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Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Fukui
Population
828,960

Eihei-ji Temple

Do a temple stay at the headquarters of Soto Zen Buddhism.

Looking for Japanese spirituality and history all wrapped up into one fantastic experience? A day visit, or better yet, a stay at Eihei-ji Temple will leave you with lasting memories and maybe even eternal peace.

Fukui Prefecture’s Eihei-ji Temple stands as one of Japan’s two head temples of Soto Zen Buddhism. Introduced to Japan in the 13th century by Dogen Zenji, the Soto school is the largest single religious denomination in the nation, with more than 14,000 temples dotted across the country.

Who was Dogen Zenji?

Eiheiji temple in Fukui Japan

A young monk preparing morning rounds.

Dogen founded Eihei-ji in 1243, in what is today Fukui City, north of Kyoto Prefecture. Dogen and his followers were looking for a home to avoid conflict arising with other sects of Buddhism, such as Tendai. 

For a short time, the temple was known as Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) Temple, but Dogen renamed the complex to “Temple of Eternal Peace,” or Eihei-ji, in 1246. Dogen lived the remainder of his life at Eihei-ji, leaving only once at the Shogun regent’s request. After he died in 1252, priests entombed Dogen’s ashes and a memorial in Eihei-ji’s joyoden, or founder’s hall.

Today, Eihei-ji is the head training temple of Soto Zen Buddhism, and more than 200 priests and nuns call the temple home. Practicing Soto Zen priests from all over Japan, and even the United States’ San Francisco Zen Center, come to Eihei-ji to meditate and chant sutras. 

Exploring the temple complex

Eiheiji temple in Fukui Japan

Eihei-ji Temple in the rain.

Eihei-ji is an impressive, not to mention massive, complex of more than 70 buildings, connected by covered walkways. It borders a beautiful forest lush with vegetation and ancient Japanese cedar trees. From October to early November, the forest turns to vibrant reds and oranges at peak koyo (autumn leaf viewing) season, while thick, heavenly blankets of snow cover the temple from December to March.

Visitors enter Eihei-ji through its reception hall. It features residences, study quarters, and a great meditation hall decorated by a sunken ceiling. From there, the buildings seem to connect seamlessly through beautiful wooden walkways. The oldest structure within the complex is the Sanon Gate, restored in 1749.

The Butsuden or Buddha Hall sits at the center of the temple’s grounds and houses Buddha statues from Amida Butsu (the past), Shakyamuni Butsu (the present), and Miroku Bosatsu (the future).

Try a temple stay

Eiheiji temple in Fukui Japan

Learn the ways of real zazen meditation.

Eihei-ji offers shukubo (temple lodgings). The Sanzen program is for guests seeking a short but intense zazen (sitting Zen meditation) experience. Participants stay in communal rooms for one night, participate in morning services, enjoy tours of the temple facilities, eat traditional Buddhist meals, and practice four to five intensive 40-minute periods of zazen. The more casual Sanro program offers the above, but with only two 40-minute periods of zazen.

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The IZW program offers a longer and more intimate Buddhist experience. It includes eight to 10 40-minute periods of zazen per day, lectures, and dharma talks on Dogen Zenji and Buddhism. Guests are expected to live and act as residents at Eihei-ji Temple which includes helping to clean the temple. This program lasts for four days.

As temple lodgings are limited, Eihei-ji Temple has partnered with Fukui Prefecture to provide accommodation for tourists seeking a zen Buddhist experience. 

The temple allowed the quaint Hakujukan Hotel to be built near its premises, using Japanese cedar wood from the surrounding forest. Guests staying at the Hakujukan Hotel are invited to practice zazen meditation and dine at a restaurant overseen by the temple, which offers shojin ryori, Buddhist vegan cuisine.

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Things To Know

Hours and fees

Eihei-ji is open all year-round except for Jan. 1. Visiting hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the hours may change depending on the monastic schedule.

Admission is ¥500 for adults and ¥200 junior high and elementary school students. Children 7 years old and under may enter for free.

Temple stay

To stay overnight at Eihei-ji and participate in one of its programs, you must fill out an application from Eihei-ji official website one month in advance. Prices start at ¥10,000. To participate in the IZW program, participants must have experience in sitting zazen daily.

The Hakujukan Hotel

The Hakujukan Hotel is located just outside of the Eihei-ji Temple complex. Room prices start at ¥16,000 per person and include two Buddhist vegan meals a day.

Hakujukan Hotel Address: 〒910-1228 Fukui, Yoshida District, Eiheiji, Shihi, 6−1

Official website: https://www.hakujukan-eiheiji.jp/en/

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒910-1228 Fukui, Yoshida-gun, Eiheiji, Shihi, 5−15 大本山永平寺

By train

From Tokyo, take the Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train) to Maibara Station. Change to the Shirasagi Limited Express to Fukui Station.

From Osaka or Kyoto, take the Hokuriko Line’s Express Thunderbird to Fukui Station.

By bus

From Fukui Station, take the Eihei-ji Liner Bus to Eihei-ji Temple. Alternatively, you can ride the Echizen Railway to Eiheiji-guchi Station, and take the Keifuku Bus to Eihei-ji Temple.

By car

Take the Chubu-Jukan motorway. It takes about 10 minutes from the Eiheiji-sando Interchange. Keep in mind that there is no parking within Eihei-ji Temple, so you will have to find a parking space in nearby Eihei-ji Village.

By plane

From Komatsu Airport, take the airport bus to Fukui Station.

Where To Stay

Foret de Repos (Gran Forest Echizen Miyama)
  • 38-2 Ichinamicho, Fukui-shi, Fukui, 910-2222 Japan
  • ¥7,700 - ¥12,980
  • 4.23/5 (203 reviews)
  • 5.7 km

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