Secrets of Happiness from Japan – True Travel Story

happiness secrets Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto japan

Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto is a world heritage site. Kiyomizu means clear water and the temple was built on a hillside with a spring overlooking the City of Kyoto.

My tour group was met at the temple by Egin Onishi, a tall handsome young man who’s married with two children and lives on the grounds of the temple.

Before settling in Kyoto, Onishi San, as we should respectfully call him, lived in the USA where he dreamed of going into advertising and indulged his love of basketball, a sport he still enjoys watching and playing today.

Onishi San may sound like an ordinary young Japanese man but he is not. Despite being a basketball loving family man he is also the head monk, the third generation of his family to be head Buddhist monk at Kiyomizu Temple. He trained for the position by learning the Buddhist scriptures and teachings of Buddha but told us that he wants to learn by experience, not by the book.

Onishi San mentions that there are strict rules and regulations to follow but we see no trace of this, he is all smiles and generous hospitality, kindly ignoring those who take photos in places where no photography is allowed and patiently answering our many questions, most of which he has no doubt heard many times before.

happiness secrets Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto japan

World heritage building Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Wearing a robe, toe-dividing white socks and flip-flops Onishi San holds a Buddhist rosary and tells us his daily routine may go something like this:

  • Get up 5.30am;
  • Perform rituals and chant;
  • Office work – maybe writing letters or a speech;
  • Guide people around the temple;
  • Organise charity work;
  • Help raise funds to maintain the temple;
  • Voluntary work;
  • Spend time with the family.

I feel as if I could sit and ask him questions all day but I content myself to the one big question, the one thing everyone needs to know.

What are your tips for happiness?” I ask.

“There is a story about that,” Onishi San tells us and silence falls as everyone listens.

“There was once an old lady who cried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a sandal vendor. On sunny days, she worried about the older daughter saying

“Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?”

These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry.

When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter, saying

“Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a sandal vendor. You cannot sell sandals on a rainy day.”

So the old lady lived in sorrow everyday. Whether sunny or rainy, she grieved for one of her daughters.

One day, she met a monk. He was curious as to why she was always crying so she explained the problem to him.

The monk smiled kindly and said,

“Madam! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more.”

The lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The master replied,

“It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but the younger daughter being able to sell her sandals.  When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper.”

Onishi San summed up his story saying:

“We cannot pick the weather but we can adjust our feelings. Half full or half empty, you cannot change the situation but you can adjust how you feel.”

So true and we travelers all felt much happier while listening to Onishi San and visiting Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.

happiness secrets Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto japan

Onishi San happily waves good bye to us all

I was a guest of The Kyoto Tourism Council and Kyoto City. Check out their Kyoto travel guide to find out more about Kyoto and plan your visit.

Have you got any travel stories about happiness?

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Pamela August 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    That’s such an inspiring story which is also true. The difference between a good day and bad day is just attitude.

  2. Lori Henry August 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Aw, how nice to hear the umbrella/sandals story again! Onishi San was such a wonderful man. I love the photo you caught of him waving goodbye at the end of our visit. ;-)

  3. Melissa August 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    That is a very inspiring and enlightening story. I agree with Onishi San saying, “We cannot pick the weather but we can adjust our feelings. Half full or half empty, you cannot change the situation but you can adjust how you feel”. Adjustment is the key.

    • Annabel Candy August 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Melissa,

      And even small adjustments can make a big difference.

      • Melissa August 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm

        Hi Annabel,

        Yes, I agree! Even small adjustments make a big difference. The only problem is, some people refuse to adjust. I hope many will be able to read this post. :)

  4. Chad August 21, 2012 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Too bad about the radiation… :(

  5. megan August 28, 2012 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. I just love the culture and the food and want to experience it.

  6. sabretoothed chickens April 30, 2015 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Such a lovely story. I shared this with my friends on FB. So many people do not look to themselves and their own viewpoint as the root of their unhappiness – always pointing the finger. Wisdom is far easier to acquire than people perceive… Sometimes, you just need to listen.

Leave A Comment