Spending time at this Zen temple in Kyoto changed my life, by allowing me to see and to feel that less is more. A futon. Simple bathrooms without heating. An old, rustic tokonoma with tulips, arranged in nageire style of naturalistic ikebana. A heated table with a jar of hot water, a small container of green tea, one cup, and a sweet. A small mirror. At first, you think that it is rustic and charming, and that the view on the garden is the luxury.
After living there for some time, after spending time in the cold, you see that this simple lifestyle is not charming: it is luxurious. Walking back to the temple at night through Myoshin-ji was beautiful and calming.
There is nothing, yet there is everything. Taking a warm bath feels like a luxury. The green tea and dried persimmon left a satisfying feeling. The quietness of the temple seemed otherworldly.
The breakfast, made by the temple and eaten with the other guests, is simple. I am not sure why it felt so luxurious to be waken up by the temple at 7:30 and told that the breakfast was ready. This breakfast was made with the guests in mind, the miso soup was delicious. Checking-in by simply saying your name and being shown to your room, as this family living here was waiting for you, no key, no passport, no deposit, no credit card. The ultimate simplicity and luxury.
The temple business is somewhat mysterious, with some criticism that they do not pay any taxes. Yet, Daishin-in was not about money at all. Even though I stayed 5 nights, they only asked me to pay for 4 nights. They do not speak English and they take reservations by phone, and then confirmed by postcards, which means that most guests are Japanese.
Most sub-temples are closed to the public and very few offer a shukubo (宿坊) temple stay experience. I felt extremely lucky to be welcomed there.
We all know that less is more. But we don’t see it, we don’t feel it, and we don’t believe it. Staying for five days at Daishin-in temple, I saw, I felt, and believed.
Reservations: You will need a Japanese friend to make this reservation for you. A night with breakfast costs around 5,000 yen. You must be within the temple at 9pm when the door closes. Lights out at 10pm. Please do not make any noise. I had access to wifi in my room. If you do not speak any Japanese, it may be uncomfortable for you and for the temple and you may want to stay instead at Shunko-in, where you can learn in English about meditation and the life of the temple.
The only true voyage of discovery would be not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.
Matsukawa (revisited), Art Museums in Tokyo, Advanced Japanese Manners, Hakone, home cooking.
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Quote from Zen monks
Kwon Sook Soo
Yau Yuen Siu Tsui