Moriyama-ku is an unassuming suburb of Nagoya city, backed by mountains and surrounded by forest park, which has in its midst an extraordinary hidden gem: a Tibetan Buddhist temple!

The female chief priest at Chambalin temple was trained at the sacred Jokhang monastery in Lhasa, Tibet, and she also holds the unusual honour of being the first Japanese woman to be ordained as a Tibetan chief priest.

Hearing this, our widely-travelled writer Mr. Kurosawa grabbed his reporter’s notebook and camera and headed down to take a look at this unique cultural property – and its adjoining Tibetan café.

The first thing you see when you go through the gates at Chambalin is a convincingly Tibetan-looking building that contains the café. At the top of the steep steps beyond is the temple itself!


▼ Although small, the temple looms above you from the mountain slope.


When you reach the top of the steps, there are these two colossal gold prayer wheels. Mr. Kurosawa took the opportunity to say a mantra before moving on to the great hall.


The main hall was stunning, but taking photos is prohibited in that section, so you’ll have to go and visit it for yourself! In and around the temple, though, Mr. Kurosawa really felt like he was in Tibet:



Follow the steps up beyond the main hall and you can reach this beautiful view out over the roof of the temple. A Tibetan temple with Japanese scenery in the background…now there’s something you don’t see every day!


You can have your fortune told by the chief priest of the temple, but Mr. Kurosawa decided to skip that in favour of a Tibetan lunch at the café on his way out.

Stomach rumbling in anticipation, he opened the menu to find…familiar Japanese coffee-house fare: prawn pilaf, tarako spaghetti, and, er, taco-rice!? After double-checking that he was actually in the Tibetan café, not the local branch of Gusto, our gallant reporter spotted some items on the menu that looked a little more authentic, and decided to order one of everything!

The thukpa noodle soup came with a little local touch in the form of umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum). He also had something called “Tibet Curry”, which was delicious, if rather a lot like Japanese curry. The butter tea, made with imported yak milk, was tasty and easy to drink.

▼ Thukpa noodles and umeboshi. Fusion food!


▼ Tibetan curry. Sadly, no umeboshi with this one.


▼ The main ingredient of Tibetan butter tea is (you guessed it) butter. Easy on the palate, not so easy on the waistline.


Reflecting on his visit as a whole, Mr. Kurosawa thought it was a shame some parts of the Tibetan temple weren’t more, well, Tibetan. But there was something magical about the incongruence of it all. He did manage to make a trip to Tibet without leaving Japan! And it’s not every day you can say that.

Chambalin (強巴林) is at 101 Aobadai, Moriyama-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi-ken, Japan.

Original report by Kowloon Kurosawa.
Sources: ChambalinCafe Parcol