Living The Zen Life As A Foreign Woman In An Old Akita Temple

American Gretchen Miura lives in the picturesque Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture with her Japanese husband and four children. The family presides over Dairyuji, a beautiful temple with 800 years of history, which now Gretchen and her family manage. Savvy Tokyo catches up with Gretchen to learn more about her unusual lifestyle, how she strives to honor the traditional side of temple life while bringing her own fresh perspective and initiatives, and what prompted her to start organizing weekend retreats at the temple in English.

Dairyuji, Miura family’s temple is located on the beautiful Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture.

Did you know from the beginning that if you married your husband, you would have to embrace this lifestyle? Did you have to give it a serious thought, or was it more a matter of jumping in and trusting that love would get you through?

I definitely thought it over long and hard, but probably still romanticized it. While I was aware that marrying my husband would mean playing a role at the temple, there was no way to fully understand everything this lifestyle would encompass. As with any marriage, there was an element of trust and just going for it, but yes, it felt like I jumped off a cliff!

Please tell us a little about the history of your family temple and the function it plays in the lives of the people who you serve.

Dairyuji is a Zen temple with an 800-year-long-history. There have been several fires and relocations over the centuries, so the current main buildings are about 100 years old. We have 450 multi-generational families as members. Ceremonies are regularly held at the temple to celebrate events such as the spring equinox, Buddha’s birthday or the New Year. My husband performs funerals and memorial services, and he visits …continue reading