There is a delightful little temple about one hour east of Tokyo towards Chiba.
It feels more like visiting the house of your aunt/uncle, than a holy place. But in many ways, that sense of familiarity and approachability make it all the more sacred.
A day here will leave you feeling joyful and at peace with the world.
The temple is run by a monk named Bidou San. He has been the head monk since he was in his 20’s (over 20 years now). He took the position young, as it was passed down from his grandfather, to his father, to him.
In Bidou San’s sect of buddhism - Nicihren Shu - monks are allowed to marry, eat meat and fish, drink alcohol, basically, whatever they please. They live a modern life, with a strong sense of spirituality blended in.
When you visit Bidou San at his temple, he’ll take you on a tour of the grounds (outside and inside) and explain the meaning behind the symbols/books/rituals around the temple grounds.
I loved learning about why their are dragons painted on the ceiling above alters - one as a symbol of transporting the souls from this world to the next and the other as a bringer of water, to put out fire - historically fire was one of the temple’s biggest dangers.
I’ve been to so many temples (definitely over 100 now since living in Japan). But this was the first time I was able to get so close to all the special objects and to receive such in-depth explanations of their inclusion and meaning on the altars.
After touring the grounds we went for a calligraphy lesson. Calligraphy is also an act of meditation and requires the same kind of purifications that you would go through when going into the main temple. The room, body and heart are all cleansed before you pick up your brush.
Depending on time and weather after you finish calligraphy, you may have the treat of attending a tea ceremony hosted by Bidou San’s lovely wife. They’ll guide you through proper ways to handle the cup and drink the tea. It is truly a moment to relax, slow down, and just enjoy one another’s company. It was during the tea ceremony that I got to learn more about Bidou San and his family, and what their lives look like day to day.