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Yokoji Temple

On May 26th, 2015, we visited Yokoji Temple to receive a lecture about temple history  and experienced Zazen or Zen meditation. Yokoji Temple is recognized as one of the important temples of the Soto sect in Hokuriku area. It is located in Sakaimachi, Hakui, Ishikawa Prefecture.

When we arrived at Yokoji Temple ,there was a chief of the temple called Jushoku  came and he greeted us. He told us about the story of this temple. This temple belongs to the Soto sect of Zen. The temple was founded 700 years ago by a priest called Keizan Jokin.  Dogen Zenji, who went to China and brought back the Soto sect, founded Japanese Soto sect and he opened Elihei ji. Keizan Jokin, who founded this temple, was the 4th generations of Dogen Zenji. This temple was burned down twice. Firstly it was burn  because of the big civil strife in 1467-1477. And secondly, it was destroyed by fire again in 1579. Then the temple we see today was built in Edo period in 17th century by Toshiie Maeda, who the first feudal  lord of the Kaga region. Until 1943, this temple used to be a place to practice for monks. But because of the World War II, all the young monks went to the war. Then the temple stopped being a temple for Zen practices.This is why today the temple is not called a practice place anymore. 13 years ago, this temple was renovated by the sponsors all around Japan.

After telling us the story, Jushoku, , showed us around inside the temple. Inside of the main building, there are three rooms that are separated by two sliding doors that have calligraphy of Yamaoka Tessyu on them. Yamaoka Tessyu had lived during the Edo period. He was an expert of sword, calligraphy and Zen Buddhism.130 years ago, this temple was very poor because there were a few sponsors. So the chief priest of this temple asked Yamaoka Tessyu to write more then 100 sheets and gave to the sponsors as a reward for donation.With the money, the temple manageed to afford  to renovate itself. For the room in the middle, there is a Buddha statue that is very unique and rare style and the Buddha statue has Chonmage. It was made by Inpa, a sect of Buddha statue scultors, in Kamakura period around 12-13 century. And in another rooms, there are also many Buddha statues that are called Rakan. They are disciple (Deshi) of Buddha.

After that we got an opportunity to do Zazen or Zen meditation for 20 minutes. Doing Zazen, We have to stop thinking to clean our mind.  Many times when we suffer because we never stop thinking, to avoid suffering, we just need to sit and become simple by doing Zazen. After finishing the meditation, I felt so relieved and relaxed.

Before leaving, we had a chance to talk with Jushoku about a pilgrimage. In the Noto area, there are 33 places to visit for pilgrimage. It started in Edo period in 17 century.The important point of doing pilgrimage is to get the merit from Kannon Bodhisattva.

Nowadays, even though this place is not a place for monks to practice anymore, the temple is 22nd place of a pilgrimage to pray to the goddess of mercy, Kannon Bodhisattva, in Hokuriku area. On that day, it was a good opportunity for me to learn about a history of the temple and also experience a Zen meditation. This temple is such a quiet and peaceful place to visit.    (H. J.) 

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