Things to Do | Visit Chiba | Latest update:2023/05/11
There are many branches of Buddhism that have made their way into Japan, and also many that have begun here. While there are countless temples around Japan, and the subtle differences can lead you down a very complex “rabbit-hole”, they share many of the same themes that are accessible to the curious traveler: ascension beyond physical desires, peace, safe births, health to all living beings, and other similar subjects. One of the “new” schools of Buddhism, that has actually played a large part in spreading Buddhism to the western world, is Nichiren Buddhism; founded by a man who took the name for himself. The purpose of this article is to take you on a trip to the beginnings Nichiren Buddhism, in the coastal hills of Kamogawa City.
Seicho-ji Temple is your point of pilgrimage, standing tall over the Pacific Ocean. It is said that Nichiren’s inspiration came from seeing the sunrise at this very spot (“Nichi” meaning day, and “Ren” meaning lotus; the name combines the motifs of the “rising sun” and a “blooming lotus”). This temple is one of the few that lets you stay the night, taking your own introspective journey beyond simply photographing the temple and moving on. The experience isn’t too rigorous though. You’ll have a brief calligraphy workshop in the evening before dinner, and then you’ll be free to relax until sunrise, when you’ll then view the morning rituals.
Shakyo (tracing calligraphy) is an important aspect of keeping Buddhism alive through the centuries. A sheet of paper is placed over the sutra, the written words of the Buddhist doctrine, and then traced in a meditative practice. All of the “chants” you hear in Buddhism come from these sutras, and priests consistently “back up” the files by tracing or writing them by hand. Come trace your own portion of the Buddhist text, and your work will actually be preserved in a scroll with the rest.
Shōjin food is what Buddhist priests traditionally eat, and as you might imagine, it’s made with all-natural, locally procured ingredients. Bamboo shoots, mushrooms, rice, pickled vegetables, and beans (tofu, etc.) for protein. No meat necessary. Get a good sleep after whatever it is that you do at night, then wake up with the sun to experience for yourself the founding of Nichiren Buddhism.
Hopefully you’ll have a clear morning to see the sun rising over the pacific horizon! Enjoy the view after your healthy, meditative night, and breathe the ocean air wafting up the mountains of Chiba’s eastern coast. There are many nooks in the temple grounds, so feel free to explore and admire the various monuments and architecture. When you’re done, make your way down to the main temple for the morning prayer.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything specific, save for keeping your mind in the moment, and giving a small offering of incense. Take this chance to forget about everything that plagues your life, and absorb the sound of the rhythmic chanting and drumming. Your own name will also be included in the chants, so in addition to your personal time of healing, you’ll also have the blessings of the Buddha.
The term “slow-life” has taken off in Japan recently, and your trip to Seicho-ji Temple will embody this concept; relax, walk, meditate, have a day with no meat products or processed food. It’s not so much a tourist location to impress, but a place to actually live a day in the life of a monk. Granted, you’ll have internet, and be free to do as you please, but the opportunity to retreat to the hills is here, and we highly recommend giving it a try.
322-1 Kiyosumi, Kamogawa City
(A 15-minute car or bus ride from Awa-Amatsu Station. Bus: Take the Kamogawa Community Bus, Kiyosumi Route, to the Seicho-ji bus stop.)