The iEXPerience Program for iCLA’s exchange students focuses on experiential events beyond the classroom and enriching their experience studying abroad in Japan.
On Saturday, iCLA’s international exchange students visited Erinji Temple, one of Yamanashi’s most famous Zen temples. Erinji Temple houses many historical artifacts and architecture of historical significance on its temple grounds. It is famous for housing the grave of Takeda Shingen, a prominent warlord who ruled over the Yamanashi area during the Sengoku Period, as well as his 24 Generals. Over 450 years later, Takeda Shingen is still a culturally significant figure for Yamanashi people today. Erinji also houses a Nightingale Hallway, a scenic garden which was designed by Muso Soseki close to 700 years ago, and many other artifacts and architecture that are of historical and cultural significance.
The program began with an introductory lecture from Professors William Reed and Darren Ashmore. After arriving at Erinji, students were given a guided tour of the temple grounds by Erinji’s head priest, Furukawa Shuken. During the tour, students were able to see and experience the various important artifacts and architecture connected to Japan’s history of Zen Buddhism and Yamanashi’s cultural history.
On the way to Takeda Shingen’s grave, students were able to walk on the temple’s Nightingale Hallway – named as such because the floorboards cry like a nightingale when walked on to alert of intruders. Students were also able to look at one of Erinji’s cultural treasures up-close, the “Takeda Fudo-son”. The Takeda Fudo is a Fudō Myō-ō statue which is said to be designed in Takeda Shingen’s likeness. Students were also able to appreciate the temple garden designed by landscaper gardener Muso Soseki 700 years ago.
To conclude the tour, students walked through the absolute darkness of Tainai Meguri, a corridor which is designed to signify being inside the womb of a female Bodhisattva and being reborn when one emerges into the light from the other side.
After the tour, students had the chance to experience two Japanese traditional arts linked to Zen Buddhism, Japanese calligraphy and tea ceremony. Students practiced Japanese calligraphy under the guidance of iCLA Professor and professional calligrapher William Reed. While appreciating the serene scenery of the Erinji temple grounds, students copied the scripts of the Heart Sutra.
In the final part of the program, students gathered in the temple’s tea ceremony room, where the tea master explained the practices of tea ceremony, the important aspects of the tea ceremony room, and tea ceremony’s observations of the seasons and the natural world. To conclude the event, students enjoyed wagashi and matcha prepared by tea masters.
“I learnt so much about Buddhism as a concept as well as a practice. I especially liked the relationship between the practice and nature as co-existent even didactic.”Jasmine, iCLA Exchange Student
The iEXPerience event offered a unique study abroad experience for international exchange students to learn about the historical significance of Erinji Temple, its connection to Yamanashi’s long and ancient history, and the rich traditional cultures of Japanese calligraphy and tea ceremony that are linked to Zen Buddhism.
More photos from the event: