Located midst of mountains east of Fukui City, the town is renowned for Eiheiji Temple, established in 1244 by Zen Master Dogen (道元禅師 Dōgen Zenji). It survived through a number of disasters and wars in its 700-year history, and the temple remains one of the most respected sanctuaries to Zen Buddhist monks in Japan.
A famous poem by Dogen goes:
- To study the way is to study the self.
- To study the self is to forget the self.
- To forget self is to be enlightened by all things.
- To be enlightened by all things is to remove the obstacles between oneself and others.
It's possible to leave Kanazawa (north) or Kyoto (southwest) in the early morning by train and get to the temple by noon. Ask the bus driver to notify you when you arrive; there are several stops called "Eiheiji-something", which can be confusing.
Eiheiji is about 15 km from Fukui City; either take a direct bus from Fukui Station (6 daily, 30 min, ¥720) or a train to Eiheiji-Guchi (25 min, ¥440) and a connecting bus (15 min, ¥410).
- Eiheiji Liner. 6 daily. Keifuku Bus operates a 30-min direct service connecting the temple to the east exit of Fukui Station. ¥720.
- 1 Eiheiji Temple (大本山永平寺 Daihonzan Eiheiji), Shihi 5-15, ☏ . An extremely impressive structure totally constructed from wood, with intricate frescoes decorating the inner walls. The atmosphere of tranquility is further enhanced by a stream that flows through the inner court yards. The temple is a true testament to the ability of the ancient Japanese to fuse architecture and nature in a seamless and timeless endeavor. Eiheiji is the head temple of the Soto Zen school. At any time of the year, there are more than 200 unsui (雲水), or Zen Buddhist monks in training, in the temple. All visitors to Eiheiji are considered to be worshippers and treated effectively as unsui; there are no "tourists". Prior to entering, everyone is given a list of rules that must be followed (English translations are available). In particular, you must be quiet the entire time you are within the temple grounds, and pictures of priests or any staff are strictly prohibited. The required silence is really a blessing; it helps maintain the spiritual atmosphere that is lost at many other temples in the country.
- 1 Meditate at Eiheiji Monastery, ☏ . Visitors can apply to attend a two-day (sanrosha) or three-day (sanzensha) meditation training program at Eiheiji Monastery. Since the 3-day program is quite strenuous, applicants must have long Zazen (meditation) experience to gain admittance. While the program is advertised as 2 or 3 days, it is in fact less as the first day activities start 16:00 with those on the final day ending at 10:00. During the full days there, wake up at 03:30 and lights out at 21:30. Gaining admission for the program requires faxed permission from the temple before arriving, and applications must be made at least a month in advance. There are several possible dates in any month for a stay, and it is possible to take the meditation training in English.
- 2 Mount Johoji (浄法寺山). A popular hiking and camping location.
- 3 Daibutsuji-san (大佛寺山). Another popular hiking and camping location.
You can buy books and esoteric goods at the temple itself. Souvenirs such as biscuits, cakes, and other trinkets, are available in shops around town.
- 1 Dansuke Goma Dofu (團助ごまどうふ). A traditional food chosen by Eiheiji temple to keep its abstemious monks vital. Made of ground sesame and kuzu (葛) powder. Smooth and chewy. Enjoy the rich flavor of sesame with miso paste. There is a cafe in the shop where you can enjoy fresh goma dofu.
- There are several small restaurants on the main streets.
There are several hotels in town.
- 1 Daihonzan Eiheiji Monastery (大本山永平寺), Shihi 5-15, ☏ . Guests can stay overnight at the temple and experience the training methods of the Soto Zen tradition. ¥8,000, or ¥3,000 for those in a meditation program.
- Ono — A historic castle town.
|Routes through Eiheiji|
|into ← Fukui Kita ←||W E||→ Katsuyama → Ono|