A long and winding road, literally and figuratively, brought us to Horakuan during a hot summer. As a couple, we both knew we wanted to experience the peace that is rural Japan and nurture our burgeoning interest in Zen.
In yet another example of the universe conspiring in one’s favor (we need only be open to that fact), we found Horakuan and Dorothee Takatsu. On our first visit, as we made our way higher and higher into the mountains surrounding Suzaka, we both felt as if we were coming home. Then, upon seeing Horakuan and its partner temple Ryuyukutsu, we knew we were among the lucky few who get to practice Zen in the midst of overwhelming beauty. Mountains and trees abound. Rainbows of wild flowers grow in fields above and below the temples. Monkeys and birds can be heard in the trees. In short, Horakuan is the peace for which you have been searching.
Our work at Horakuan was some of the most fulfilling we have experienced, as Dorothee makes it clear that everything you do matters, both to her and to the temple itself. Every weed you pull, every bush you trim, every flower you water enhances the atmosphere and experience of those who find solace in this special place. Further, Dorothee empowers you to go beyond your comfort zone. We built a floor, door, and trellis with no prior experience. We painted, hauled rocks and helped build Horakuan’s website. At every step along the way, we felt like the work we were doing mattered. And when work has a purpose, it does not feel like work at all.
In our free time we often explored the beautiful surroundings, meditated on our own or simply sat outside admiring the view. We were also treated to delicious meals and fantastic company courtesy of Dorothee’s husband, Taka. The two are a wonderful couple and compliment each other very well. During our time with the Takatsu’s, we experienced barbecues at Zen temples, trips to onsen (hot springs), visits to waterfalls, tea ceremonies, and mountain hikes. And, it has to be said one more time, delicious meals and fantastic company.
We often engaged in deep philosophical chats with Dorothee. Through these chats and zazen practice, we learned more about ourselves and our tremendous host, who freely gives of herself to all who call on her. Fluent in English, Japanese and German, Dorothee makes Zen accessible to a broad audience. Although it is not entirely unheard of, it is extremely rare to learn about Zen from a Western priest who has experienced monastic life in Japan and can communicate the teachings as they are meant to be understood. We never failed to appreciate how unique our circumstances were. If you are able to find the openness Dorothee exhibits on a daily basis in yourself, there is no limit to what you will learn during your time at Horakuan.
Anna and Mike, USA