Japan Tour: Ryonen Genso, Zen Nun

Study Religion in Japan

Ryonen Genso was a dedicated Japanese nun who made a profound impact on the Rinzai school of Buddhism. She taught poor children and built a temple after joining a monastery. Make an impact as you study religion by volunteering to teach English with a group that serves impoverished rural children in Japan.

The Worldwide Navigators Difference


Sojourn – Gain a better understanding of the community you’re visiting. Learn about different religions or spiritual practices. How do these impact the communities? How does religion or spirituality influence local traditions?

1 of 1


Savor – Will you choose sweet or savory? Take the time to visit local markets and discover unique local ingredients. Learn how to prepare traditional meals & local favorites.

1 of 1


Tip of the Tongue – Each morning, take the time to learn a few basic greetings and phrases in the local language. Learn how to write greetings & your name in the local script.

1 of 1


A Wrinkle in Time – History influences our present. Discover the history of the country you visit. Hear the stories of your guides & their family history. Where do they come from?

1 of 1


Journal Journeys – Take some time to reflect on the day’s events and document your journey. Spend a moment journaling about the day had & day ahead. These are memories for a lifetime!

1 of 1

Culture – From local dances, festivals, or simple gestures to communicate – all of these make up a country’s culture. Learn and practice cultural norms & how to show respect in the culture you visit.

1 of 1


You’ll arrive in Kyoto, Japan, noticing right away that this place doesn’t look like the stereotype of Japanese cities — bustling and full of flashing lights. Kyoto is calmer, with many temples and beautiful parks. Unpack your suitcase and enjoy the view from your room.

Today, you’re heading to the Sennyū-ji temple where Ryonen was born. You’ll climb to the top of Sennyu-ji Michi Street. It’ll be quite a trek, but it’ll be worth it! The temple is quite hidden away, so you probably won’t see any other tourists here, giving you a better glimpse into the life of Ryonen.

In the gardens of the temple, you’ll meet with a Buddhist monk who will lead a Zen meditation class for you. Meditation is extremely important in Buddhism, and an activity that Ryonen practiced several times a day.

Ryonen was a poet, and she loved the art form dearly. You’ll visit the Rakushisha, a famous landmark for haiku poetry. This tranquil and simple building contains poems written in beautiful calligraphy on the walls and on stone tablets. After your tour, you’ll read some of Ryonen’s poems aloud in the courtyard.

Now it’s time to board another plane! You’re traveling to Tokyo to see another part of Ryonen’s life.

The Sensoji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and it’s also one of the most frequently visited. It’s located in the historic center of the city, the Asakusa area, and there you will learn some more information about Buddhist practice as you see the beautiful site. When you’re done, grab some authentic sushi at a restaurant nearby for lunch.

Then, it’s time for the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. In addition to making beautiful calligraphy, Ryonen was also a painter. Here, you’ll see traditional Japanese artwork mixed with more contemporary pieces. It’s a great way to learn about Tokyo, both in the past and in the present day.

When Ryonen opened up her own temple, she taught local children there who were in need. Today, you’ll be heading to a local school to help the students work on their English. They’ll even teach you a few Japanese words as well!

Afterward, you’ll visit Rikugien, a Japanese Zen garden. Zen gardens are an essential component of Buddhism. They’re meant to help recreate the essence of true nature, which serves as an aid to meditate on the true meaning of life. This garden is also particularly special because it contains 88 landscapes representing scenes in Japanese poetry. Spend some time here practicing the new meditation skills you learned in Kyoto.

Today you’ll make a day trip to Edo, a small town nearby where Ryonen built her temple. You’ll meet with a historian who will tell you about the temple and its history. After, you’ll take a calligraphy class. This was one of Ryonen’s passions, and with some practice, you’ll love it too!

Unfortunately, it’s time to leave Japan, but you’re leaving with lots of new memories and knowledge. You’ve also started learning the skills of meditation and calligraphy. If you choose to continue studying these skills, they’ll be a great way to remember your trip for years to come.

Born in 1646, Ryonen Genso was a Japanese nun who left a strong impact on the Rinzai school of Buddhism. When the empress she was serving died, Ryonen decided to become a nun. When she asked a Zen master to let her learn at the monastery, he turned her away because of her beauty, saying it would cause a distraction for the monks who studied there. She was so passionate about joining the monastery that she held a hot iron against her face, scarring herself. She was allowed to join the monastery, and there, she practiced calligraphy and poetry. Visit the temple she built herself and where she taught local children in need as you study religion in her footsteps. Add teaching less-fortunate children in Japan to your global travel to make an impact on young lives.


3-6 Day
Group Trips


7-12 Day
Group Trips


7-14 Day
Group Trips

Interested in adding or modifying activities? No problem! All Worldwide Navigator itineraries can be customized to your liking!

Share with a Friend!
years' experience
Customizable trips
Individuals impacted

In collaboration with our partners

Scroll to Top