A complex of over seventy buildings blending seamlessly with the forest Eihri-ji (永平寺; t 0776/63-3640; daily: May–Oct 9am–5pm, Nov–April 9am–4.30pm; adult/child ¥500/200) is home to some two-hundred shaven-headed monks. Established by the Zen master Dōgen Zenji in 1244, this serene temple in cedar-covered mountains is one of the two headquarters of Sōtō Zen Buddhism.
Located 10km northeast of Fukui (福井), less than an hour’s train ride south of Kanazawa, it’s easy to make a day-trip to the temple. Eihri-ji is closed periodically for special services, so it’s wise to check first with Fukui City Sightseeing Information (daily 9am–6pm; t 0776/21-6492, w www.fuku-e.com) or with the temple before setting off. Also make an advance reservation if you’d like to enjoy a vegetarian shōjin-ryōri meal as part of your visit.
From JR Fukui Station, the easiest way to reach Eihri-ji is by direct bus (¥720; 35min). Alternatively, hop on the local train to Eihei-ji Guchi Station, then either walk uphill for five minutes or take a bus or taxi.
Affiliates of a Sōtō Zen Buddhist organization can arrange to stay overnight here (¥8000) and participate in the monks’ daily routine, including cleaning duties and pre-dawn prayers and meditation; for serious devotees a four-day/three-night course (¥12,000) is also available. Details of how to apply can be found at w tinyurl.com/2ee2dk9.