Power of Zen

Head to the hills and a historic mountain temple to learn from monks the powerful secrets of Zen practices.

Photography by Lake Hamana Tourism Bureau

02 December 2021


Ever wondered about what exactly Zen is and how the uninitiated would go about experiencing Zen practices?

The promise of a clear and refreshed mind makes the concept enticing but what exactly is involved? Hamamatsu’s historic mountain Temple Okuyama Houkouji is the perfect place to find out.

The temple offers samplings of Zen practices like Zazen (Zen meditation), Shakyo (transcribing a sutra), Shabutsu (the practice of tracing Buddhist images and text) and the opportunity to enjoy a meal of Shojin Ryori (vegetarian cuisine as eaten by the monks).

Experience it all in a one-day package or choose to delve deeper by staying overnight at the temple. All experiences offer a getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and a chance to revive the senses in clean mountain air.

Hokouji allows visitors to the temple to book a series of zen practices all within the peaceful mountain temple. With instructions given by the temple’s monks, visitors experience the peace and space to contemplate in tranquil surrounds.


A true escape from modern life and an opportunity to reflect, the experiences on offer can be booked individually or as a series of experiences together in a one-day package. For those wanting to delve deeper, temple stays are also available.


Zazen (Zen meditation)

Zazen is a seated meditation, which is the study of oneself. It is easy for beginners and includes attentive instructions by an actual monk on how to properly cross your legs and maintain the proper posture.

“Zen is not a system of defined beliefs but a path to clarity and awareness.”

Shakyo (Transcribing a sutra)

This practice teaches you to stabilise your mind while transcribing a sutra by methodically copying each of the letters. Putting all distracting thoughts out of your mind and concentrating on copying the letters will take you away from your daily life and keep you calm. The finished sutra will be said in prayer by the temple and can also be taken home with you.


Shabutsu (Tracing a picture of a Buddhist image)

You will learn to stabilise your mind by tracing a picture of a Buddhist image onto a sheet of paper. Even if you use the same model, the finished copies will all vary depending on your mental attitude at the time. The finished work will be prayed upon at the temple and taken home as a souvenir of your experience.


Shojin Ryori (Vegetarian cuisine originally created for Buddhist monks covering their dietary restrictions)

At Houkouji, you can enjoy seasonal Shojin Ryori prepared with natural ingredients. Typical shojin ryori meal includes soybean-based foods like tofu, seasonal vegetables and wild mountain plants, which are believed to bring balance and alignment to the body, mind and spirit.  The Houkouji’s special Unajyu is an imitation eel served over rice in a lunch box. The imitation eel is made from tofu, lotus root and yam and is very popular with locals and visitors alike.

While many of the practices are quiet and do not require much conversation, for those wishing to learn in-depth about Zen and Zen practices, taking an interpreter is recommended.


About Houkouji Temple (Okuyama Hansobo)

Located in the mountains less than an hour by car from Hamamatsu Station. Established in 1371 by the son of the then Emperor Godaigo, the temple is set on 60 hectares. There are over 500 stone arhat statues on the main road heading up the mountain, kindly greeting all visitors to the temple.

A famous festival at the temple is Okuyama Hansobo Fire Festival held on 16 February each year. It is said that you will have good health for a year if you succeed in walking (or running) across the sacred fire at the temple during the festival in bare feet.

The temple charges a small entrance fee (adults 500JPY) and fees apply to the various zen experiences, which should be booked in advance.

Okuyama Houkouji  (奥山方広寺)1577-1 Okuyama, Inasachou, Kita-ku, Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka, Open 9 am til 4 pm. (Mountain’s reception closes at 3:30 pm)



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