Staying at Antaiji

Antaiji is looking for serious, competent Zen practitioners who seek a long term stay in a Japanese monastery. If you can not commit to a long term stay, you have the opportunity to participate in our Zen retreat from July 6th through 11th 2017. Information and application for the 5-day retreat is possible through our contact page.

Conditions for being a long term resident:

  • Willing to commit to stay for a minimum of three years.
  • Between 18 and 40 years of age, in healthy condition, and able to do hard manual labor.
  • The ability to speak and read a reasonable amount of Japanese (at least level 4 of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test JLPT).

Staying as an aspirant

We expect aspirants to stay for a probation period of 80 days. After that you and the rest of the community can evaluate whether a long term stay is advisable. Aspirants can arrive at Antaiji at four dates during the year only: March 26th, April 26th, August 26th or September 26.

Please be aware that Antaiji cannot take any responsibility for accidents, injuries or any other damage whatsoever to your physical or mental health which might occur during your stay here. The responsibility for your life and health, as well as your practice in general, is completely your own.

Antaiji is supported solely by donations. We have no parish and receive no money from the Soto sect. It is up to you to decide if you want to contribute financially to our practice.

If possible, bring your own rain boots and rain gear, as we have no big sizes here. Although we have no fixed age restrictions for short term visitors, the practice is recommended for people of younger age. Physical labor outside (working the fields, cutting trees etc.) can take place in heavy weather and is physically demanding. Zazen is usually practiced in the full or half lotus position (i.e. sitting on a cushion with crossed legs). During sesshin, we spend a total of 15 hours in this position. On regular days, we spent 4 hours in zazen. Meals and tea meetings are performed in seiza (a traditional Japanese kneeling position).  Please try to get used to these sitting positions before you come. Yoga exercises can help. Once you are at Antaiji, though, you won’t have much time for stretching exercises.

The hunters in the village close to Antaiji donate wild boar and deer to the monastery. Therefore not all meals are vegetarian. You will be expected to eat everything in your bowls, regardless of whether or not you like the food (even fish or meat products). The rules for eating are complicated, and the food is usually eaten very fast, which might confuse you in the beginning. It is not allowed to eat or drink in the individual rooms between meals.

We accept both men and women in Antaiji, but no couples (unless both partners come here as separate individuals and agree to suspend their relationship for the duration of the stay). Each person must apply individually, and must come to Antaiji because he or she is really aspiring to a long term stay, not just because his or her partner also participatse.

A basic knowledge of Japanese language and culture in general is essential, for the simple reason that this is Japan and not everyone here speaks English. Communication is important in a community where everyone aspires to perform all of the activities of the day together harmoniously. If you don’t speak the language, you will have to try to listen all the more receptively in order to understand what others are trying to communicate to you. Non-verbal communication is also a particularly important part of Japanese culture, so you should be prepared to hone your attention in that realm as well.

The community is structured hierarchically, and everyone is expected to fit in.

Please read the schedules before you come, as they will give you an idea of some of the rules that regulate our life. Please keep in mind, though, that the reality that you find when you arrive here will always be different from the picture you have in your mind now.

If possible, take a look at the “Adult practice”-articles as well. They are written by Muho, the present abbot.

You might also want to check out this article by Gesshin Greenwood, an American nun who practiced Zen in Japan for several years: So You Want To Practice Zen In Japan?

Being a resident

After concluding their period as an aspirant successfully, residents are expected to either commit to staying for a minimum of three years, or once leave and return as a resident later.  
Being a resident means living at Antaiji all year round, although there is the possibility to take a break during the period between Rohatsu sesshin and the end of the New Year holiday.  The rest of the year, long term residents will be busy with zazen, agricultural and other work, and studies.

Residents do not have to pay for their stay, but they also receive no pocket money from the temple. Health insurance and other expenditures have to be covered by private begging tours during the winter break.

Long term residents should be somewhere between 18 and 40 years of age when they commit themselves.

Long term residents will not only spent long hours meditating, but will also share responsibilities in and around the temple, such as being cook, guest manager, answering phone calls, taking responsibility for vegetable and rice fields, doing repair and other mechanical work, driving and maintaining vehicles etc.

This means that it is not enough for you as a resident to be on some kind of inner quest. You should also have a keen interest in actively participating in the challenges of the outside world.

The reason we expect long term residents to stay for at least three years is that it takes at least one year to get an overview of all the tasks and responsibilities at the monastery. During the second year, residents deepen their understanding of how each of the tasks is connected to the others. They will learn not only how to use tools and machines, but also how to maintain and repair them. Usually it is not before the third year, though, that residents are not only able to take care of each of their own individual tasks and responsibilities, but also to teach and lead others in their practice.

It will be of great advantage if long term residents already have some of the following skills when they arrive:

  • Experience in cooking, preferably Japanese cooking.
  • Mechanical and carpenter skills.
  • Farming experience.
  • The ability to both use and maintain vehicles and machines, such as cars, trucks, tractors, chain saws, grass cutters, power shovels, bulldozers etc.

Admission procedures

Aspirants should preferably arrive right after winter. The earliest possible arrival date is April 6, and after that April 26. After the summer, we accept new arrivals on August 26 and September 26. Aspirants should arrive during early autumn at the latest. The large amount of snow in the winter makes it impossible for those without experience to travel to and from the monastery.

After sending your application by email, please wait for our reply and confirm your visit by email two or three days before your arrival.

Visa and travel Information

Visa regulations differ for each nation. Most visitors from Western countries receive a 90 days visa on arrival, which can sometimes be extended for another 90 days (this is only true for the following nationalities: Mexico, Ireland, England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein – July 2007). After this you will have to leave the country and can, if you wish, apply for a longer visa. For some nationalities it is possible to apply for a working holiday visa for a year, though there are age restrictions.  You can find the official visa regulations at the website of the Immigration Bureau, Japanese Ministry of Justice. We can’t help visitors whom we don’t know personally with their visa application before they come to Antaiji.

You may want to have a look at the provided directions or check the weather in Hamasaka. Antaiji lies about 330 meters higher than Hamasaka, so subtract 2° Celsius to get the approximate temperature. Temperatures inside the building are more or less the same as outside, including the winter months. Keep in mind that the humidity is very high.  It usually “feels” hotter in summer and colder in winter than it actually is.

If after reading the above you still feel like practicing at Antaiji, you can apply in English or Japanese to our guest manager.  You’ll find contact information here.