Eihei-ji Temple is the head temple of the Buddhist Soto sect and has 15,000 branch temples all over the country. Zen priest Dogen established Eiehi-ji in 1244. Large and small buildings stand in the about 330,000 square meter precincts, surrounded by 700-year-old sugi cedar trees. Even now, more than 100 people seek to enter the temple for training every year and those accepted are engaged in hard training. Zen teaches that the Buddhist law is revealed in the everyday manners of a person. Thus, all activities including eating, cleaning, bathing and face-washing are important in addition to the practice of zazen. Especially, cleaning is a very important training because it purifies one both externally and internally from both physical and spiritual dust. Ascetic monks clean the floors of each building with a damp rag with their bare hands and feet. You can personally experience the practice of zazen (reservations are required). In front of the temple, there are ryokan, restaurants which serve shojin vegetable cuisine and Eihei-ji soba, shops selling sesame tofu, and souvenir shops.?
Echizen has long been known for Echizen Washi (Japanese paper manufactured in Fukui), which has a 1,500-year history. The Fukui domain issued the first paper money circulated in local administrations in 1666. It was made with Echizen Washi and it is said to be the oldest paper money still in existence in Japan. Echizen developed as a production area of high quality paper and its production volume of hand-made paper is still the largest in Japan. Although the paper is beautiful and has a soft texture, it is strong and it is said to last for even a 1,000 years. At Echizen Washi no Sato you can try your hand at making Japanese paper.
As Echizen has heavy snow during winter, it is blessed with sturdy bamboos which withstand the tough cold. Using these bamboos, local people have made baskets, flower vases and other everyday household goods. After WWII, they started to make bamboo dolls from left-over bamboos after making the more traditional products. Now the bamboo dolls are a new local specialty. At Echizen Takeningyo no Sato you can visit ateliers and also can experience making bamboo dolls.
Echizen uchi-hamono cutlery is known for its casting technique. Heated steel is strongly and repeatedly beaten many times to forge a knife. (“Uchi” means “beat” or “strike” and “hamono” means “edged tool.”) This technique has been passed down for 700 years. Cutting-edge design knives produced with this technique were selected as a MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York) permanent collection. At Takefu Knife Village you can see old-style blacksmiths working and also experience making a letter opener. Please see an animated video on our website (www.att-japan.net).