Eiheiji Temple in Fukui: Experience the World of Zen Amidst the Great Nature
Eiheiji Temple is the headquarter temple of Soto school Buddhism located in Fukui City, Fukui Prefecture. It was erected in 1244 by Dogen, the founder of Soto school Buddhism, as a place for Zen meditation training. The total of 70 training halls varying in sizes are scattered over the temple site of about 33 square kilometers. Currently, about 200 trainee monks are receiving trainings here every day.
You can take Eiheiji Liner, express bus service by Keifuku Bus, from JR Fukui Station and get off at “Eiheijimon-mae” bus stop (35 minute bus ride) to get to the temple. Information: Map
<Tour Inside the Temple>
With an admission fee of 500 Yen, you can tour all around the temple site of Eiheiji. After admission procedure, trainee monks will brief on the manners to follow at the temple and other things to note when touring around. You are not allowed to keep your shoes on within the temple site, so it is recommended to wear socks when visiting here.
One of the must-sees here is the ceiling covered with 230 pieces of paintings themed on flowers and birds. Finished with gold leafing, the whole ceiling makes a luxurious and astounding view. It is believed that your dream will come true if you can find carp, lion and squirrel out of many birds and flowers drawn on the ceilings.
Each temple has “shichido garan,” which are the seven most important buildings where monks receive trainings. The shichido garan of Eiheiji are respectively called “Sodo,” “Hatto,” “Butten,” “Daikuin,” “Sanmon,” “Yokushitsu” and “Tosu.” You can see the actual trainee monks close at hand at these buildings.
Especially among them, below are two of the most recommendable places to visit.
1. Hatto (法堂)
This is where trainee monks read Buddhist sutras every morning and the statue of Shokan Zeon Bosatsu is enshrined in the middle of the training hall here. The statue has decorations in gold color and looks very beautiful and luxurious. As this building is located on a highest point in the temple, the view from here is also wonderful.
2. Sanmon (山門)
This is the sacred gate which serves as the entrance to Eiheiji Temple. Trainee monks are allowed to go through the gate only when they start their trainings here and when they leave here after the training is over. The statues of shitenno (four guardian gods of Buddhism) standing at each side of the gate transmit a solemn atmosphere.
Tourist Spots Around Eiheiji Temple
The area around Eiheiji Temple developed as a temple town and still has many restaurants and souvenir shops. Especially recommendable here is sesame tofu, the specialty food of Eiheiji Temple. Make sure to try one of them if you ever visit the temple.
Useful Information on Tofu, the Star of Japanese food
Zen Training Workshop
Another interesting thing to try at Eiheiji Temple is the Zen training workshops. They allow you to experience such Buddhist trainings as sutra hand copying and seated meditation, which takes no more than 30 minutes, as well as a more full-fledged training course called “sanro,” in which you can stay overnight at the temple and experience the actual training menu designed for trainee monks for two days. How about visiting the temple and getting close to the world of Zen?
Eiheiji Temple, nestled in a silent and calm place surrounded with greeneryis a truly soul soothing place to visit. The buildings and other structures on the temple, some of which are very old and have distinctive classic atmosphere, are rather simple in appearance. While they may not look very gorgeous, they do have a different kind of charm and attraction in their simplicity. Eiheiji Temple, the great tourist spot in Fukui Prefecture, is recommendable for someone who seeks a soul soothing moment away from everyday life.