2019 / Documentary / 59min G
Available Worldwide (except Japan, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Korea)
English, Spanish (Latin America), Indonesian, Thai, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese
Contains drinking and smoking scenes.


A film that delves into the exploration of faith after “3.11”, incorporating a blend of documentary and fiction elements.

This film explores the significance and existence of Buddhism and faith after the “3.11” Great East Japan Earthquake, centered around Dogen Zenji's "Instructions for the Cook”. The story follows two disciples, Ryugyo and Chiken, who completed their training at the main temple 10 years ago and returned to their respective temples. Chiken lives with his family in Yamanashi and remains actively engaged in various endeavors, such as providing life counseling services, teaching Shojin Ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine), and conducting Yoga Zazen sessions. On the other hand, Ryugyo lost everything including his temple, family, and followers, in the tsunami in Fukushima. As a debris removal worker living in temporary housing, he cannot give up on rebuilding the main hall. Jig theater, a promoter of films that they strongly recommend, describes the movie as "unparalleled in its straightforwardness when it comes to contemplating faith. It possesses a powerful force that blurs the boundaries between fiction and documentary".
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Director Profile

TOMITA Katsuya

TOMITA Katsuya was born in 1972 in Yamanashi Prefecture. He leads the film production group "Kuzoku" along with the screenwriter and film director AIZAWA Toranosuke. Their motto is to "create the films they want, screen them as they please". His work "Tenzo" was selected for the "Special Screening" section of the Critics' Week at the 2019 Cannes International Film Festival and was theatrically released in France.
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TOMITA Katsuya
AIZAWA Toranosuke, TOMITA Katsuya
Kuzoku Inc.
jig theater
jig theater
SHIBATA Shuhei and MIYAKE Yuko

Director TOMITA Katsuya, known for films such us “Saudade” and “Bangkok Nites”, presents this unique film commissioned by the All Japan Young Soto Zen.
The film explores the significance and essence of Buddhist beliefs after the Great East Japan Earthquake, even it may be unconventional, there is no other film that delves into the theme of “faith” so directly. The remarkable presence of the cast, who seem to portray themselves as they live and carry out their lives in that region, gives the film a sense of authenticity seen in other works by TOMITA Katsuya. It’s as if we are personally touching the lives of these genuine individuals, and the film’s power is so compelling that it blurs the lines between fiction and documentary. When the Soto Zen nun AOYAMA Shundo appears as a mentor in the film, her words draw you in, leaving you surprised by the depth of the teachings that can be imparted through the medium of film. While rooted in the local, it also reaches out to the universe.

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TOMITA Katsuya
TOMITA Katsuya

The film “TENZO” is a film which was created in collaboration with young Zen Buddhist monks who requested it. In the process of creating this work, I first needed to learn about the teachings of Soto Zen, a sect within Zen Buddhism. So, I asked the young monks to introduce me to the most important master of the Soto Zen tradition. Their unanimous choice was the Zen nun AOYAMA Shundo, their mentor.

We decided to visit mentor Aoyama first and foremost. We wanted to present ourselves as we truly were. So, we began by mimicking the Zen question-and-answer style that disciples use when addressing their mentor. We set up cameras and started filming this interaction as a documentary. Indeed, we were immediately captivated by mentor Aoyama’s presence.

“TENZO” refers to the name given to the monks responsible for preparing meals for practicing monks. This unique title within the Soto Zen tradition became the film’s title. This film features actual monks. They were playing roles and posing questions, such as the concepts of enlightenment, salvation, and the nature of religion. It provides us, who live in the world after the “3.11” Great East Japan Earthquake, with an opportunity to contemplate these profound themes.

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  • Italy

    I enjoyed this film very much. It was though provoking and beautifully Japanese, yet quite universal in its outlook. Thank you

  • Australia

    I found this documentary interesting. It’s good to see how some Japanese people live, get to know their culture and belief system.

  • Germany
    Anna Lazarescu

    Thank you for making this movie available to a larger audience. I was immediately drawn in by the power of the imagery and simplicity of the story. The questions posed to the viewer by contemplating the two monks own dealings with their journey of faith were stringent and profoundly humane. It felt natural, relatable and at the same time, it lets the viewer breathe in and face their own tragedies and moments of hardship in life to recenter and reasses their place in creation. Humbling. Soft. Beautiful.

  • United States of America
    Teresa Lee

    I found this film valuable for the slice of life moments with monks, including counseling and a mealtime prayer. It was interesting the film is divided into sections according to the kinds of tastes in cooking as Dogen wrote in his book in the 1200s. I didn’t notice a sour section if there was one. I also wish I understood better the words of wisdom from the nun. I may watch this again to think about Buddhism some more and connect the monks to the 3-11 earthquake. The people are all likable and feel like you’re getting to know them, but as a narrative the film is difficult to follow. It’s still valuable for the small moments and presentation of monks and a nun as relatable multidimensional people.

