IZUNOKUNI, Shizuoka -- A British man who used to work for the Metropolitan Police in London has moved to Japan and now has aspirations of becoming a Buddhist monk at an ancient temple here.
Keith Kozaki, 49, originally from Scotland, is currently undergoing rigorous training, with a view to following in his wife Atsuko's footsteps and gaining recognition as a monk.
After working in an administrative role at the Metropolitan Police in the British capital, Keith went on to university, before teaching English in Japan in places such as Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture and Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, from 2000 for about five years.
He later returned to the U.K., where he met his wife Atsuko -- daughter of now 81-year-old Shodo Kozaki, head priest of the ancient Ganjojuin temple in Izunokuni, Shizuoka Prefecture -- at a restaurant in London in 2009.
Keith and Atsuko entered a relationship, but Atsuko knew that she would have to return home one day to take over from her father at Ganjojuin. As a result, the pair decided to move to Japan together, where they got married at the temple in 2012. At first, Keith was anxious about his new life in Izunokuni, but reportedly started studying Buddhism in earnest.
The ex-police worker now rings the temple bell at 6 a.m. every morning, before performing tasks around the temple including placing incense in front of Buddhist statues, and sweeping the garden. He also shows visitors around the sacred site.
"I'm glad I came here," said one visitor who was impressed by the sight of national treasures in the main hall -- something which gave Keith great encouragement. The trainee monk's other experiences include the recent discovery that the bell that he rings every evening is in fact a message to local children meaning, "It's time to go home."
However, training to be a monk is not easy. Challenges include having to sit in the traditional "seiza" position, and reading passages that consist entirely of Chinese characters. However, by using Romanized characters, and listening to his wife and the head priest chant the sutras numerous times, Keith has successfully managed to memorize the Heart Sutra.
In 2017, Atsuko became a monk after completing a 120-day training session at Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture. Keith is very keen to follow suit.
(Japanese original by Yurika Tarumi, Numazu Bureau)