Zazen is the form of Buddhism meditation practice that requires you to sit in a good posture and relax your mind. In this article, we will introduce you some of the temples in Kyoto where you can experience this practice.
1. Bishamondo Shorin-ji
Bishamondo Shorin-ji is located in a slightly remote area off to the South if you come from the city. It is well-known as one of the temples that actively welcomes tourists (including groups) to their Zazen mediation class. Given their welcoming atmosphere for Zazen beginners, it has become a popular destination for both Japanese and international tourists interested in the experience. The class goes on for an hour with a break. What’s more, Matcha and a confection are offered at the end, which is a bonus feature for many tourists. Class Fee: 1,000 JPY/person
2. Rinzai-shu Daihonzan Nanzen-ji
Nanzen-ji is known as the birth place of Rinzai-shu, one of the denominations of Buddhism. The temple is also notable as a tourist destination. Here at Nanzen-ji, Zazen meditation class called “Gyo-ten Zazen” is offered for free at 6:00 am on the second and the fourth Sundays (Note: The class is closed in August, on the fourth Sunday in December and also on the second Sunday in January. The class starts at 6:30 am from November through March. ) A reservation is required in advance. Group participation is also welcome. Class Fee (for a group): 1,000 JPY/person (half price for students through high school)
3. Ginkaku-ji (Tozan Jisho-ji)
Ginkaku-ji, a very popular destination spot for many tourists, is actually called Tozan Jisho-ji officially. Here, two Zazen meditation classes are offered; one during the day and one in the evening. If you want to join the class in the evening, you need to send a postcard and apply for it in advance. The day class, on the other hand, is held every first Sunday and the program also includes a lecture. You can apply for this one through phone calls or e-mails (in January, the day class is held on the third Sunday instead of the first). Class Fee: Free (however, 500 JPY for the temple admission is still necessary)
Kennin-ji is famous as the very first Zen temple in Kyoto. Zazen meditation class at this temple is held every second Sunday. Here, the whole class will last for about an hour: two sessions of 20 minutes meditations followed by a lecture about the Buddhist priesthood with a cup of tea offered. Two time frames are available to choose from; 8:00 am to 10:00 am or 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. No reservations are required in advance. As many as 180 people can join the class at the same time. Class Fee: 1,000 JPY/person (600 JPY/student)
At Ichiyo-in in Nishi Gamo area, you can enjoy Zazen meditation class in a very quiet surrounding. Though they are a small temple, their class attendants show varieties of nationalities. The biggest charm of joining their class is its small class size. Their maximum number of students is 14, so you can really focus on meditation here. However, to join the class, you need to be a member of the Zazen club and pay your monthly fee as well as admission fee. Class Fees: Monthly fee: 2,000 JPY, Admission Fee: 1,500 JPY
6. Zuiganzan Enko-ji
Not only as a Zazen spot but also as a fall-color spot, the name of Enko-ji is widely known. It is said that this is one of the best spots in Kyoto in the season. Here, Zazen meditation class is open every Sunday at 6:00 am. The class is a perfect occasion for tourists since they also welcome beginners and they are very kind to teach people about basic manners and information of Zazen meditation. A phone reservation is required by the day before. If you check out their official website, you can watch the videos of the class.
Shokoku-ji is one of the renowned Zen temples in Kyoto. In their precincts, there is also a museum that you can visit. Here, they offer Zazen mediation class on every second and fourth Sundays. The temple is located near Kyoto Gosho, and it is conveniently accessible from various locations in the city. The class offered here is more serious than others and it goes on as long as 90 minutes. If you check out their official website, you will find the reminder about the dress code for the class. Please be careful not to wear anything too revealing. Class Fee: Any amount if more than 100 JPY per person (money that is contributed to a religious institution).
As seen, there are multiple spots where you can enjoy the Zazen experience in Kyoto. In this historical town with a living history, please do try out Zazen meditation. It will surely give you peace of mind.