Shinagawa Shakyo Experience

Find inner peace while copying sutras

Featured | By Serena Ogawa  - 3 min read

Try something off the well-worn path on your trip to Shinagawa. At Yogyoku-in Temple you can experience the meditative peace of sutra copying or shakyo. Yogyoku-in Temple is famous for the Five Dhyani Buddhas (wisdom Buddhas) and shrine to Hoteison, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. This delightful temple also allows reservations for copying various sutra; a unique and peaceful experience for any visitor.

Try copying the characters as best you can, don't worry about being perfect.
Try copying the characters as best you can, don't worry about being perfect.

The shakyokai, or sutra-copying, takes place at Yogyoku-in Temple, every month—on the first Saturday at 2 pm. The practice of copying sutra has a long history and offers peace to people. Despite your religious background, why not try a shakyo session to find serenity in your heart. This is an especially good practice for people living today as it allows you to cherish the time spent copying sutra as a calm prayer time. The event session is casual and the proper tools and paper will be provided for the reservation fee of 1000 yen.

There's also a kind of meditation involved just in selecting your sutra.
There's also a kind of meditation involved just in selecting your sutra.

Before you begin shakyo there are some steps to take for purification; sprinkle provided incense on your hands to clean them and then select the sutra paper that appeals to you. Even if you can’t read the characters, you’ll enjoy a relaxing time copying the kanji out. The most widely known sutra in Japan is the Hannya Shinkyo. Try to maintain a good posture as you begin copying the sutra and take care as you write each character; don’t worry about the stroke order or its beauty. Empty your mind and write with all your heart.

Don't be intimidated by the complex characters.
Don't be intimidated by the complex characters.

When you’ve finished copying the sutra, write the date, your address, and name, along with your wish. Place the completed shakyo on the tray, put your hands together, and pray. This is your time to reflect on the experience and your feelings and thoughts.

Revel in the quiet serenity of the sutra copying
Revel in the quiet serenity of the sutra copying

Yogyoku-in Temple is located in Shinagawa, Tokyo. The Zuioden Hall stands on the sacred grounds of the temple—this hall houses five Buddha statues, each 3-meters tall, all sitting in a row.

The Nyorai Buddha statues
The Nyorai Buddha statues

These Nyorai or Tathagata Buddhas are one of the highest classes of Buddhist deities; that fact along with there being five of them (when most temples have only one statue of Buddha) makes this temple an exceptional power spot for any visitor. It is thanks to these Nyorai Buddha statues that many people come to worship at Yogyoku-in.

In addition to the five Buddhas of the temple, there is also a wooden statue of Hoteison, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. Hoteison is the god of fortune, guardian of children, financial luck, and the god of popularity. This busy god is depicted as a fat, smiling, bald man with a curly mustache with his clothes unable to cover his big belly. The large bag he carries is loaded with his virtues of contentment, generosity, and happiness.

The wooden Hoteison carving (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The wooden Hoteison carving (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Venture out to Shinagawa's Yogyoku-in temple and participate in this blissful sutra writing experience. Not only will it be a unique part of your trip to Japan but it will allow you to feel clarity and peace while at a beautiful temple.

Getting there

Yogyoku-in Temple is only a 10-minute walk from Nishi-Oi Station on the JR Yokosuka Line in Shinagawa.

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Serena Ogawa

Serena Ogawa @serena.ogawa

Travel Editor for Japan Travel by day, novel-writing cat lady by night.

Join the discussion

Elizabeth S 2 weeks ago
I’ve done shakyo at Hasedera in Kamakura, and at Narita Shinshoji.

It’s very meditative and I noticed a difference in my English handwriting after copying sutra carefully and slowly.
Sherilyn Siy 2 weeks ago
Julia Cameron says "Writing by hand connects us more intimately to our thoughts, and paradoxically is more efficient in terms of getting in touch with ourselves and opening the path to our most authentic selves and the day at hand." I could see how copying sutras can have the same effect.
Sleiman Azizi 3 weeks ago
Many deep spiritual traditions have similar writing practices.