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Zenrin Gakuen

A Day at School


Performing gassho rei in front of the school gate


The students recite the teachings of Shorinji Kempo in unison.


The teacher encourages discussions among the students.


Students eat lunch with their friends.

After 8 am, students begin arriving at school. Commuters wear the school uniform, while those living in the dormitory either wear their dogi (kempo uniforms) or a sweatsuit. Before passing through the large gate to the school, they put down their bags, straighten their backs, and join their hands in an expression of respect—a posture known as gassho rei. At that moment, the expression on students' faces is very solemn.

From 8:30 every morning all students, including those enrolled in the specialized programs, participate in a 15-minute meditative service called chinkon-gyo. Everyone is wearing their kempo uniforms and is barefoot, no matter how cold it is. They recite the fundamental teachings of Shorinji Kempo and sit in zen meditation. There is a sense of heightened awareness, and everyone takes this opportunity to reflect on their lives.

Classes last for 45 minutes each, and there are six periods each day. Each class begins with a gassho rei. The fourth period for tenth graders is a unique subject taught by the principal, Mr. Yamasaki, called "humanology." "What is the inherent purpose of human beings?" he asks. The students gather in groups of two or three to discuss a response.

Lunch begins at 12:35. When the last morning class ends, students rush to the cafeteria for their long-awaited meal. The menu on this day includes a bowl of rice, fish served with tomato sauce, boiled spinach dressed with crushed sesame seeds, boiled sea vegetable, and a clear soup. The meal also includes a pork-filled bun and chocolate. Before eating, the students recite an incantation offering thanks for the food. Several male students comment that their favorite meal is curry and rice.


Cleaning the school


Dormitory students collect packages from home.

Afternoon classes end at 2:55, after which the students perform samu, or work that is an integral part of personal training. In practice, this means cleaning. The students vacuum the floors and wipe the classrooms to allow everyone to walk around barefoot.

Supplementary instruction is offered after homeroom. Since exams are coming up, many of the students are busy poring over textbooks. At the third-floor dojo (practice hall), six tenth graders are going over Shorinji Kempo moves with their teacher in preparation for a test the following day to consider their promotion to a higher rank.

Students begin leaving the school from around 5 p.m. One dormitory resident happily returns to his room carrying a package that arrived that day from home. Just as in the morning, everyone performs a gassho rei when passing through the school gate.


Asking a teacher to explain something.


Training for a Shorinji Kempo test