Eihei-ji Temple Review
One of the two headquarters of Soto Zen, the Eihei-ji Temple sits 19 km (12 miles) southeast of Fukui. Founded in 1244, the extensive complex of 70 temple buildings is spread out on a hillside surrounded by hinoki and sugi (cedar) trees more than 100 feet tall, some as old as the original wooden structures. This temple offers a rare glimpse into the daily practice of the 200 or so monks (and a few nuns) in training. They are called unsui, or cloud water, the traditional name for monks wandering in search of a teacher. The rigorous training has remained unchanged since the 13th-century monk Eihei Dogen started this monastery. Each monk has one tatami mat to eat, sleep, and meditate on, and these are lined in rows on raised platforms in a communal room. All activities, including cleaning out the incense tray, are considered to be meditations, so visitors are expected to dress modestly and explore in silence. With at least one month's notice, visitors affiliated with Soto Zen organizations can lodge at the temple (¥8,000 a night, including two meals). The easiest way to get to Eihei-ji from Fukui is by train to Eihei-ji Guchi Station and by bus from there to the temple.
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