Cleanse Yourself Inside Out: Zen Life in Tokyo
In the bustling lifestyle of the 21st century, many Tokyoites are finding the balance point between busy urban life and natural relaxation for survival. It may sound contradictory to find an organic lifestyle in Tokyo, one of the largest and futuristic cities in the world, but Tokyo’s dining scenes are largely shifting to simple and less elaborate ingredients. Food and quality conscious Tokyoites are choosing organic food for better culinary experience and lifestyle these days, making already healthy Japanese meals even tastier and healthier.
Zen Meditation in Tokyo
A lot of people visit Japan seeking Japan’s unique Zen meditation for a calm mind. Zen has been developed and practiced at Buddhist temples, and some of them in Tokyo also provide Zen sessions. Just like the quiet and calm nature around many historic Zen temples in Kyoto, Nara and other areas far from big cities, Tokyo’s temples are also the place to go to calm and refresh your mind.
A little over an hour ride on the commuter train from central Tokyo takes you to Mt. Mitake, a 3,048 feet high mountain in western Tokyo. Opened in 90 B.C. as the largest holy ground in eastern Japan, this mountain has been Zen monk’s meditation location, and the monk’s accommodation facilities are now serving the general public. These chalets still carry traditional monk-style hospitality such as organic meals, brown rice and seasonal vegetables. The stay in the chalets already relaxes visitors from busy urban life, but the mountain has the perfect environment for Zen meditations.
Komadori-Sanso (http://www.hkr.ne.jp/~komadori/komadori.html) chalet awaits anybody looking for a place to unwind. This chalet used to serve as an accommodation facility for monks who came to Mt. Mitake for meditation, and today opens its door to those who look for the same experience. The owner offers different meditation sessions such as the water fall meditation program with a one night stay at the chalet and two meals and the pilgrimage trekking tour which includes a one-night stay and three meals. Their cedar bathtub is made by one of a few craftsmen in Osaka, contributing to the chalet’s three-day weight loss session with the goal of losing 4 pounds.
Another historic chalet is Seizan-so: In addition to meditation sessions, there are also traditional Japanese music performances in the chalet for free. Staying at these historic Zen accommodations is a quick getaway from Tokyo and extends your time in Tokyo for a spiritual experience.
Believe it or not, there is also a meditation spot among a popular residential neighborhood in Tokyo. Todoroki Valley is a strip of valley just 6 miles west of Shinjuku or Shibuya area. Until the end of the war, Todoroki and the vicinity still had stretches of rice fields between residential houses and occasional buildings. Although the post war development extended Tokyo’s residential density to Todoroki, a minute from the Todoroki train station is the valley that has remained untouched and has become Tokyoites’ secret sanctuary. The valley has a small Shinto Inari Shrine, by which young monks meditate at a waterfall. Since the valley is narrow, it shuts out city noises and the water drops echoe in the valley and creates a natural sanctuary. The valley is managed as a park, and there is no organized meditation session, but is a very hidden getaway just a 15 minute train ride from the glittering Shibuya station.
Satisfy Your Appetite with Zen Cuisine
Meditation cleanses your inner mind, and just like Zen monks used to do, the appetite needs to be cleansed as well. Buddhist monks are not allowed to kill animals, therefore their meals are prepared with vegan menus. Known as Shojin-Ryori, this traditional vegetarian cuisine is completely accepted by the general public, and has become one of the most popular styles of Japanese cuisine.
Teran is a specialized Shojin-Ryori cooking program at a 350-year-old temple in Akasaka, a quarter between multiple busy business districts in central Tokyo. Through the cooking session, using seasonal ingredients and traditional tableware, Teran introduces participants to Japanese tradition and culture, and teaches them the Shojin style of mutual appreciation between cookers and eaters. This eventually generates a self-nurturing ability to maintain balance in daily life. The unique cooking workshop is available at Jokokuji Temple, located in a small quiet woody block behind the US Embassy in Tokyo.
http://akasaka-teran.net/ (Japanese only) 1-11-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Not far from the US Embassy, Kamiyacho area also has a hidden restaurant which specializes in Shojin style cuisine. Daigo restaurant is in a commercial building adjacent to the historic Atago Shrine on a woody block, which creates perfect calm air for formal Zen dining. Taking advantage of the ground floor location, each private dining room overlooks a beautiful Japanese garden attached to the building compound, and the interior is decorated in the traditional Sukiya-style. The restaurant is a hidden surprise with its peaceful interior and perfect Japanese garden, considering that the location is right at the foot of Tokyo Tower, the embassy neighborhood with shiny skyscraper of hotels large corporations. While your mind is healed in the atmosphere, their authentic Shojin style cuisine satisfies your appetite with superior ingredients and soothes your body and soul. (http://www.atago-daigo.com/main.html Japanese only)
Tokyo’s fast-paced restaurant scenes take “green” as the keyword: The recent culinary trend is largely shifting to superior ingredients, in tandem with the attention to the environment and ecology, organic food is highly respected.
Roppongi, a busy commercial district in central Tokyo, offers a place to appreciate Japan’s high-quality organic vegetables and agricultural products: A young generation of farm families founded Roppongi Farm to produce Japan’s superior agricultural products as well as healthy organic dishes. The chef, also from a farmer’s family, picks ingredients from particular regions for purely organic dishes in the middle of the cosmopolitan city. This restaurant is the collaboration of a network of a young generation of farmers and consumers who look for organic ingredients even in the heart of Tokyo. Roppongi Farm offers calm farm air to Tokyoites in this super modern and fashionable area.
http://www.roppongi-nouen.jp/ (Japanese only)
11 West 42nd Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10036
TEL: 212-757-5640 www.japantravelinfo.com