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.
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.
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!).