Aug. 10, 2017 UPDATE

Sutra Copying Experience

- 写経体験 -
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Try your calligraphy skills and concentration at a quiet temple in Kyoto
Sutra copying in Buddhism means hand-copying important scripture. Before the invention of the writing press, this was also a means of propagating Buddhism, but sutra copying was also thought to be a merit, which is also why sutra copying is still a part of the training of Buddhist priests. Recently, many temples offer the laymen a chance to try their hand at sutra copying too. One of these temples is the sub-temple of Kennin-ji, Ryosoku-in, where they hold sutra copying every day, and you can concentrate in quiet and just copy the Chinese characters. It’s surprisingly easy to do even if you know no Japanese since you have such a thin sheet of paper that you can see the characters under it. There is no time-limit so you don’t need to hurry. It is not considered important how well you write; what’s important is how dedicated you are. I hope that you will have a chance to try sutra copying at Ryosoku-in, a sub-temple of the head temple of a Zen sect of Buddhism, Kennin-ji Temple.
Concentrate on sutra copying
Concentrate on sutra copying
After you go into the sutra copying room, a person from the temple explains how you should do sutra copying. After this, you should take some fragrant zuko-powder on your hands, rub them together, and then smell them, put your hands together in a Buddhist praying position, and after this start copying the sutra. After you have finished writing, put your hands together again. The sutra copy you made will be enshrined at the tutelary temple of Ryosoku-in, Bishamon-do, which in turn enshrines Bishamon, a Buddhist deity.
Zuko powder
Zuko powder
Before doing sutra copying, you put this fragrant powder on your hands. You put some of the powder on your palm and then rub your hands together, and then smell your hands: the fragrant smell of zuko will make you feel refreshed, both body and soul.
Write your wish
3Good Experiences
Write your wish
After you have finished copying the sutra, you have a column on it where you can write your wish. It is said that this wish will become true when the sutra-copy is enshrined at the temple. You can, of course, write your wish in any language.
See the beautiful garden
4Good Experiences
See the beautiful garden
After you finish copying your sutra, you can take a look around the garden of the temple. The garden is not normally open to the public, but few times a year they have a special event where anyone can go see the garden, as long as they pay the entrance fee. In early summer you can see the white flowers known as Chinese lizard’s tail bloom in the garden, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Manner & Tips
- Manner & Tips -

Ryosoku-in is inside the premises of Kennin-ji Temple. After you in through the gate of Kennin-ji, you will see this narrow path. Ryosoku-in is on the left if you keep walking straight. If there is no one at the reception, use the intercom.

The sutra copying experience is held every day from 11 a.m. and you need to be at the temple before 10:50 a.m. At max, 8 people can join one session. You can make a reservation online, and you don’t need to take anything with you when you go to the temple.

3.5 experience3.8 access4.3 photogenic2.5
Overseas Tourist-Friendly
3.7 experience4.0 access4.0 photogenic3.0
Sutra copying is something you do without thinking of anything, in a state of “nothingness,” so after you are done, you will feel refreshed. When traveling, many of us are actually really busy, so this sutra copying experience is the perfect way to calm down. At Ryosoku-in they also have Zazen meditation and meditation yoga experiences which you can also take part in if you wish to.
3.3 experience3.5 access4.5 photogenic2.0
The sutra copying experience is not for those who don't have patience, but then on the other hand, it may be good for making you more patient. Some prior knowledge of Chinese characters is useful, but as you are copying them from a sheet, you can also do sutra copying even if you don't know any Japanese nor Chinese. As an experience, it is something soothing, and something that makes you forget all about earthly pleasures.
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Sutra Copying Experience / 写経体験
Category Cultural Experience
Phone +81 75-561-3216 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Address 591 Komatsu-cho 4-chome, Yamato Ojidori Shijo Sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0811
Directions The temple is a 7-minute walk from Keihan Gion-Shijo Station or a 10-minute walk from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station.
Open Hours Every day from 11 a.m.
Reservations -
Closed Open every day.
Price range
1000 yen
Credit cards -
Overseas Tourist-Friendly
This temple is in the Gion area so access to it is easy. The sutra copying can be reserved online, so it should be easy to participate in.
Information Japanese and machine translated.
Lanuages spoken Only Japanese, but one of the priests of the temple can speak English, though he is not always at the temple.

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