Kencho-ji and A Zen Beating

Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2009 | 2 comments

       Next up in Kamakura was Kencho-ji, one of the largest and more crowded temples. It's probably my favorite one there though, because if you hike far enough from the main gate, it becomes quite secluded and is really pretty peaceful. Lots of Japanese girls have high heels permanently attached to their feet, so they can only venture so far on uneven ground. This means that the front part of this complex with the main temples is always swarming with people, but the crowd thins out quite a bit by the time you've climbed the stairs at the very back of the grounds.
  This time, however, the main temple turned out to be my favorite part, due to the fact that they were having a Za-Zen practice going on there. I don't know much about Za-Zen and haven't bothered to look anything up yet, but basically it's the type of Zen Buddhism practice where people have to sit in a meditative state, not moving. If they move, some monk with a big stick hits them. No joke. It makes this great bit WHAPPING sound, too! Yuki swears up and down that it doesn't actually hurt, or so at least people say. We don't know anyone who's ever participated in it.
  The one that was going on at the temple that day was for foreigners, and we must've just missed the starting time. Not that I was about to try and sit through that torture anyway! I'm about as calm as a squirrel on crack, plus my legs seriously NEED movement. This isn't a mental thing, I swear. They're long, and they get all antsy and achey if I don't move enough every day. I think it's some variation of restless leg syndrome, who knows. There's been many a time on various trans-continental flights that I've woken the person in front of me up by accidentally kicking their seat as I myself start to doze off.
  So, as I was saying. As luck would have it, we got to witness a bunch of foreigners going through Zen boot camp. I only noticed after I'd been clicking away for a while that there was a big sign saying (in English)  'NO PICTURES', but hey, at least the monk didn't try to come over and whap me with the big stick! I was sort of hoping to see a Japanese Za-Zen session, but Andrew and I got to thinking that maybe us foreigners are the only ones stupid enough to try this sort of thing any more??

                     Speak softly, and carry a big stick!!

  Look carefully: you can see the stick coming down on this old guy's head. He really didn't seem to mind it at all, though! 'Thank you, sir! May I have another!'

             Such a peaceful view...if it hadn't been accompanied by the whapping sound of sticks hitting flesh, that is

                                 Near the top, at the back of the temple complex

              One could almost hear the faint sounds of the Za-Zen beating wafting up from below


Russell Albin said...

Really cool. I can only imagine that sound of the WHAP as it hits your head... ha ha ha. Hopefully one day I can get to Japan. さよなら。

Kristel said...

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this one. =)
How many times has your younger brother visited here? I'm sure that he's better at Japanese than I am!
I really hope that you can make it over some time, too---it's an amazing country!