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Online Virtual Tour

Learn The Essence Of Zazen Meditation - Zen Buddhism

Learn Zazen meditation from a Japanese Zen Buddhist monk! In our online tour, we visited Ganjyouji Temple, Soto school of Zen Buddhism, Yamaguchi, Japan. In this article, you will learn the essence of Zazen meditation taught by the chief monk at Ganjoji Temple. You can also visit the temple for experiences such as Zen meditation (Zazen) and sutra copying (Shakyo).

Thank you so much for your articipation!

We had almost 500 people in total joined our online virtual tour from all over the world! We appreciate your participation in the tour and we will look forward to seeing you again soon!

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Again, thank you for being a part of the tour. We hope you enjoyed the tour as much as we did!

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Experience Zazen with a Zen master!

Zazen is sitting meditation which is a meditative discipline and the primary practice of the Zen Buddhist.

Ganjouji Temple is part of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, located in Mine-city, Yamaguchi, Japan.

Built in the Meiji period, Ganjouji Temple's main hall has always offered the community and visitors temple experiences such as Zen meditation (Zazen) and sutra copying (Shakyo).

As its mission to be “Yorisoi-Dera, a temple that’s there for people,” Ganjouji Temple serves people in the community as a place to gather and share their energy to have a better day tomorrow.

On this tour, Mr. Minami explained the Zazen meditation in a quick version.


What is Soto-school Zazen?

It is said that the zazen posture is the same posture as Buddha, the founder of Buddhism when he attained his “enlightenment” under the Budhi Tree. traveled across China to share buddha’s teachings, and the Zazen practice eventually traveled to Japan. Buddha said that our body and mind are connected.

Sound mind in sound body.

Stable mind in stable body.

Peaceful mind in peaceful body.

So what is the “stable body”?

Now we understand that to attain a sound and peaceful mind, we need to stabilize our bodies first. Here, a stable body means “to stop movement.”

  • NOT using foot

  • NOT using hands

  • NOT using mouth, aka NOT using language

Hence why zazen is considered a silent type of meditation. On the contrary, yoga is considered to be a rather active type of meditation.

What are the basics of Zazen?

The basics of Zazen consist of three parts 1)control body, 2) control posture, 3) control breath. 

  1. Body - there are two positions - a full and a half lotus, and you can choose either of them. 

  2. Posture - first draw in your chin, straighten your back and focus on the abdomen to sit comfortably.

  3. Breath - Breath = my mind (??) breathing from the nose, not the mouth. Exhale first from the mouth and inhale from the nose.  Next is to exhale and inhale from the nose repeatedly.

Part 1: Control Body

Before starting zazen meditation, let’s learn about Zazen posture.

  1. Stabilize lower body

    There are two sitting positions. You may choose depending on your comfortableness. If you have trouble setting down on the floor, try to find a position where you feel grounded.

    • Half Lotus:

      sitting position with legs crossed and laying on the floor in front.

    • Full Lotus:

      sitting position with legs crossed and resting on top of each thigh.

Zazen Meditation Full Lotus
Zazen Meditation Half Lotus
  1. Controlling your posture

    1. Draw in your chin

    2. Straighten your lower back

    3. Concentrate on the abdomen

  2. Eye Position

    Rest your eyes while keeping them slightly open. Not perfectly open nor perfectly closed. Drop your eyes about to a 45degree angle softly gaze at the floor in front of you.

Part 2: Control Breath

Mr. Minami used the Kanji letter for the word “breath” to explain the importance of breathing.

Zazen Meditation Breath - Iki

In Japanese kanji letters, the word breath is “息” - iki. When you look at the letter closely, you may notice the letter can be separated in the half, the top part 自, and the bottom part 心.

Zazen Meditation Onore/Kokoro
  • 自- onore (self)

  • 心 - kokoro (mind, heart)

  • Therefore, Breath = Mind

When you’re doing breathing exercises, there are a few things to be mindful of. One is to breathe with your nose instead of your mouth. Another thing is to start by exhaling. Now we learned the basics of zazen meditation, let’s try it!

  1. Exhale for 8second from your nose

  2. Inhale for 4second from your nose

  3. Repeat 1&2

    After the meditation

  4. Relax and stretch your body to slowly break your zazen posture
    (stretch your neck & shoulder and shake off your legs)

Kyousaku (警策)

Kyosaku is a flat wooden stick used during periods of meditation to remedy lapses of concentration or posture. When you need to refocus your attention, since you are not using words during the Zazen meditation, you will do the Gasho pose to signal the monk. Gasho(合掌) refers to a pose or an act of pressing your hands together in front of your chest. You may have seen this pose in many cultures, especially the ones with Buddhism influences.

Although it may look painful, this is not meant to be a form of punishment. Also, the pain level is said to be tolerable for most people. But as Mr. Minami says, the level of pain could vary depending on the person, due to their condition. You may control the frequency of Kyosaku by simply controlling the timing of Gasho on your own.

Zazen Meditation Kyosaku

When is a good time to do Zazen meditation? (or meditation in general?)

Mr. Minami recommends doing meditation twice a day. Once early in the morning when you wake up, and another time in the evening before you go to sleep.

Is Zazen meditation a common practice in Japan?

Although many people know about Zazen and its form, the practice itself was only common among Zen Buddhism monks, according to Mr. Minami.

However, according to Mr. Minami, there are many more people who are interested in the benefits of Zazen meditation nowadays, especially since the pandemic of covid-19.

Do you offer Zazen meditation workshop?

Yes, Ganjouji Temple offers a full version of the Zazen meditation workshop.

Ganjouji Temple Official Website:

If you would like our assistance with booking or accommodating your own customized itinerary, please contact us via inquiry form.

Do you offer a lodging experience at Ganjouji Temple?

Unfortunately, the temple lodging option is not available at Ganjouji Temple. There is a local Minshuku nearby that can accommodate your stay while you explore the Ganjouji Temple and the local area!