Jun 272011

If you intend to practice Zazen during a visit to Japan, let me recommend a few places to go:

  • shunkoinMy first location to suggest is Shunko-in, a Rinzai-Zen temple within the large Myoshin-ji Temple complex in the North-West of Kyoto (my Dojo is affiliated to). The deputy head Priest Rev. Taka Kawakami speaks fluent English, so you can experience Zazen at this beautiful ancient temple without worrying how to communicate in Japanese, or any fear of doing “something wrong” as a beginner. Be sure to expect a warm welcome when you go there!
    Shunko-in also offers accommodation, and in addition to Zazen you can enjoy a guided tour (in English) and learn a lot about the temples history and interesting details concerning hidden Christianity in Japan.
  • For the dedicated student planning to spend more than a few days for Zazen, there is Tekishinjuku, an international Zen-Dojo in the countryside out of Kyoto. I have not yet been there, but the place was recommended to me by various people. It is headed by Gensho Hozumi Roshi, a former student of Omori Sogen Roshi, the famous calligrapher, swordsman and Zen-master.
  • Whenever I stay in Tokyo, at least once I try to visit the morning Zazen (Gyoten Zazen-kai) at Engakuji-Temple in Kita-kamakura.Engaku-ji offers various opportunities for lay people to practise Zazen (admission free), but all information is exclusively in Japanese, and they are not prepared to receive foreigners (although occasionally I met friendly people there speaking some English). Better be prepared for basic communication in Japanese, and have an open eye on what the other participants are doing, when you go there!