A Most Special Journey to Japan

In mid-September, I traveled to Kyoto for a very special purpose. Along with a woman from Romania, we had enrolled for tokudo training at Nishi Hongwanji.
For the first two weeks, we stayed at the Hongwanji International Center to receive instructions on ritual, chanting, conduct and service procedures. Lectures were given by well-known scholars, which included, Professor Shigaraki, Prof. Esho Sasaki and Prof. Toshikazu Arai. The director of the International Center, Rev. Kimmi Kiribayashi spoke on the subject of the
Hongwanji as an organization, how the system works, where funds are derived and about the international organizations and its relationship with Hongwanji. In
addition, he had me participate in an English course centered around Buddhist teachings. Rev. Masumi Kikuchi arranged for me to sit in lectures at Ryukoku
University given by Prof. Dennis Hirota and Prof. Dake. Following the first two weeks of pre-tokudo instructions, we were taken to Nishiyama Betsuin, which
is the tokudo training centre. We were part of a group of 62 Japanese participants. Everyone was placed into six toban teams of 10 to 12 individuals. Later in the programme we were joined by 11 American aspirants, who made up a seventh team. For 11 consecutive days, the daily sessions consisted of: 530am- wake-up call, 550am- temple clean-up, 630am- morning service, 8am breakfast,9am – lecture, 12noon- lunch, 130pm- lecture, 430pm- afternoon service, 6pm- dinner, 730pm – evening service, 9pm- self study, 10pm- bathtime, 11pm- lights out. On the 10th day, we were bussed to Nishi Hongwanji
where the ordination ceremony was held. Gomonshu Koshin Ohtani was the officiant to perform the ordination rites. This was the culmination of our studies. After the ceremony, there were certificate presentations, final service at Nishi Hongwanji as well as Nishiyama Betsuin. A special farewell luncheon was
arranged by the betsuin and concluded with an emotional singing of Auld Lang Syne in Japanese, photo-taking and final good-byes. It was an experience which was physically demanding, emotionally stressful and culturally challenging. We all studied, chanted, sang, recited and at times struggled mightily, together. For that experience alone, we all came away enriched and changed forever. I
have everyone and everything to thank for making this journey possible.
Domo Arigato Gozaimashita.
Robert Akune

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