Matsuwakamaro's Tokudo


Grade Level: 7

Keywords: Shinran Shonin


  • The students will experience what a Kamakura Tokudo (tonsure) ceremony was like
  • The students will recall 2 important aspects of the ceremony


  • Ceremony Worksheet
  • Ceremony Recognition Certificates
  • Pencils
  • Thin plastic sheets trimmed to some small size (1/2 x 2 inches for example)
  • Glue that dries clearly
  • Scissors (for at least 1/2 the number of students)
  • Night sounds of Japan downloaded (crickets and maybe temple bells, no "modern" sounds)
  • Small plastic bags for each student (optional, not needed if the locks of hair can be glued right there)
  • Small slips of paper for each student to write their names on. This will go into the small plastic bag. (again, optional if the locks of hair can be glued that day.)
  • List of possible parts of Japanese Buddhist names:
    • Ex: Shin (Faith), Shin (Parents), Shin (new), Jo (Pure), Bo (Monk), Ho (Buddhist Law), Nichi(Day), So(Sangha)
    • Ex: Ni (Women/girl/person), Kaku (triangle, symbol of 3 treasurers)
    • Ex: Dai (large/great), Ko (light), Rai (adorations of Buddha)
    • Please see your minister for more names and Chinese characters
  • The package (attached below) contains: Worksheet, Certificates, Night Sounds, List of Japanese Buddhist Monk names


  • Make copies of the worksheet, certificates, and List of possible Japanese Buddhist Names.
  • Cut sufficient plastic sheets for everyone


  1. Gassho,
  2. Make the room darker than usual. Maybe just turn off the lights.
  3. Do not make a sound on your own. Stand at the front. Hands in gassho and play the night sounds.
  4. When the class is quiet, explain that on a late Spring of the year 1182, Matsuwakamaru, who we would know later as Shinran entered the Tendai sect.
  5. Explain what happened. Have a student (who is a good expressive reader), read Shinran's poem
  6. Explain that we are going to re-create this event with our own simulation of a tokudo ceremony.
  7. Turn on lights. Take 15 minutes or so to have the student work through the worksheet. Have each student put their name on slips of paper for the lock of hair. (This is not needed if you have sufficient help to glue the lock onto the certificates that day).
  8. When they are ready explain what is going to happen. Put as many chairs at the head of the room to handle 1/2 the students. Each student should have a small plastic bag with their name in it and the worksheet.
  9. Identify who's sitting first and who is going to be their "attendant"
  10. Dim the lights.
  11. Gassho and announce that the class is now going to do a Matsuwakamaru Tokudo ceremony. Announce that as they are going to change their names to symbolize that they are going to leave their old life behind.
  12. Have 1/2 of the students sit down on the chairs. They are the "initiates." The other 1/2 of the students will be "attendants". Have the students each stand in turn and read their poem. As they sit down, have the "attendant" cut a small (no longer than 2" lock of hair). When the hair is cut, the teacher announce their new Buddhist name. Have all the locks ziplocked in properly identified bags with the slips of paper with their names.
  13. Gassho. And have the students switch places. Repeat.
  14. Gassho. Announce that the ceremony is over and that may all the new monks achieve enlightenment/"satori"
  15. Turn on lights. Review how each felt.


  • During review go over each key point as well as ask what was memorable. Ask each to remember how it felt.


  • Depending on the maturity and the general behaviors of the students, you might need to have parents to make sure that students do not cut large patches of hair or mis-use the scissors. Alternatively, you can have parents be the attendants.
  • If desired and if student's attendance is sufficiently regular, you can take the next week's lesson to review what Matsuwakamaru's reasons for taking Tokudo and what he might have felt during the Tokudo, then followed by a craft project to make the Tokudo Certificate
  • Alternatively, the students can do all the prep and the Certificate first, then have the ceremony separately on another day.
  • Nishi-Hongwanji uses the modern reading "Matsuwakamru", Higashi-Hongwanji uses the older reading of "Matsuwakamaro"


Mas Nishimura,, San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, 2010