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Visiting Saiho-ji

Saiho-ji Gate Tokyo Japan

©2004 Reiki Net


Finding Your Way

I am told by those who speak Japanese that Saiho-ji means "West District Temple" in Japanese or "Western Temple".

I've had the pleasure of visiting Saiho Temple (Saiho-ji in Japanese) three times. It was a wonderful experience and I hope I will have many other chances to visit.

If you are in Tokyo, you should definitely make the trip.

There are three things you should know before you go.

First, there is not the same precision in street addresses in Japan as there is in the United States or Europe. That is, even with an address, it is sometimes difficult to find one's destination. Therefore, it is very important then to have a map or precise set of directions. I have not included my own instructions here for two reasons.

  1. There are several websites with detailed visiting instructions, supported by pictures of buildings and other landmarks along the way. Here's a very good set from Threshold Reiki in Canada.

  2. Also, as is perhaps emblematic of my spiritual path, my route to Saiho-ji was circuitous and is, therefore, not the most direct, though it remains my favorite. On my first visit I spent a good amount of time wandering around and asking for directions. No mean feat as knowledge of English is not widespread. I had a short note in Japanese prepared by a colleague asking for assistance to go to the temple. (Click here for a copy). At one point, when I was literally one block from the destination, I showed my note to a taxi driver who consulted a taxi driver's "bible" of maps and told me I was in the wrong district. (There are several Saiho-ji's in Tokyo as I had been warned by my colleague.) Finally a monk at another nearby temple drew me a map and, with the assistance of a nice lady from a convenience store, I eventually found my way.

Second, there is not a lot of knowledge about Usui-sensei or Reiki among the average Japanese person. So the temple is not a well-known local "attraction". Perhaps, since my last visit, local knowledge of the temple has increased with more and more foreigners descending on the neighborhood.

Third, when my Japanese colleague telephoned the temple office prior to my visit, she was told that Saiho-ji has nothing to do with Reiki. I did, however, receive a nice welcome when I finally arrived. I did not have to say much. I was clearly a foreigner and the only reason a foreigner would be visiting was apparent. So I was promptly shown the way to Usui-sensei's memorial. My own sense is that while the temple is willing to let the Reiki community visit, they are not going to be happy with any behavior they find disrespectful.

Respecting Saiho-ji

Saiho-ji is an active temple, not a museum or theme park. There are worshippers and many other family graves. Visitors should remember they are guests and that the average Japanese is perplexed by our interest in Usui-sensei. So be properly respectful of those to whom this sacred space belongs. Here are some thoughts on proper etiquette.

There are time honored protocols in Japan for visiting a grave. These involve cleaning the grave by removing any dead flowers, etc. and leaving a small offering of flowers or food and burning incense, etc. to the spirit of the deceased. Of course, they are not mandatory but would be a nice gesture. You should use your own judgment if such behavior might in any way offend someone.

Click here for an Internet visit to Saiho-ji.

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