The Eihei-ji Temple is one of the two head temples of the Sōtō sect of Buddhism, and is the main attraction of the small Fukui prefecture.
Eihei-ji was established in 1244 by Zen master Dogen Zenji (1200-1253), who studied Buddhism in China and introduced Sōtō Zen Buddhism to Japan.
Eihei-ji is still an active monastry, with some 150 monks and a great number of visitors practicing Zen meditation, and is regarded as one of the most influential Zen temple is the world. The temple consist of over 70 inter-connected buildings.
Staying at Eihei-ji
Foreign visitors are welcome to stay and practice Zen with the monks. A one-night stay will be charged ￥8000. Following the monks' daily routine, on the first day you will have a bath, dinner and evening meditation. Getting up at 3:30 am, the second starts with a meditation session and the morning service before breakfast.
If you are not daunted of embracing this routine for a few days, the four days and three nights programme will give you a better impression of the Zen monastic life, for only ￥3000 per night.
The temple is open from 5 am to 5 pm, but closes frequently for varying periods of time. Daily visits cost ￥400 and include a circuit of the main buildings. Reservations are necessary for overnight stays. Detailed information is provided at the Daihonzan Eihei-ji's website.
How to get there
Eihei-ji may seem like a remote place at first sight, but going there is relatively easy. The first step is to get to Fukui city. There are numerous limited express trains from either Kyoto (1h20min) or Nagoya (2h10min). From Tokyo take the shinkansen to Maibara and change to the JR Shirasagi Limited Express to Fukui city (about 4 hours in total).
Once in Fukui, board the Echizen Railway Shosan Eiheiji line and get off at Eiheiji-guchi (25 min, ￥440). The temple is about 10 minutes walk from the station (turn right as you exit and go uphill). The whole journey will cost you ￥4,740 from Kyoto, ￥5,480 from Nagoya, and ￥13,950 from Tokyo.