Our day started at 04:00 with the beat of a drum and the ringing of a bell. We then had 15 minutes to put away our bedding and wash up before a 40 minute session of zazen. That was followed by morning service, breakfast, daily cleaning, and formal tea. There was often a short break before work, which took us up to the midday ceremony and then lunch, after which we had a longer break of about 90 minutes. More work in the afternoon broken up by an informal tea break, then evening service, dinner, bath, zazen, and lights out at 21:00.
The work hours, called samu, were intended as periods of outdoor labor, a kind of meditation-in-action during which we would be weeding, raking, pruning, or chopping wood. There were a couple of days of this, but because of bad weather and other events we spent most samu at lectures or sewing rakusu. The making of the symbol of the Buddha's robes is a special interest of our leader from Alaska, who scheduled us to participate in a three-day rakusu sewing circle in Nagasaki. In preparation, we spent about a week of samu getting a head-start on our projects so that we could complete them during the event.
We also practiced chanting and how to dress and carry ourselves for takahatsu, the traditional practice of begging for alms. Because Shogoji is located at the top of a mountain, a car is required to get from the temple to nearby towns and cities to practice takahatsu. This meant only a few of us could go at any one time and because of the poor weather takahatsu was canceled several days running. Three of us, including me, didn't have a chance to do takahatsu until we arrived in Nagasaki for our sewing event. I was a bit nervous to begin with but after a few moments lost myself in the rhythm of the chanting. I understood then, as I began to understand on the pilgrimage, one of the appeals of the clerical life - a tremendous level of respect from complete strangers.