Zen meditation has become one of Japan’s most successful exports, ranking up there with cars and Sailor Moon, yet its apparent simplicity makes it all the more mysterious and compelling. There are several places in Japan where you can try meditation, but few where you can ask the monk all kinds of questions about his traditions and everyday life, as well as eat delicious monastic food! It is not surprising, then, that the visit to a Zen temple is one of our most popular options.
The monk may not quite fit with your idea of a Zen practitioner: he is relatively young, and very approachable. However, he has completed studies not only in meditation, but also in temple cuisine.
Before the meditation session, he shows visitors around his temple.
He even shows us the kitchen and living area.
Finally, it is time to try Zen meditation…
Zen practitioners usually meditate for around 40 minutes at a time, but beginners usually try around 10. Be careful not to let your concentration slip, however; otherwise, you will be rapped on the shoulder!
After all that concentration, the reward is the temple lunch! Buddhist cuisine is vegetarian and does not use a lot of strong seasonings, but it is delicious and perhaps provides a welcome change after days of rich ryokan food… While you are eating, you have the chance to ask the monk all kinds of questions about his daily life and Buddhist customs.
So why not add this temple visit to your next trip to Japan? We cannot promise that you will find enlightenment, but you are sure to come away with a deeper understanding of Japanese Buddhist tradition.