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Buddhist temples seek slice of foreign tourism boom

18 Comments
By Junko Fujita

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18 Comments
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Business monks....who would have thought it! Takes money to stay in the God businesses I see.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Eiheiji, as the centre of Dogen's Soto Zen sect, is interesting, and you can easily get a bus there from Fukui city centre. But before you enter a monk gives a lecture in Japanese and almost all signage is in Japanese. Often, even when there are explanatory panels in a temple they totally fail to relate to a foreign visitor, whom, it should be assumed, is not familiar with Japanese history or regular Buddhist concepts, let along Japanese versions of them. The idea seems to be that we need to write something and anything will do. You could easily pass through Eiheiji without any idea of its importance - or even who Dogen was - except that it is a big complex.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I've been there and all I can say is this is pitiful. I don't think Buddha would be all that happy with it.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

In fairness, TrevorPeace, Buddha's thoughts are irrelevant to this issue. It's about the tourists. You could argue that the mere idea of a temple, dedicated to Buddha, perhaps with a statue of him, would be deplored by him. But, with its concentration on meditation, Zen at its purest, can remove the Buddha altogether and still be relevant to his message. But it is these kind of things that could easily be conveyed at such a place as Eiheiji. There is a vast interest in Zen outside Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I have been to temples in Japan like this and I completely missed the most important point - from a tourist point of view: the history of the temple and its surroundings, because there were almost no explanation in English, or in any other language. Without a history to explain, it's just a complex of dark wood buildings. To attract foreign tourists, English should be the abundant in every place - from names of the trees, to a booklet telling why, who and when about the building. Most temples I have been to seemed to have a rich history, but they also seemed exclusive to people with a deep knowledge of Japanese language. Not for tourists.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I Googled images and it looks attractive and interesting to my eyes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The problem I see with Japanese shrines and temples (from a western tourist's perspective) is that they get torn down and completely rebuilt on a regular basis so there's little or no historical value in any of the current buildings.

I think alot of foreign tourists are duped by this. How many of them who visit the golden temple in Kyoto actually think they're looking at a centuries old temple rather than a gaudy 1950s reconstruction that looks nothing like the original? 99%?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I stayed a night at Eiheiji monastery back in 1982. I was the only non Japanese person. I did everything wrong as far as etiquette and my legs fell asleep trying to do zazen and sitting in seiza during meals and a long ceremony. (The monks got a good laugh picking me up as I could not walk!) I still remember many details of the monastery and above all how I was touched spiritually. I have mixed feelings reading this article about appealing to a wider tourist base. I think anyone going there should do some homework on Soto zen and Dogen Zenji. Be prepared to sit and have reverence for this really beautiful and important monastery.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Like some of those contributors above, I, too, have visited Eiheiji. Spent an hour milling about on the top floor where the main altar is, which is my custom at any such site I visit. Eiheiji is a beautiful, serene place to visit. Thus ... I sort of frown on the idea of building a luxury hotel for foreigners nearby. I think a steady flow of foreigners through this shrine would destroy the traditional Japanese atmosphere that now exists there.

However, money is money ... and if the Eiheiji leaders want to make money ... well, bring in the foreign tourists ....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why does a buddhist temple need revenue? I thought it was all about freeing yourself from earthly desires...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Must be something about this particular temple eh? Stevie Jobs thought of becoming a monk and became a billionaire instead. These guys are supposed to be guiding people in the practice of seeking true enlightenment and the foibles of earthly desires, yet they're out to squeeze it for a quid.

Stinks a bit to me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

These temples should try being a bit more welcoming to tourists, with plaques giving historical information for instance, and, in particular, by not banning photography.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Of course, temples need income. How else do they keep the lights on! You can't pay the bills with "enlightenment".

The temple probably would pick a few Apple fan tourists, if they were to push that in their marketing. It's valid considering Jobs's impact on modern day lives. If they were sussed, they'd invite Jonathan Ive's to design the hotel. On the other hand, I'd be a little concerned that it's just another government loan/construction industry scam.

I also like the no photo rule. It's a good reminder of what they are really there for and a way to respect the privacy of those using it for the purpose it was intended.

I'd say just sell a few well chosen postcards, or a USB stick with them on it.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Of course, temples need income. How else do they keep the lights on! You can't pay the bills with "enlightenment".

I underwent formal training as a novice (shami) monk at a major zen temple in Kyoto, and from living at the main temple during training to visiting other priests' places to help out with funerals, to staying with my own master, I can tell you that they're not concerned with "keeping the lights on." They're concerned with yearly trips overseas, building new houses, and driving expensive cars. Supporting Fukui prefecture to benefit the normal people living there is a good cause, but I wouldn't shed a tear or lose a wink of sleep worrying about the "spiritual masters" at a major temple like Eiheiji. They're definitely living more comfortable lifestyles than anyone posting on here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why does a buddhist temple need revenue? I thought it was all about freeing yourself from earthly desires...

LoL. ur right, when Buddha attained "enlightenment" it didn't cost him anything.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

All temples and Shrines in Japan are privately Owned/administered and thus need to generate their own income but thus are tax-excempted.

Yes, religion is an open-business in Japan (same for Europe).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@bfarm: yes, I heard from a Buddhist friend that the Japanese "school" is the most materialistic one. When he decided to spend one year meditating with monks, he choose Thailand. He said that Thailand, Cambodia and Laos defend the last standing fortress of true Buddhism.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

They're concerned with yearly trips overseas, building new houses, and driving expensive cars.

Yes, this is absolutely true. I teach English to their wives. I should know.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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