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Eiheiji (i) is a large temple complex and active monastery standing on a cedar covered slope in the mountains just outside Fukui City. The temple was founded in 1244 by Dogen, the Buddhist scholar who introduced Soto Zen from China to Japan in 1228. Eiheiji is one of two head temples of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism (the other was formerly Sojiji Temple on the Noto Peninsula before its head functions were transferred to Yokohama).

The sizable temple complex consists of over 70 buildings and structures which are connected to each other by covered walkways that protect from the heavy snow seen in the region from December to March. The warmer months bring lush vegetation to the temple grounds, which are especially beautiful from late October to early November when the autumn colors typically peak.

Looking down the slope of Eiheiji Temple

Visitors enter Eiheiji through the reception hall (Kichijokaku), a modern temple building for laypeople, with its own kitchen, bath, sleeping quarters, study rooms and a large meditation hall adorned by a beautifully decorated, coffered ceiling. Visitors first receive a short orientation about the temple in Japanese before they can explore the temple grounds on their own. Good foreign language pamphlets are available that describe the various buildings in detail.

Covered walkways lead from the reception hall to the temple's more historically significant buildings including the Sanmon Gate, which was rebuilt in 1749 and is the oldest standing building on the grounds today; the Buddha Hall (Butsuden) at the center of the complex, which houses statues of the past, present and future Buddha; the spacious main lecture hall (Hatto) at the top of the slope; and the founder's hall (Joyoden), which contains the ashes of Dogen and images of Eiheiji's successive head monks.

The view from the Sanmon Gate

A few other significant buildings can only be viewed from the outside, including the monks' quarters (Sodo), where the monks eat, sleep and meditate; the kitchen (Daikuin) where the meals for the monks is prepared every day; and the baths and toilets (Yokushitsu and Tosu), as bathing is an important cleansing ritual in Soto Zen Buddhism. In addition, a beautiful belfry can be seen below the Sanmon Gate, holding a giant bronze bell which is rung four times per day.

Eiheiji is still an active monastery with around 200 to 250 practicing monks living on its grounds. Monks in training spend up to two years studying Zen Buddhism at the temple. It is also possible for foreign visitors affiliated with a Soto Zen Buddhist organization to train at Eiheiji for short periods and follow the monks' daily routine as they study. Both, a single-night stay and a more rigorous 3-day program are available. Applications must be made at least one month in advance.

Inside the Hatto lecture hall

Access

There are hourly direct buses between Fukui Station and Eiheiji, taking 30 minutes and costing 720 yen one way. Alternatively, there are two connections per hour by the Echizen Railway from Fukui Station to Eiheiji-guchi Station (25 minutes, 450 yen one way), where you can transfer to a bus to Eiheiji (10 minutes, 410 yen).

Those approaching Fukui from the north, e.g. from Kanazawa or Kaga Onsen, can also get off the train at Awara Onsen (one stop before Fukui by limited express train), and transfer to a bus to Eiheiji there (60 minutes, 1110 yen, one bus every 2 hours).

How to get to and around Fukui

Hours & Fees

Hours

4:00 to 17:00 (5:30 to 16:30 during winter)

Closed

No closing days

Admission

500 yen
Page last updated: August 8, 2015