Looking for Japanese spirituality and history all wrapped up into one fantastic experience? A day visit, or better yet, a stay at Eihei-ji Temple will leave you with lasting memories and maybe even eternal peace.
Fukui Prefecture’s Eihei-ji Temple stands as one of Japan’s two head temples of Soto Zen Buddhism. Introduced to Japan in the 13th century by Dogen Zenji, the Soto school is the largest single religious denomination in the nation, with more than 14,000 temples dotted across the country.
Who was Dogen Zenji?
Dogen founded Eihei-ji in 1243, in what is today Fukui City, north of Kyoto Prefecture. Dogen and his followers were looking for a home to avoid conflict arising with other sects of Buddhism, such as Tendai.
For a short time, the temple was known as Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) Temple, but Dogen renamed the complex to “Temple of Eternal Peace,” or Eihei-ji, in 1246. Dogen lived the remainder of his life at Eihei-ji, leaving only once at the Shogun regent’s request. After he died in 1252, priests entombed Dogen’s ashes and a memorial in Eihei-ji’s joyoden, or founder’s hall.
Today, Eihei-ji is the head training temple of Soto Zen Buddhism, and more than 200 priests and nuns call the temple home. Practicing Soto Zen priests from all over Japan, and even the United States’ San Francisco Zen Center, come to Eihei-ji to meditate and chant sutras.
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