Japanese Buddhist temples are not just places of worship – many of them have become spots where pilgrims and travelers can stop for a few nights and experience traditional Japanese culture. The custom of staying at a Japanese Buddhist temple is known as shukubo, and it has a long history dating back more than a hundred years.
In the Heian era, nobles and pilgrims would go to great lengths to pay their respects to certain temples. Along the way, they used to stop at other temples to spend the night, and monks started catering to the needs of overnight visitors. They started to provide separate rooms and meals for travelers, as well as opportunities for them to participate in the temple’s daily activities. Today, the shukubo tradition is still alive and well – and even foreign tourists can enjoy the experience fairly easily. We’ll introduce you the top 5 foreigner-friendly temples where you can experience shukubo in Japan.
1. Koyasan Fudoin
Mount Koya is a listed UNESCO World Heritage as one of the most famous spiritual sites in Japan. There are more than 100 temples around Mt Koya, and many of them offer overnight lodgings for overseas guests. Koyasan Fudoin is one of the best choices you have -it is located in the heart of the woods, offers both Japanese and Western-style lodging and dining (the cuisine is vegetarian), and allows you to participate in the morning prayer ritual, do sutra copying, or Aijikan meditation.
Name: Koyasan Fudoin
Address:456 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun 648-0211, Wakayama Prefecture
Official website: https://www.fudouin.or.jp/english_index.html
Another temple around Mt Koya you can stop at is Saizen-in. Compared to Fudoin, it is a more traditional kind of experience, with only Japanese-style rooms, plant-based Buddhist Japanese cuisine, and lots of traditional activities to engage in. These include prayers and meditation, but you can also try the public bath on the grounds of the temple. For those who might miss the connection to the real world, the temple is also equipped with WiFi and a TV in every room.
Address: 154 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama Prefecture, 648-0289, Japan
Official Website: http://www.koya.or.jp/en/index.html
Joki-in is one of the best spots for experiencing shukubo. It is located close to the Koya station, which makes it easy for travelers to reach the place on foot, by taxi, or bus. Joki-in offers both Japanese and Western style rooms, as well as options to have a private bath in your room. The temple is equipped with Wi-Fi connection and air conditioning, and all the rooms come with a flat-screen TV. They serve traditional Buddhist cuisine meals, including breakfast and dinner. As for activities, you can observe the prayer rituals, experience meditation and sutra copying.
Address: 365, Koya-cho, Koya-san, Ito-gun, Wakayama Prefecture, 648-0211, Japan
Phone number: +81-736-56-2321
Official Website: https://www.jo-kiin.com/
Located in Minobu-cho in Yamanashi prefecture, Kakurinbo is another great temple where you can experience both traditional culture and Japanese hospitality. Mt Minobu is the birthplace of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, hosting its most important temple – Kuonji. It is considered one of the most powerful spiritual spots in Japan, and you can experience it by staying at Kakurinbo for a couple of nights. The hotel is equipped with all the modern facilities you might need – WiFi, TV, vending machines, and even a souvenir shop, but you can also indulge in traditional culture via the cuisine and rituals you can participate in.
Address: 3510, Minobu, Minobu-cho, Minamikoma-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture, 4092524, JAPAN.
Phone number: +81-556-62-0014
Official Website: http://kakurinbo.jp/english
Located in Kyoto, Shukoin is the ultimate place to go for experiencing spiritual enlightenment. As a foreigner, it can be hard to find a temple where you can learn to deepen your awareness in meditation and prayer. However, the head monk at Shukoin has taught around the world before settling in Kyoto, as he’s known to be one of the best masters in all of Japan to learn from. Of course, the temple also offers Japanese-style accomodation and meals, and it’s also fairly cheap, which makes it a hit with foreigners.
Address: 42 Hanazonomyoshinjicho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8035
Phone number: +81 75-462-5488
Official website: http://shunkoin.com/
There are hundreds of temples around Japan, but only a small fraction of them are known to offer shukubo lodging. However, if you want to experience traditional Japanese culture, ascetic monk training, and Buddhist rituals, one of the places above should do the trick for you!
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