Kyoto Zen Meditation & Garden Tour at a Zen Temple with traditional Sho-jin lunchFeeling Zen by experiencing Zazen meditation, Zen garden, and Buddhism vegan meal for lunch with a local guide★★★★★
- 4.5 hour tour
- Small group tour
- English speaking guide
What makes this tour unique
- Experience Zen meditation at one of the five major Zen temples in Kyoto.
- Gain insights into how to practice "zazen" or Zen meditation from a local guide.
- Enjoy the Zen garden (dry landscape garden) with a guide's commentary and feel the tranquility.
- Savor traditional vegetarian food historically served by Zen monks at a Zen temple.
Tips and recommendations by our official guides
What comes to mind when you hear the word "Zen"?
Zen was introduced to Japan from China about 800 years ago and has since influenced many aspects of Japanese culture, including "wabi-sabi," "zazen meditation," "tea ceremony," and more. Despite its simple philosophy of focusing on one thing and eliminating excess, understanding the entirety of Zen remains challenging, even for Japanese people.
In Zen, there's a saying: "Furyu-monji," which conveys that the teachings of Zen cannot be expressed in words but can only be transmitted through repeated practice in the relationship between master and disciple. In adherence to this saying, Zen Buddhism has been passed down through generations in Japan via non-verbal expressions such as Zen meditation, gardens, tea ceremonies, and ink painting. This approach aims to comprehend "Zen" through the senses rather than relying solely on Buddhist scriptures.
Therefore, while this tour will certainly include explanations of Zen, it is also crafted to provide an experiential understanding of Zen. Participants will have the opportunity to view Zen gardens, engage in Zen meditation, and savor Sho-jin Ryori, a vegetarian cuisine.
The tour is designed to allow visitors to experience Zen not just through words but also through actions, making it accessible to everyone. Whether or not you are familiar with Zen, it's entirely okay to join the tour as long as you have an interest in Zen culture! We hope this tour provides an opportunity to feel the essence of Zen, a unique experience that can only be found in Kyoto.
What comes to mind when you think of Zen?
Before engaging in Zen meditation, a local guide will lead you to a garden where you can immerse yourself in the essence of Zen.
"Zen" is an inherently esoteric Buddhist concept, even for the Japanese. While the word "Zen" may conjure thoughts of Zen meditation, this tour will initially guide you to a garden imbued with Zen principles. Amidst the tranquil setting of the Zen garden, a local guide will provide you with fundamental information on how to appreciate both the garden and the practice of Zen meditation."
Visit Tofukuji Zen Temple, one of the five Great Zen Temples in Kyoto, and partake in a Zen meditation experience.
After admiring the Zen garden, we will proceed to Tofukuji Temple, one of the five great Zen temples in Kyoto. Tofukuji boasts a rich history, serving as a residence and Zen practice site for monks since the 13th century.
During the visit, you'll have the opportunity to witness the impressive San-mon gate, intricate dragon ceiling paintings, and the oldest surviving toji (toilet). Following this exploration, we will make our way to a smaller temple within Tofuku-ji dedicated to zazen practice.
As our guide will maintain silence during the zazen session, you will be provided with special silent reading materials for the tour. In the serene surroundings of Kyoto, enveloped by nature and quietude, you will engage in a one-hour session to experience and learn the posture, breathing techniques, methods, and ideas associated with zazen.
After meditation, let's visit Japanese garden and temple to feel more about zen!
Following the zazen session, we will engage in a brief discussion with the monks, sharing our thoughts and experiences. Afterward, we will embark on a short walk to partake in a vegetarian meal – a vegan diet that has been embraced by Japanese monks since the 13th century, known as Shojin Ryori. This traditional cuisine emphasizes the use of vegetables, mushrooms, and seaweed, eschewing meat and fish.
The adjacent temple to the restaurant was once home to as many as 1,200 Buddhist monks for training, providing us with the opportunity to savor traditional and authentic vegetarian cuisine.
The tour will conclude with a conversation about the Zen insights we have gained today, set against the backdrop of a serene Japanese atmosphere as we enjoy a traditional Buddhist lunch.
Tofukuji Station Exit 2
- A guide will be holding a board saying "MagicalTrip"
- Meet at Tofukuji Station
- Visit Zen Garden at one of the Tofuku-ji temple
- Visit main temple of Tofuku-ji
- Zen meditation experience
- Have traditional vegan lunch (Sho-jin meal)
- Finish the tour near Chishaku-in temple
- Anyone over 12 years old can join this tour.
- For those who have booked a tour starting from 10:45, lunchtime will be at 14:15 (after the meditation experience), so please ensure you have had enough breakfast or brunch.
- Out of respect for other guests and to ensure the best experience for everyone, we must start the tour on time.
- You will not be able to join the tour, receive a refund, or reschedule if you are late and miss the group.
- As other guests will be participating in the zazen experience, private conversations are generally prohibited. During this time, you will be provided with materials that can be read silently.
- For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the tour starting time.
- Free date/time change up to 24 hours till the tour starting time (depending on availability).
Yes! As long as you are more than 12 years old and you are interested in Zen culture, you are welcome to join! There are some activities to feel zen by your five senses, and our guide will kindly explain what to do and the meanings behind it.
Yes, the lunch served on this tour is Sho-jin vegan, historically consumed by Zen monks. Therefore, please feel free to join this tour!
(Note: This lunch is not available for those with gluten-free dietary restrictions.)
The lunch time would be 13:15 for the tour starting at 9:45 and 14:15 for the tour starting at 10:45. Therefore, those who booked a tour starting from 10:45, the lunch time would be 14:15 (after meditation experience), so please have enough breakfast or brunch.