Alumnus Tadao Koyama Reflects on Studies in Japan

Gesshin Claire Greenwood  |  September 3, 2019

Tadao Koyama graduated from IBS in 2018 with a Masters in Buddhist Studies. He is currently living and practicing Buddhism in Japan. We are delighted to share this update on his progress, and the challenges and rewards of training at Nishi Hongwanji.

I have been living in Japan now for a year and half and am very grateful for my time here so far. This year I have finished both the Honka program at Nishi Hongwanji’s seminary school, Chūōbukkyōgakuin (Chūbutsu), the Kyōshikyōshu ten-day intensive training, and the Renshūsei program of Gonshikishidōsho (Gonshiki), Nishi Hongwanji’s ritual and chanting school. I would like to first thank all of the teachers from all of the programs for their hard work and dedication to the students’ education. I would also like to thank my many friends for helping me with practicing Japanese language and making sure that I was always informed of the lesson plans.


Initially I thought that the schedule at Chūbutsu was difficult, however I was in for a whole new experience with my education at Gonshiki. I felt so honored and excited to have the opportunity to chant with the many professionals of Hongwanji for morning service. Besides learning to read the chanting notes and memorizing the Japanese music tables, sitting Seiza was always painful! It should be noted that sitting seiza for Japanese nationals is not easy either!


The schedule at Gonshiki was very demanding and packed. On days when my gongyō tōban (service group) had duty, I had to wake up at 4:30am in order to prepare for the morning service. We would meet in a room called a chidō and rehearse the wasan (hymns) for the morning and receive comments from the instructors. At times, the testing and the schedule began to weigh on me. I would find myself complaining internally when the teacher would continue to talk after the class was over. My mind would drift sometimes to my aching legs or hungry stomach and I would find it hard to feel grateful.


Then I would remind myself sternly again that I was the one who chose to attend Gonshiki. I was the one who made the decision to come to class. No one in BCA or Hongwanji for that matter said that I must come to this school. It was my decision alone. Therefore, I should not complain and try to change my attitude.


One of the many lessons I have taken from Gonshiki is that the real learning does not occur when you are succeeding, or when teachers praise you for your chanting. The real learning comes from the times you make mistakes, are corrected by the teachers, and on the hard days when you find your mind wondering or complaining about the tough schedule.


I am eager to continue my studies for one more semester at Gonshiki for their Kenkyūsei program and am continuously humbled and grateful for knowing that so many people and organizations have made this Journey possible for me.