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Daihonzan Eiheiji Temple

Clear your mind at this huge, active temple complex which dates right back to the founding of Zen Buddhism in Japan.

This temple is one of the two headquarters of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism, and an important active site for all who follow that faith. It’s one of the oldest Zen temples in Japan, having been founded by Dogen, the man who imported Zen to the country, in 1244.

Inside the grounds you’ll find a vast network of over 70 buildings, all linked by covered walkways which mean you can comfortably visit on days with poor weather. In fact, winter is one of the best times to visit, as the area sees heavy snowfall which coats the pavilions and pagodas in a sheet of white.

When making your way around these buildings, you’ll have access to maps and pamphlets in English to explain exactly what you’re looking at. There’s the central Buddha Hall, various lecture halls, the Founder’s Hall (where Dogen’s ashes are kept), and many more!

You’ll be able to get a window into all parts of monastic life, from the cleansing rituals and meditation sessions, to the general ins and outs of daily life like sleeping and eating. Food is quite a big deal here, as this temple was one of the main exponents of Shojin Ryori cuisine: the vegetarian style of cooking which grew from Zen.

To get here, you’ll only have to travel about half an hour from Fukui Station, by bus or train. For the latter, head towards Eiheijiguchi Station on the Echizen Railway.

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