Shōganji Zen Retreat

Experience authentic Zen temple life in rural Japan


Shōganji Zen Retreat

Onsite Guest Orientation

imageWelcome to Shōganji Zen Retreat!

To familiarize you with your new surroundings at Shōganji temple we offer you this simple guide to understanding and participating in Japanese temple life. If you have any other questions or points that you think might be helpful, please let us know. Please pay special attention to notes labeled: * Essential Japanese Etiquette.
Other important guidelines are also marked with an asterisk ( * ).
Thanks for your participation!

Quick Reference:

5:30 – Wake up & chanting in main hall.

6:00 – “Zazen” meditation in main hall, 60 minutes.

7:00 – Tea time and/or personal time.

8:00 – Yoga, fitness practice, or early “samu”.

9:00 – “Samu” or service to the temple. Help out around the retreat.

11:00 – Lunch preparation.

11:30 – Lunchtime.

12:30 – Activities and outings of your chioce.

17:00 – Dinner preparation.

17:30 – Dinner time.

18:30 – Evenings are flexible, relaxed and social.

21:00 – Quiet time. Turn off bright lights.


In Detail:

5:30 – Wake-up and freshen-up in preparation for 6:00am meditation. 30 minutes of chanting by Jiho in the main hall as guests arrive for meditation. We strongly recommend avoiding any strong caffeinated beverages or any food whatsoever until after meditation. We suggest weak tea or water only.

6:00 – Zazen, sitting meditation 60 minutes. (strongly encouraged for all guests) Form and duration of meditation is flexible and accommodating. Our approach is “just try it” and we welcome all levels of experience. For some the challenge may be to just try informal meditation for a short time each day, for others it may be to develop strict form and extend one’s endurance.  For those who find traditional cross-legged sitting form difficult, we have numerous cushion options, stools, chairs, and a couch available to you.
Our 60 minute Zazen meditation sequence is as follows:
– 30 minutes of meditation.
– 5-minute optional silent break signalled by bell.
Optionally use this time to stretch, reposition, or use the bathroom if needed.
Or challenge yourself and remain in form for the full hour.
– 25 minutes additional meditation. If leaving during the break, please don’t be late returning.

7:00 – Tea time, social time in the kitchen, and/or personal time (bathing, reading, rest, etc.) NO breakfast is suggested based on the NISHI HEALTH SYSTEM and other evidence (see website for more links and information).

8:00 – Options:
1) Independent yoga or fitness practice.
2) Yoga and/or Qi Gong with Pierre (when available).
3) Early Samu, see below…

9:00 – “Samu” or service to the temple. Help out in our large vegetable garden, or wild-harvest special seasonal foods from around the property such as mushrooms, gingko nuts, or bamboo shoots; help out with temple and property maintenance, learn traditional food preparation, etc. Traditionally Samu is slow, quiet, meditative “help around the temple” and typically is part of monastic life in Japan. Here at Shōganji , Samu is often social and learning oriented, but can be more traditional, meditative, and solitary if you prefer. Just ask. We suggest at least one hour of Samu each morning. Your contribution and participation is appreciated!

11:00 – Lunch preparation. Get cleaned up for lunch and/or help us prepare lunch.

11:30 – Lunch time. Your participation is encouraged and appreciated.  Learn some Japanese cooking tips or pick some fresh items from the garden. And, please, help out with the dishes at the end of the meal!

12:30 – Afternoons are flexible and unscheduled but may include independent activities, activities with your host, or activities organized between yourself and other guests. sightseeing, shopping, walks, runs, Yoga, swimming, other exercise, Tai Chi, trips into nearby towns, visits to area Onsen (hot-spring bathing), additional meditation/Zen teaching, and more. Jiho is a very engaged host, open to suggestions, and wants you to get the most out of your time here. Excursions by car with Jiho are common. Alternately you can explore independently or organize something with the other guests.

17:00 – Dinner preparation.

17:30 – Dinner time. Once again, your participation is encouraged and appreciated.

18:30 – Evenings are flexible, relaxed and social. Many guests may also take this time to read, do an additional evening meditation, bathe, or any other activity of your choice.

21:00 – Quiet time. Turn off bright lights. Unless there’s a party…

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Guidelines and Etiquette:


Feet and Footware

Outdoor shoes are removed and left in the entrance area.

Very dirty footware should be left outside.

* Essential Japanese Etiquette: Shoes are lined-up and organized in the entryway! Notice how shoes are lined-up in the entrance. This is an important tradition that says a lot about a Japanese household, especially a temple.

“Tatami” or “tatami mats”are the panels of woven natural fiber floor materials seen throughout the retreat. Bare feet or socks should be worn in any area with tatami. Do not wear slippers or any kind of outdoor shoes on the tatami. Make an effort to keep the tatami clean. Use caution with your luggage on the tatami. Wheels, zippers, and buckles may damage or dirty the tatami.

In other indoor areas, without tatami, such as the kitchen, slippers may be worn if you wish.

Please wash your feet outside if they are dirty, for example, after going to the beach.

Vacuum cleaners found at the retreat are generally for the tatami only. Do not use the vacuum cleaners on other types of flooring or in entranceways.

