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How to Practice Zazen for Beginners: Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Updated: May 21

Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo at Denchuji Temple

Let's Experience Authentic Zen Meditation in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, at 400 Years Old Temple

Would you like to experience authentic Zen meditation in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, right at the heart of the city? Our company offers guided Zen meditation tours in English at the Denchuji Temple, which boasts a history of approximately 400 years. Denchuji Temple, a historic Soto Zen temple, was founded in 1628 and named by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. Since 1640, this temple has been renowned as a place for Zen meditation practice.

Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo at Denchuji Temple

Best Private Zazen for Beginners and Families in Shinjuku

We offer private Zen meditation experiences suitable for both adults and children. In Japan, it's common for large groups of over 20 people to meditate together, which can make it difficult for beginners to learn the proper techniques. However, at Denchuji Temple, we prioritize providing attentive Zen meditation guidance in small groups, ensuring an optimal experience for beginners and families. This experience is the best private Zazen meditation for beginners and families in Shinjuku. This is sure to be invaluable.

The Essential Principles Are Only Three

Today, we'll explain Zen techniques in the Soto Zen tradition. While there are various techniques, the essential principles are only three. The three main components are adjusting posture, regulating breathing, and adjusting one's mind. Mastering these aspects leads to a profound Zen meditation experience. Relax and enjoy the practice without feeling pressured to adhere strictly to the techniques.

Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo at Denchuji Temple

Zen Meditation Techniques


Gassho: Place the palms of your hands together with fingers straight.

Shashu: Clasp the left hand with the thumb inside and the palm facing outwards, lightly resting it against the chest, and cover it with the right palm. The left hand should be on top, with the right hand below.

Entering the Meditation Hall

Maintain the shashu posture and enter through the left side of the entrance pillar, starting with the left foot. Upon entering, pause, gassho to the main Buddha statue in the meditation hall, and bow (gassho teizu).

Return to shashu and proceed to your designated sitting position (zai).


Order of Greetings:

Gassho teizu towards your own sitting position. Zafu is a cushion used for Zen meditation. Next, gassho teizu to the people sitting on either side. Finally, rotate to the right and gassho teizu to the person sitting opposite you.

Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo at Denchuji Temple

Seated Posture (Chakuza)

  1. Leg Cross Position: Whichever position you choose, ensure that the zafu (meditation cushion) is centered beneath your buttocks, supporting your upper body with the knees and buttocks. Kekkafuza (full-lotus position): Place the right foot on the left thigh and then the left foot on the right thigh. Hankafuza (half-lotus position): Tuck the right foot under the left thigh and place the left foot on the right thigh.

  2. Hand Position: Houkai-join (cosmic mudra): Place the right hand on top of the left foot and then the left hand on top of the right foot, lightly touching the thumbs together. The left hand should be on top, with the right hand below.

  3. Upper Body Posture: Stack the spine gently, balancing the head on top. Ensure that the ears and shoulders, as well as the nose and navel, are aligned vertically.

  4. Closing the Mouth: Lightly place the tongue against the roof of the mouth to prevent air from getting trapped in the closed mouth.

  5. Eye Position: Keep the eyes neither fully open nor completely closed, and gaze naturally forward. Focus your eyes on a point about 1 meter ahead.

  6. Initial Deep Breaths: Take several deep breaths through the mouth to release tension in the body and mind.

  7. Swaying the Body (Sayu Yosin): Gently sway the body from side to side, starting with large movements and gradually reducing them until the body comes to a standstill at the center.

  8. Breathing During Zen Meditation: Practice abdominal breathing, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deliberately through the nose.

  9. Mindset for Zen Meditation: Sit without being bound by various thoughts, adjusting your body and breathing to find harmony.

Authentic Zen Experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo at Denchuji Temple

Beginning Zen Meditation

When the bell rings three times (signaling the beginning of meditation), refrain from entering or leaving the meditation hall.

Ending Zen Meditation

When the bell rings once (signaling the end of meditation), perform gassho teizu, place your palms on both knees, sway left and right (small to large), and then release your legs. Adjust the zafu to its original position, exchange greetings with those around you, and leave the meditation hall in shashu.

Kinhin (Walking Zen Meditation)

Kinhin, also known as walking Zen, is initiated by two bell rings (known as kinhin sho). Perform gassho teizu, sway left and right, and then stand up. After exchanging greetings and shashu, begin walking. Practice "one breath, half step," where each foot moves forward only half the length of your normal stride during one breath. When the bell rings once (known as chuukai sho), bring both feet together and stand still, perform gassho teizu, and then return to your sitting position.

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