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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A Visit to Kyoto’s Myomanji (Part 1)

During my research trip to Japan last summer I visited Kyoto Seika University, an art college in the northern part of Kyoto (most of us would consider it “just north of Kyoto” but given Japanese city lines, it’s technically within the boundaries of Kyoto-shi). When I arrived in Japan, my son had just completed a 15-week study abroad program at Kyoto Seika, and wanted to show me both the school and some of his favorite nearby sites.   The temple measures about the size of a small city block, and has no English-language signage. The entrance identifies it as “Myotzan

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A Visit to Kyoto’s Nishi Honganji

Kyoto’s Nishi Honganji is one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples. The Jōdo Shinshū, or “True essence of pure land,” school of Buddhism was founded by a monk named Shinran Shonin (1173–1263), whose teachings focused on a return to a more pure form of Buddhist understanding and enlightenment through verse. Originally known simply as “Honganji,” the temple now called Nishi (“Western”) Honganji was constructed in 1602 on land granted to the sect by Tokugawa Ieyasu. A second temple, known as Higashi (“Eastern”) Honganji sits several blocks away (not surprisingly, to the east). Nishi Honganji remains an active Buddhist temple (with services open

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