Ha! Yes, there's no rGyo at Gyo. (For those just catching this, the word "gyo" in Japanese just means "interval of training.") I was thinking about this linguistic coincidence a moment ago and it occurred to me that the training is structured so that, after about day four, you lose track of factors like gender and forget about sexuality and all the hangups and histories that are tied to it.
This may be because the training is designed to produce a crisis in you so that you can have a good hard look at the sides of your personality and your habits that you had not been aware of heretofore, and come to grips with them. It's not particularly a bliss-world. It's more like the shit-shoveling world described in the Lotus Sutra (chapter 4). For instance: your day includes three sets of 108 prostrations, two hours of hard labor (stacking firewood, hauling gravel...), miles of walking; the day starts at 3am and ends at 9:30pm or much later depending on what your responsibilities may be for the next day. Food is limited and taken formally, which means your mind gets to freak out over like-dislike while you eat quickly, in silence, whatever it may be ("one taste"), cleaning your plate meticulously and organizing your place at the table to be harmonious with others. Everyone melts down eventually. I know one gyoja who forgot her legal name by day twelve of her first gyo, and did not want to be reminded.
That's what I was getting at before when I said it's more about the body than the brain. In this training, the body and its limitations are used as teaching tools. It is as though the substrate of one's mindstream is short-circuited, so you get opportunity after opportunity to come into contact with what remains when all that falls away. What remains when all that crap falls away? There is a word for it...
The "harmonious" part is great training for non-Japanese because it does NOT come naturally to us. For instance: when we do prostrations, we do them chanting a mantra, in time with each other, our bodies moving as one body, elegantly. The strong ones slow down (which is challenging on a few levels), while the slower gyoja do everything they can to keep up. Remaining mindful of everyone in the room is another way the ego starts to break down, because after a while it's no longer clear or convincing that "I" stop here and "Doko" or "Yudo" or "Seishin" or whomever stops there. You see it first-hand.
That's "somatic learning" for you.
It takes time to digest all this, and to adjust your habits of mind and body to correspond to the insights you get during gyo. This is why I think the breaks in between trainings are a real blessing. It gives an opportunity to internalize and integrate what you've learned. After my first try at it, I was a complete mess, but my resolve to reform myself, my practice, & all my relations with others was never stronger before then. So I subsequently made some small progress. I am hardly a practitioner, but I have had enough experience to say that this form of training changes people for the better if they are able to commit to it fully. You have to make yourself vulnerable and you have to try. There are risks; it's not for everyone. I got to know the orthopedist after gyo #3...
I agree, it can be very good for us non-Japanese to experience Gyo. On the other hand as you rightly say, it isnt for everyone and I too have seen and heard of many who simply could not take it. Of the foreign priests who've gone to Gyoin in Japan I have heard many horror stories to be honest and am not convinced that Gyoin in Japan is 'good' for non-Japanese. Many who have come back, have been 'damaged' by the experience to put it mildly. This is not restricted to non-Japanese though- many Japanese too have had adverse experiences at Gyoin.
On the one hand, Gyoin in Japan I think can be very good- certainly the priests produced at Gyoin on Hieizan often come out of it with a great deal. For others however, I think the intense nature of Gyo in Japan can be all too much.
Yes, non-Japanese can attend Gyoin with their teachers recommendation. Whether it is suited to the circumstances in which non-Japanese find themselves and whether it is suited to the 'Western mind' is another thing. Most Japanese grow up with notions of 'gaman' and the like. Therefore most Japanese will 'put up with' the extremity of Gyoin on Hieizan. It is just being practical however, to recognise that most westerners will not 'experience it the same way'. And this means some non-Japanese have come out of Gyoin with quite serious psychological issues.
In regards to the OP and my own situation: Yes I am glad that I (just me) have the opportunity to practice 'Eastern Gyo' and that I may someday get the chance to go to Gyoin on Hieizan. But I am glad because I know that I have experience with the Japanese, the language, customs and thinking. I do not think that it is for everyone and I think that unless you have quite a bit of experience with the Japanese as such, it is not the best option for non-Japanese. As Jikan alluded to, it is not just knowledge of the Japanese language that is important here. Long story short, for my own situation, I am glad to be training in the traditional way. For my own deshi one day...not so sure. Which is why I really must applaud the New York Betsuin for their efforts.