Space Between

It was opportunity, not love, that Gretchen Miura ’97 sought when she moved to Japan to teach English. But love she found—and also a home.

Space Between
Dairyuji Buddhist Temple in on Japan's Oga Penninsula is an important scene in the life that Gretchen Miura ’97 and her family have built. / Image courtesy Miura

It was opportunity, not love, that Gretchen Miura ’97 sought when she moved to Japan to teach English. But love she found—and also a home. She married. They stayed. Along with her husband, Keno Miura, she built a life wrapped in 800 years of history along Japan’s Oga Peninsula, a special space that allows two cultures to exist at once.

This life combines the spirit of two places. One is the Dairyuji Buddhist Temple, where Keno Miura is a Zen priest. Japanese maples with leaves that flame red surround it. For 800 years it has been the spiritual center of a community—through centuries of new years, deaths, and marriages.

The other place the family celebrates is the America that Gretchen Miura ’97 grew up in.

Keno’s role as a Zen priest is an inherited one. The temple is, in a way, a family business handed down from father to eldest son. Like those before him, he tends the community’s spiritual needs by leading meditation or conducting funerals. There are traditional family roles, as well.

But between those ideas of being is room for the Miuras to build a family. A life.

“My goal is always balancing,” Gretchen says, “respecting the place you live but also staying true to your roots.”

Unlike generations of Zen priests, Keno does not live at the temple with his parents. The temple is a public home, a place for anyone to come seeking guidance while, traditionally, the family cares for the physical and spiritual institution.

Instead, this priest makes his home in a private house nearby, with Gretchen and the family they have created—including four kids and pets.

Gretchen has taken on work in the temple, but not exactly as wives of priests typically do. She leads meditation retreats and manages marketing and events.

Neither completely let go of their roots. The family celebrates an American-style Christmas. The region has its own tradition of naughty and nice—a new year’s visit from the Namahage, men dressed as frightening demons who take bad children away unless the kids and their parents promise to be good.

Along the Sea of Japan, there is an open space between traditions to make a home with the love you find.

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