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Hamamatsu is home to many historic temples set in tranquil grounds. Some now offer visitors a window into the world of the Zen Buddhist monks through experiences from meditation to temple stays. Why not heal your mind and body at a Zen temple on your next trip to Japan? Here we introduce 5 zen experiences to help centre your thinking and build inner peace at some of the most beautiful temples in the region.

Day trip or temple stay at a mountain temple at Okuyama Houkouji Temple
Under the guidance of experienced Buddhist monks, spend a day learning various activities at the head temple of the Rinzai sect. You will be guided on zazen meditation (a form of seated meditation, at the very heart of Zen practice. and shakyo (the copying of sutras) in a tranquil environment at this beautiful site with nationally recognised cultural properties. What’s on the menu? Shojin-ryori (seasonal Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) prepared by the monks is served for lunch. A weekend temple stay is ideal for those wanting a deeper experience at Houkouji. Arrive in the afternoon for an explanation of the schedule followed by an evening meal of shojin-ryori followed by shakyo (sutras copying) and zazen meditation. Don’t plan on sleeping in the wake up time is 6am sharp followed by more zazen mediation before breakfast. The rates for overnight stays are around AUD$125 per person with special rates for students and younger children.

An invitation to Zen Meditation at Entsusan Saikenji Temple
Another mountain temple, originally founded in 1480, currently known as Entsusan Saikenji, is a Soto sect Zen temple and training centre for Buddhist practices. The teachings focus on abandoning the world of ego and self-centred thinking in the pursuit of peace of mind and awakening to an existence free from all conflict and strife. Zazen meditation is practiced every Monday from 7pm to 9:30 pm (contact the temple before your first visit)

Horticultural therapy and Zen experiences at Entsusan Saikenji Temple
Practiced for centuries all over the world, the actions of gardening such as seed sowing, watering, weeding and harvesting are said to stimulate all five senses, thereby maintaining mental health and quality of life, reducing stress and maintaining physical flexibility. Saikenji offers a range of Gardening therapies integrated with Zazen teachings.

Zen Meditation at Kanzanji Temple
This Soto sect temple is on the slopes of Mt. Tateyama hill, in the northern part of the Kanzanji hot springs town. Thought to have been founded in 810, this historic temple is a branch temple of Shuuyouji Temple on Mt. Akihasan. Zen meditation is practiced here from 7am to 5pm daily (you will need 30 min. to 1 hour to practice) and the temple requests a 1000 JPY donation (approx. AUD$10). Reservations are not required, but the service cannot be held if the head priest is away so best to check in advance. About Kanzanji LINK

Experience Ajikan meditation at Zudanji Temple
This Shingon Buddhist temple is said to be the oldest in Hamamatsu being founded in 703. It is near the Matsushita Residence, a family of retainers under the Imagawa Family, and also known as Zudaji Castle. This is where Lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a notable figure who unified Japan, first served as an officer. These days it is a tranquil place to visit and practice meditation. Ajikan is a type of meditation originally from the famously picturesque temple at Mt. Koya, in Wakayama Prefecture (the same Shingon sect). The practice involves facing a hanging scroll with the first letter of the Sanskrit word starting with ‘A’, regulating your breathing, and calming your mind as you meditate. After clearing your mind with Ajikan, you can enjoy tea with traditional sweets whilst listening to a sermon by a priest. Usually practiced on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month with exclusions for holidays and memorial service dates. Cost: 1500 JPY (approx. AUD$15)