Kyoto: Ancient Temple’s Meditation Space Attracts Japanese, Foreigners Alike

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ancient temple’s meditation space attracts Japanese, foreigners alike

KYOTO — Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto features a large Zen meditation space that spans about 200 square meters. On Sunday mornings, the sound of a priest using a stick to strike the shoulders of zazen meditators echoes through the historic facility, counterpointing the tranquil, senko incense-infused atmosphere.

The 14th-century hall is the largest and oldest of its kind existing in the country. Most Sundays, people gather to meditate in the space from 6:30 a.m. With the easing of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a notable uptick in the number of tourists and foreign people taking part in recent sessions.

At such gatherings, a priest informs participants about zazen practices. Attendees then sit cross-legged on the floor with their eyes half-closed and meditate until an incense stick burns out.

“I was thinking about so many different things each day, and I craved a moment of clarity,” said 24-year-old Kyoto-based artist who has been taking part in the sessions for five months. “I feel that the time I spend here is important.”