* Please vacuum your room at least once a week!

Consider helping out with some extra vacuuming around the retreat. This is a good “samu” activity for a rainy day.



* There are many separate garbage cans in the kitchen which are clearly labelled. There is also a compost bucket near the kitchen sink for any organic waste. It is important to keep all these items separate. Please familiarize yourself with the different garbage repositories. If you are not sure about something please ask.



Shower controls are precise and do not require force.

If something is not working for you, please ask us how to use the controls correctly.

Please do not take very long showers. Please consider turning down the water flow, turning down the water temperature, or turning the shower off completely during activities such as shaving or soaping up. Please help us reduce water and energy consumption.

If the shower water does not become hot, turn on the power switch (the green button), on the wall panel next to the clothes washing machine.

Please be sure the water is completely turned off when you finish.

(The power switch on the wall panel next to the washer can be left on.)

Please do not leave any personal items, used towels, or washcloths in the shower room.

Wood-fired bathtub

* One should wash and shower thoroughly before getting into the bath itself as the bathwater is shared.

If the water needs heating, ask for help making a fire. Do not build a fire on your own.

The water will take a couple of hours to heat up completely. It is safer to wait until the fire is out before you get into the tub as the tub itself may be very hot. If the bath water is too hot add cold water to the bath from the tap above it.

Onsen visits

Outings to “onsen” or natural hot spring bath houses in the area are frequent, typically every other day. Bring a large towel to dry off with, a small one to wash with.

* Wash yourself thoroughly using the showers before entering any of the hot spring pools at an onsen.

* Do not place any items, such as washcloths or soap, in the onsen hot spring pools. Bathing suits are not permitted! Only your clean naked body goes into the hot spring pools. (Don’t worry, most onsen are gender segregated.)

Cover any tattoos you have as you enter an onsen at the front desk area. Some onsen do not officially allow tattooed people to enter. This rule is unlikely to be enforced once inside, however, and is more a position of tradition and “public face” than an actual enforced rule. This is due to old-fashioned negative ideas about tattooed people in Japanese society.


Other Facilities

Washing-up and brushing teeth is generally done at the large sink near the clothes washing machine, since there is a hot water tap there. You may keep your toothbrush there in a cup (from the kitchen) if you wish. Please return the cup to the kitchen and wash it thoroughly at the end of your stay!

The retreat has both western-style upright toilets and Japanese squat toilets.

The temple is equipped with one washing machine for clothing. It is preferable to do laundry on sunny days, in the morning, as we do not have a dryer. Laundry is hung outside to dry.



Meal time is a collective experience. Feel free to make special requests for food, come grocery shopping, and participate in cooking. Your active participation is encouraged and appreciated.  Learn some Japanese cooking tips or pick some fresh items from the garden. And, please, help out with the dishes at the end of the meal!

* Please try to keep wasted food to a minimum

* Essential Japanese Etiquette: Rice, in particular, must not go to waste! This is a tradition in Buddhist temples and monasteries. No rice should be left in your bowl.


Please make sure you have a washable sheet between your body and the futon bedding on the bottom and a sheet between your body and the heavier blanket on top. While sheets and pillow cases are freshly washed for each guest, heavier bedding is washed less frequently. Please help us keep these items clean.



Kōzaki Station to and from Shōganji Zen Retreat:

Kōzaki Station is your gateway to the rest of the rail system and the closest train station to the retreat.
We always prefer to give you a ride.  If that’s not possible we strongly suggest you take a taxi if you have luggage or are arriving at the retreat for the first time.
Alternately if you are already settled in at the retreat and you want to do some exploring on your own, its a very nice walk between the retreat and Kōzaki station, about 1 hour each way. Alternately, you can also take the local bus.
Wakling this route?  An important warning …
If you walk this route its essential to take the walking path indicated on the map below, and please use extreme caution navigating the short sections where you have to walk on, or cross, the main road.  If you zoom in on the map you will see that most of the route is a separate walking path that is situated well away from the main road. Its a little hard to find and it would be best if you had live navigation on your phone as you discover this slightly obscure route for the first time. That said, its a lovely walk in a lush semi-rural setting, with modest traditional homes, friendly locals, and many gardens and small farming operations.
Zoom in on the map below to see with precision where the walking route is separate from the main road:

Local Bus Schedules from the retreat/
Ojuki village <> Kozaki station:
Buses from the bus stop on the main road near the retreat to Kozaki station.
Busses from Kozaki station to Ojuki village where Shoganji is located.
note that on public holidays Saturday schedule applies.

Hi, I’m Pierre Black, Zen Retreat’s Online Coordinator.
I’m here to answer all of your questions regarding your stay at Zen Retreat.
Some people may prefer a more detailed and personalized approach.
If that’s you, we can arrange an in-depth video session together HERE.


Important note: By booking a stay at Shōganji Zen Retreat and choosing to stay at Shōganji Zen Retreat you agree to and consent to the waiver of liability statement found HERE.

Shōganji Zen Buddhist Temple, 269 Shūki, Ōita-shi, Ōita-ken, 879-2115, JAPAN. • email:

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