Shojin Ryori: Buddhist Temple Cuisine

In Japanese, shojin ryori (devotional cuisine) refers to a style of vegetarian cooking practiced at Buddhist temples. Like most forms of Japanese cooking. the dishes served in temples change with the seasons, and generally utilize local vegetables and regional specialties. Some temples offer abundant meals with dishes worthy of five-star chefs, while others serve more simple fare, but the shojin ryori visitors can taste in  Japanese Buddhist temples generally adheres to a few universal rules: — The meal will not include any animal products. (This includes dairy products like milk and cheese as well as meat, fish, and eggs.) — Dishes do not include garlic, onions, hot peppers

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A Visit to Ryuanji (Osaka, Japan)

Ryuanji is a Buddhist temple located in Minō Park, just north of Osaka. The temple itself lies about a 25 minute walk from the park entrance, on the path that leads to Minō Falls (one of Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls, and the reason many people visit Minō Park). Originally founded in 650 by an ascetic monk named En no Gyoja, Ryuanji is also the home to one of the oldest statues of Benzaiten (the goddess of music, fortune, and knowledge) in Japan. Although originally known as Minō-dera, the temple is now known as Ryuanji. It has been a functioning Buddhist temple continually since the

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Ryozen Kannon: A Monument for the Unknown Soldiers of the Pacific War

The Ryozen Kannon memorial stands in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, near a cluster of well-known temples (including Kiyomizu-dera and Kodai-ji).  In return for a small entry fee (about $3), visitors can enter the memorial and place a stick of incense in the burner on behalf of the unknown soldiers. If you visit Higashiyama, be sure to include a stop at the Ryozen Kannon (and, for those who collect goshuin, remember to have your book stamped inside the hall).

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Breakfast at a Japanese Buddhist Temple

Many Buddhist temples in Japan offer overnight lodging and meals for visitors. In most cases, these meals follow the standards of shōjin ryōri (literally “devotional cuisine”), a vegetarian style of cooking that involves no meat — and in some cases, no “vegetables that excite the senses” like spicy peppers and garlic. Some people think that meals without meat or heavy spice sound “boring” – but shōjin ryōri is one of my favorite styles of eating in Japan, and every temple meal I’ve eaten ranks among the most delicious food I’ve sampled in Japan. Here’s what travelers can expect from a typical shōjin ryōri breakfast in Japan: –

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The Blue Dragon of Kiyomizu-dera

Visitors to Kiyomizu-dera (a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan) may notice a large dragon statue standing guard in front of the temple – specifically, at the base of the stairs leading up to the temple’s West Gate and Three-Story Pagoda.   The blue dragon, or seiryuu, is honored at Kiyomizu-dera; at special ceremonies in March, April, and September, special prayers are said and the dragon’s image is carried around the temple (in a parade and worship event known as Seiryuue). Although known as a goddess of compassion, Kannon is also considered a strong protector of the weak (especially children) and

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A Visit to Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto, Japan)

Kiyomizu-dera (more formally, Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera) is a Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple lies in Higashiyama, on the slopes of Mount Otowa, and has a beautiful view of the former Japanese capital: Originally founded during the 8th century, Kiyomizu-dera derives its name from a famous waterfall on the temple grounds. (Kiyomizu means “pure water” in Japanese.) Visitors can ladle water from the falls while praying for blessings and purification. (The day I visited, the line was short–only about 35 minutes–but I decided to forego the blessing in favor of spending more time on the temple grounds.) Kiyomizu-dera was a popular pilgrimage site during the Heian period, and

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