After Tojinbo, Fukui prefecture is home of another sight out of the Heisei 100 landscapes list. Eihei-ji temple, one of the two main temples of Buddhist Soto sect, is a very special one. A huge complex of nearly 70 buildings deep in the mountains, with beautiful wooden corridors in between the several halls and living spaces, to prevent the monks daily life from being disturbed by heavy snowfalls. The visit is thus to be made without shoes. About 200 monks live here yearly and are practicing Dogen Zenji zazen, founded in 1228.
Visitors, either tourists or travelers with a special interest in Buddhism, are likely to be impressed by Eihei-ji (open everyday from 4AM to 5PM in summer and 5:30AM to 4:30PM in winter; 500 yen), just like we were! Whereas by the views of the temple, the sight of the living monks or the endless wooden corridors. The whole offers beautiful contrast between the inside and outside of the building, along gardens and natural light.
The temple visit begin with Sanshokaku, a huge reception hall whose ceiling is covered by 230 paintings by 144 different artists. Most of the visitors there are keeping their eyes up for a long time, as according to the tradition, if you are able to find three different animals (with the exception of birds) on five paintings, your wish will come true.
As nearly 200 monks are living in Eihei-ji, they are often to be seen in the corridors. Sometimes on their way to Buddhist ceremonies (photos are then forbidden) in Joyoden hall – which is Dogen Zenji mausoleum – or sometimes carrying pots from the kitchen to the dining hall.
How to get there?
Going to Fukui city, the main city of Fukui prefecture, is quite easy either by train (JR Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara then JR Shirasagi line – 14000 yen and 3h50) or highway bus (from 5000 yen for a 8 hours journey beginning in Shinjuku Expressway bus terminal).
From Fukui to Eihei-ji, two options are available. Direct buses are running hourly from Fukui station to the temple (30 minutes; 720 yen). The alternative is to first travel by train to Eheiji-guchi station (25 minutes; 450 yen) in order to catch another bus for a short 10 minutes ride (410 yen).