoy the art of shakyo (copying sutras) and zazen meditation easily and stress-free.
The following article contains information on rituals and practices that include components based on Japan’s traditional religions (such as Buddhism and Shinto). This content is presented solely for informational purposes; these practices are not enforced in these facilities in any way.)
①：Ryuuunji Temple/ Tokyo Zen Center (Setagaya)
As the “Zen” in its name implies, this program is well-suited to the budding enthusiast. ‘Zazen’ has an austere ring that can sound intimidating to a lot of people, but here you can sit in on lectures delivered by monks and college professors alike, so even the most casual of beginners can enjoy their visit. We recommend that anyone interested in this program contact the Zen Center directly. Zen Center also offers programs for several other temples in the Tokyo metropolitan area aside from the Ryuuunji Temple, which you can see in more detail at their website.
②：Takao-san Yakuo-in (Takao)
Here you’ll find a program called “Getsurei Shakyokai.” Despite the relatively warm reception zanzen meditation has recieved, there aren’t a lot of people who have taken up shakyo, or copying sutras, in comparison. Luckily, this program requires no previous experience in the craft (you’ll need to place a reservation if your group includes more than five people, though), and most importantly requires no equipment either, so it couldn’t be easier to participate. Nowadays, people don’t use the standard brush for writing anymore, so it takes quite a lot of concentration to write characters using unfamiliar means. To do so requires you to empty your mind of extraneous thought, which makes this experience actually very revitalizing. You will also listen to sermons and the horaku delivered by buddhist monks, so maybe this will be the opportunity you use to spiritually reevaluate yourself. It costs 1,500 yen to participate. This program takes place on the fourth Saturday of every month, but we suggest you check in advance to make sure the event is still on schedule.
③：Chokoji Temple (Shinjuku)
For those who haven’t ventured to the west as much, how about taking a trip to Shinjuku to check out the Chokoji Temple program? What makes the zazan meditation program here so special is that beginners and novices (meaning people who are on their second or later session) are split into different groups by date. Sessions for beginners are held on the second and fourth Saturday of every month, and novice sessions are on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Whether you’re a beginner or a novice, the sessions always last from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m, which makes it easy to squeeze into your schedule. Beginners will need to make their reservations in advance only the first time. If you’re tired of the hustle and bustle of downtown living, this might be just the thing to clear your mind and cleanse yourself.
We hope this list goes to show you that programs letting you participate in the temple experience are unexpectedly easy to join. Keep in mind that Tokyo is a big city, so there are sure to be more and more programs that let you experience it like this cropping up in the near future.
However, just because these programs are easy to join and a lot of them don’t require advance reservations, please make sure to be on time! The slightest noise or disturbance can greatly damage your concentration when participating in things like zazan meditation or shakyo, meaning tardiness poses a great inconvenience to everyone involved. Practice the same manners you would in any temple (no talking, for starters!), and enjoy these programs for the refreshing experiences they are.
Top image：IDEA’s Gallery
This post is also available in: Japanese