Translated by Shinji Takaramura
【OKAYAMA】Out-of-the-Way Place: At Sogenji Temple, Most of the Trainee Monks Came From Abroad
Written by Yu Aoki
Okayama is famous for the Korakuen Garden and Kurashiki City, but I would like to recommend the Sogenji Temple. This is an “out-of–the-way” place. When I first visited Sogenji, that phrase came to my mind.
From Okayama Station, it takes about 20 minutes by bus to reach Sogenji, where 20 or so foreign trainee monks reside. The chief priest, his deputy, and one trainee monk, are the only Japanese. Strolling in the garden, you are likely to hear English rather than Japanese. Most of the time, a phone call to Sogenji will be answered by a non-Japanese.
While the number of foreign trainees is certainly unique, the temple itself is very attractive.
Wandering into Sogenji
Take the Saidaiji-bound bus from JR Okayama Station, get off at the Sogenji bus stop, and walk for about five minutes.
It's a straight line from the street to Sogenji. Keep on walking.
You start to feel like you’re wandering, rather than proceeding to a destination.
The further you go, the surrounding noise recedes, and the atmosphere becomes different from that of everyday life.
This photograph was taken in the middle of September. The maple is starting to turn red.
I visited Sogenji at twilight, and the scenery was beautiful.
Finally, you reach the sanctuary. The charm of this temple goes far beyond the building.
The entrance to the garden is on the right. The admission is 100 yen for adults, 50 yen for children, and you put it in this wooden box.
There is a bench by the pond.
The surrounding scenery is reflected on the pond surface, and that sight adds to its beauty.
Walk a little further, and you’ll find a rock garden.
Further on, there is a bamboo thicket…
…which makes you want to look up.
The Reason Monks Come to Sogenji from Abroad
Photo by Roland Schmid
Currently, there are 20 or so training monks from abroad at Sogenji, mainly from Porland and USA. The average training period is three to four years, but some stay for over 30 years.The chief priest of Sogenji once preached abroad, which was the cause for the foreign monks to come to the temple, and the monks who trained here returned to their homelands to spread the faith.Why do foreign monks gather at Sogenji? The chief priest’s personality must be one of the reasons, but I think the temple itself has the power to attract people.This is an off-the-way place in Okayama. There were many things that could not be photographed, and I believe that those who visit the temple will be surprised. If you have the chance to go to Okayama, you must visit Sogenji.
Address: 1069, Maruyama, Naka-ku, Okayama City, Okayama
Opening Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed Days: No Closed Days
Wi-Fi: Not Available
Station: Okayama Station(JR Sanyo Main Line)
Access: Take the Ryobi bus bound for Saidaiji, and get off at the Sogenji bus stop. It is a five minute walk to the temple from there.
Phone Number: 086-277-8226