  • Germany

    Vielen Dank für diesen Film.
    Ich werde meine Studien zum Buddhismus wieder aufnehmen.

  • Germany

    Großartiger Film. Sollte man gesehen haben. Danke, dass Sie es ermöglicht haben, den Film online zu sehen!

  • Canada

    It reminded me of another documentary film “The Souls of Zen” by Tim Graf, following Buddhist priests through the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake (made available for public viewing online by Tim Graf on vimeo at https://vimeo.com/158309233 ).
    Soto Zen’s “activist” edge (perhaps caused by its intentional chaos embedded in its system) shines in both films.

  • India

    I am often at odds with my faith. While it has provided me with peace of mind it has also tormented me to no ends. And I am in this constant struggle to understand it, the purpose of it all. This film has spoken to those doubts of mine in my faith as well as in me.
    Thank you to JFF for screening this film.

  • Argentina
    alicia lila pesce

    me resultaron placenteras y conmovedoras las reflexiones del viejo maestro.
    tema lejano para occidente. NUESTRA VIDA DA ESPALDAS A LA NATURALEZA.
    Podemos imaginarnos formar uno con las galaxias? muchas gracias por darnos a conocer parte de la cultura de Japón.

  • Spain

    La tranquilidad que se respira en toda la cinta es envidiable. La música de los créditos es fantástica. Un tipo de flauta que no se como se llama. Gracias por el trabajo.

  • Natalia

    Siento que la película logra, independientemente de si uno practica o no el budismo, es hacernos reflexionar profundamente sobre la existencia y nuestra vida misma. A través de las visiones de los monjes, parte ficción-parte realidad, se explora esta inquietud humana desde una perspectiva muy interesante, la comida. Me gustó mucho la apreciación de la naturaleza, la división por “sabores” de la película, y también la música y los créditos a manera de escritura tradicional japonesa.

  • Viet Nam

    I was deeply moved by the film. How beautiful and magnificent that the filmmakers showed themselves up in the last minutes. Yet we the audiences do not need to wonder if all of the story was made up for filming or it has truly happened. Even though sometimes the characters have played their roles for the film, it does not make any different, because now we know that they all acted and said things following their true heart, without hiding anything.
    Thank you a lot for making and screening it!

  • United States of America

    My words can’t add anything to the film. It was well done – worth the time to make and the time to watch. Inspiring.

  • Germany

    Thank you for this movie. Very insightful and inspiring. I have to watch it a second time.

  • Canada

    Thoroughly engrossing -an inspired study of our human relationships as well as our relationship to the natural world.

  • Philippines

    I was inspired by the theme of faith and nature. The movie’s unique approach to storytelling and the parallel stories of the two Buddhist priests made me reflect on my own life and beliefs. I found this refreshing and engaging. Overall, I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in exploring themes of faith and nature.

  • Germany
    Horst Fabry

    A movie showing the daily life, thoughts, feelings and believe of buddhist monks after the Great East Japan earthquake. Worthwhile to watch.

  • Colombia

    Tal como se menciona en la sinopsis hay una línea fina entre la realidad y la ficción, por lo que es interesante verlo un par de veces para disfrutar cada imagen, cada paisaje, cada situación. Las locaciones y la fotografía es hermosa, la historia del budismo muy interesante, y con lo que más me quedo son ciertas frases que quedan resonando en lo profundo de mi (respecto a la comida y la importancia de vivir cada momento del día).

  • Australia

    A thought-provoking insight into the hearts and minds of two monks.

  • Thailand

    ถ้าไม่มีพื้นความรู้เกี่ยวกับเซน/ทางศาสนาพุทธในญี่ปุ่น/ปรัชญามาก่อนก็อาจจะไม่อินเท่าไหร่ เป็นหนังที่ดูแล้วคิดถึงชีวิตและความเป็นไปบนโลกและตัวศาสนาเอง เป็นหนังที่ดูแล้วใจสงบ สบาย แต่ก็แอบกังวล เหมาะกับช่วงฝนตกแบบตอนนี้มาก

  • Spain
    Arantza Sinobas

    Muy interesante. Me ha dejado muchas frases dando vueltas en mi cabeza y mi sentir. Arigatō Gozaimasu.

  • Argentina
    Norah Fernandez

    This film shows us, the straggle for keeping the faith in a very special moment in the life of the two monks.It makes you think in our own inner straggle.

  • Nepal
    Sunuwar Lachhe


  • Sweden
    Magnus Ahlberg

    It was a very earnest film which made me contemplate many things. Great work!

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