Hospitality in a Japanese Buddhist Temple

by Nicole, Japan outreach participant

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

On Tuesday morning, we took a walk right after breakfast to see a nearby Buddhist temple. On our way, we crossed a red bridge that spanned a creek, where numerous koi fish live. We threw food into the water, and the koi came in swarms, attempting to catch the food with their large, ugly-looking (sorry, koi!) mouths.

The koi is an important fish in Japanese culture, our guide explained to us, since they are a strong, hardy fish. They are featured on flags which are flown on Children's Day, because parents want their children to be strong like the koi.

After our fish-feeding adventure, we made our way to the temple, climbing up a couple rows of stone steps to the top of an incline. At the top was an old-looking temple, and beside that was the priest's house. We stood looking over the city, and admiring the architecture of the building.

Before long, the priest's wife appeared. Our guide explained that we were out walking and looking around. She seemed to be all right with us being there; in fact, after a few minutes, she asked us in for tea. So all eight of us entered their house into a traditional tatami (straw mat) room, and sat around the table. She poured green tea for all of us, and passed around Japanese sweets called okashi – a slightly sweet, powdery-tasting morsel.

Then, the priest led us into the interior of the temple. It was amazing – gold fixtures, including an elaborate chandelier, filled the room, centered around a Buddha situated against the back wall. A couple of small tables were set up for incense burning. The priest talked about praying (I believe he asked if we wanted to pray, though my Japanese skills are minimal at best!) and our guide explained that we were Christians. The priest allowed us to take pictures and also kindly took a picture of us together.

We were all grateful for the opportunity of visiting the temple, and getting a glimpse of the Buddhist religion. It was even more special to be able to see the inside, and to share tea with the priest and his wife. Their kindness and politeness were incomparable, and we were so grateful for their hospitality.

Our prayer is that God would reveal to these wonderful people the light and joy of the one true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.