Eiheiji

Eiheiji (永平寺) is a small town in Fukui prefecture famous for its impressive temple bearing the same name.

Eiheiji Suzakumon Gate

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Located midst of mountains, east of Fukui city, the town is renowned for Eiheiji Temple, which was established in 1244 by Zen Master Dogen (道元禅師 Dōgen Zenji). Survived through a number of disasters and wars in its 700-year history, the temple remains one of the most respected sanctuaries to Zen Buddhist monks in Japan.

A famous poem by Dogen goes:

仏道を習うというは、自己を習うなり。
自己を習うとは、自己を忘るるなり。
自己を忘るるとは、万法に証せらるるなり。
万法に証せらるるとは、自己の心身および他己の心身をして脱落せしむるなり。
To study the way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget self is to be enlightened by all things.
To be enlightened by all things is to remove the obstacles between oneself and others.

Eiheiji is located about 15 km from Fukui City; either take a direct bus from Fukui Station (6 daily, 30 min, 720¥) or a train to Eiheiji-Guchi (25min, 440¥) and then a connecting bus (15min, 410¥). Keifuku Bus operates Eiheiji Liner (永平寺ライナー), a 30-min direct bus service (6 daily, 30 min, 720¥) from the bus stop of Keifuku located in front of the east exit of Fukui Station.

It’s possible to leave Kanazawa (north) or Kyoto (southwest) in the early morning by train and get to the temple by noon. Ask the bus driver to notify you when you arrive; there are several stops called “Eiheiji-something”, which can be confusing.

  • 36.059532136.3511871 Eiheiji Temple (永平寺 Eiheiji or Eihei-ji). An extremely impressive structure totally constructed from wood, with intricate frescoes decorating the inner walls. The atmosphere of tranquility is further enhanced by a stream that flows through the inner court yards. The temple is a true testament to the ability of the ancient Japanese to fuse architecture and nature in a seamless and timeless endeavor. Eiheiji is the head temple of the Soto Zen school. At any time of the year, there are more than 200 unsui (雲水), or Zen Buddhist monks in training, in the temple. All visitors to Eiheiji are considered to be worshippers and treated effectively as unsui; there are no “tourists”. Prior to entering, everyone is given a list of rules that must be followed (English translations are available). In particular, you must be quiet the entire time you are within the temple grounds, and pictures of priests or any staff are strictly prohibited. The required silence is really a blessing; it helps maintain the spiritual atmosphere that is lost at many other temples in the country. 

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