Zen temple III. Temple food and meditation.

The third part of our zen temple experience is posted almost exactly 2 years after the first two. We visited Zen temple in June of 2015 and now in July 2017. This is not your everyday temple stay. Some things were much easier (like complicated ritual of eating) and some were much more difficult (like meditation). We were just in a different state of mind.

If you’re new here: Fumonken is a zen temple in Kyoto, very close to the golden Kinkakuji temple. It’s not the Western type of zen where everything is relaxed and happy. It’s the military type of zen that is a bit strange at first but you feel getting very focused with the routine. You can read the introductory post here and the schedule here (it hasn’t changed).

Zen garden, Fumonken temple in Kyoto.

Food in the temple

In this temple you get to have 2 meals per day. Breakfast and dinner. Breakfast consists of two dishes, usually rice porridge and a side dish with pickles (or just two types of pickles). For dinner there’s usually rice, two side dishes and Japanese pickles. The food tastes amazing! Monk’s wife, Clara is a very good cook and I always (tried) to enjoy her food. There was just not enough time 🙂

The meal sequence

There is a very special order to eating your food in the temple but don’t worry, you are told what to do and it gets easy with a couple of meals. Just be aware that there are 3 rounds of food.

  • Osho-san starts with a prayer, Clara-san joins. First, everyone assembles their bowls and chopsticks while praying.
  • Then everyone takes rice (and later other dishes) but in a special order of people and before you take the food, you need to bow to it. You also have to take food in two helpings (so be sure to measure your portions as you need to eat everything) except the pickles which you take as much as you want in only the first round.
  • You take food in 2 helpings in that order in all dishes.
  • only at breakfast time there is a rice offering where you take a few rice grains (one hand left in prayer) and then circle this 3 times above your palm before putting it in a small offering bowl)
  • You bow and start with rice. WAIT! You start every round by taking your rice bowl with both hands and then take three smaller portions of rice and lay the bowl on the table. Now you can relax a bit.
  • Eat everything you have (except your pickles, which you need to portion for all three rounds)
  • You need to leave one pickle till the end.
  • Second and third round are the same as the first.
  • In the end you receive hot water in your rice bowl and you wash your dishes with water (and dry it with towel) and your last pickle. At breakfast time you make a 2/3 offering of water and drink the rest, at dinner you drink everything. There’s also a special order of assembling back dishes but it’s easy when you watch someone.

Cicada shell, Kyoto, Japan


This one is also quite different than what we’ve experienced in India or Thailand. Before you enter the meditation room you bow to the Buddha and then to the mat and then to the world (they’ll show you everything) and then you sit for meditation for 3 times for 24 minutes in the evening (2 times in the morning). You meditate with your eyes open, which was a new thing for me. Somehow it’s easier to focus but also harder if something is going on outside and your focus breaks. Meditation is always difficult if you don’t practice but I think even if you do it rarely it’s better than nothing.

We enjoyed our stay in Fumonken temple and we’ll be back for sure. Maybe in another two years 😀

If you’re interested in a temple stay, consider Fumonken temple in Kyoto. You can contact Osho-san directly and enquire if he has time (I think he only accepts visits from Thursday to Sunday).

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