Zazen at 5am, Anyone?

April 3rd, 2009 by
Category: Experience
Kaigan-ji zazen room

Kaigan-ji zazen room

In the Yawata area of Chikuma City, in a forested area along the feudal Zenkoji Kaido road between Matsumoto and Nagano City is Kaigan-ji Temple. “Kaigan” means “Open Your Eyes”. The name is somehow very appropriate for this temple. You see, it is #13 on the Shinshu (Nagano) 33 Fudashou Temple Pilgrimage and has a history of several hundred years. The main building is supposedly over 400 years old. However, times change, and even this grand temple fell into disuse.

Fortunately, a man named Shibata-san retired from a job overseas (he lived in America for decades), came back and moved into the temple. He started fixing up the place, bringing Kaigan-ji back to its original grandeur. In 2005, he built a special room for zazen. The temple’s eyes were truly opened!

Yesterday morning, I joined Shibata-san for his 5am meditation session. It actually wasn’t as difficult to wake up as I thought it would be.
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Following is a short Q&A regarding zazen meditation at Kaigan-ji

Q. What time is the meditation and how long does it last?
A. Shibata-san does his meditation at 5:15 every morning.  The meditation is for 30 minutes, with a break in the middle to stretch legs.

Q. Can even first-timers do zazen?
A. Shibata-san can teach meditation techniques, and in decent English. So yes, anyone can do it.

Q. What about kids?
A. Shibata-san welcomes kids, too.

Q. How can I get to Kaigan-ji?
A. The temple has its own bus stop: “Kaigan-ji Mae”. Unfortunately, Chikuma City’s website doesn’t show that particular route. I’ve sent a request for the data, and in English, and will post it if/when it becomes available.   However, the buses don’t run at 5am, so I would suggest staying at an inn somewhere in town and maybe taking a taxi.  There are two Japanese Inn Group member ryokans in Chikuma City that cater to guests from overseas.

Zen master Shibata-san

Zen master Shibata-san

Kaigan-ji Contact Info:

(Sorry, this is a traditional Buddhist temple —  no website or e-mail. )

57 Nakahara Yawata, Chikuma City, Nagano Pref. 387-0023

Tel (026)272-5019, Fax (026)272-5546 Attn: Shibata-san

It would be best to confirm ahead of time.  Shibata-san sometimes has to travel out of town to Tokyo (or Afganistan, his other area of activity!).

One Response to “Zazen at 5am, Anyone?

  1. How very interesting! It is always amazing to know about people doing and achieving what they love after their retirement or finishing raising kids.I admire them so much.

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