Wondering can you stay at a temple in Japan? There are lots of temples in Japan that offer overnight stay and meals. Read on to find out how the stay at a Japanese temple is going to be.
From high-class tourist attractive temples to simple ones where locals go for praying, numerous temples are scattered in every nook and corner in Japan.
You will find these gorgeous settings sometimes in a dense forest, on the crest of a mountain, or sometimes beside a busy street or office building.
Apart from serving religious purposes and organizing manifold festivals, some of the Buddhist temples in Japan offer visitors and tourists to stay overnight.
It’s called shukubo or temple lodging.
Our today’s discussion will be on this exceptional topic, which is ‘stay in japan temple.’
Can You Stay At A Temple In Japan?
Many Buddhist temples in Japan allow visitors to stay overnight and experience the temple’s everyday life. You get to enjoy vegetarian meals and take part in prayers and meditation. Most Buddhist temples in Japan are free to enter, however some of the most famous ones in popular tourist locations (such as Kyoto) require an admission fee. Some places in Japan offer temple lodgings, allowing you to spend the night in a Buddhist temple.
Bookings should be made in advance and should be done directly with the temple via phone, fax, or email. While the majority of temples can only communicate in Japanese, a few have English-speaking monks.
Temple lodging in Japan started centuries ago when pilgrims were taken to temples for a night or two.
However, the picture is totally different now.
Today, hundreds of temples and shrines around Japan offer lodging to tourists and travelers, including both foreign and domestic.
Though Japan is known for its luxurious hotels and opulent ryokans, this shukubo can be a more humble way to experience this country’s hospitality.
Besides, staying in a Buddhist temple can be a peaceful and serene escape from the hustling and bustling of city life.
It is also a great way of intensifying your appreciation for its rich and fascinating culture.
In addition, you can experience the daily life of a temple.
From their simple meals to prayers and meditations, everything in the Japanese temple stay will offer you peace and tranquility.
If you don’t want to miss the opportunity to experience life at a slower pace, this is a must-do thing on your Japan trip.
Now, let’s explore life inside a temple.
How Will Your Lifestyle Be in Shukubo?
Nowadays, temple stay in Japan has become quite appealing to a new demographic of travelers.
They are open to both practitioners and non-practitioners. You can stay there regardless of your religious or cultural background.
It begins with taking off your shoes at the entrance when your focus shifts from the daily hardship of your own life to the beauty and serenity of the temple.
A sense of peace falls over you and hangs around throughout your stay.
Well, what do you think about the type of room they can offer you? I am going to reveal all the things about a temple stay in Japan.
Rooms in Japanese Temples
Spending a night at a temple may not give you a five-star experience, but I can assure you that it will be comfortable enough.
You will be provided with a traditional Japanese-style room that features tatami mat flooring and sliding doors fusuma.
There is no system to lock your room. The sliding wooden door will separate you from the other guests.
You have to share sinks and toilets with other guests and sometimes with the monks as well.
Some temples offer communal and gender-segregated baths, which need to be shared between the guests.
You will get the bedding facility in the form of a futon. A thick futon will be spread out on the tatami mat during the night.
To provide extra comfort in winter, they offer gas heaters and heated tables, kotatsu to the guests.
Some temples even provide amenities like a television and Wi-Fi connection if you find it difficult to leave the modern world completely behind.
However, in the average temple lodging, such facilities should not be expected.
Now, let’s talk about the food facilities.
Japanese Vegetarian Temple Meal
The sound of the temple bell breaks the day’s silence in the evening. Then you will be summoned for the evening meal shojin ryori.
Shojin ryori is a vegetarian meal, which is one of the highlights of temple stay in Japan.
I will describe it as a feast firstly for the eyes and then for the tummy.
This temple cuisine doesn’t use any meat or fish according to the Buddhist moral precepts that forbid taking the lives of other creatures.
This concept was introduced into Japan in the 6th century with Buddhism. It is now a rarity outside temples, though.
This meal is served on low tables, and you have to sit cross-legged on square zabuton cushions.
But what does this famous temple meal shojin ryori feature? You must be curious to know that.
Well, it consists of a dozen or more small, glazed plates and bowls with small amounts of each dish.
This meal usually contains a steamed mound of rice, delicious broth with local seasonal vegetables and herbs and vegetable tempura.
Instead of meat or fish, they fulfill the protein needs with protein-rich plant products like freshly made tofu and konnyaku (devil’s tongue jelly).
You will also get pickled vegetables, which are another staple.
Although these foods are often simply seasoned and delicately flavored, they are still savory, filling, and delicious.
Experience Traditional Japanese Temple Activities and Ceremonies
No matter if you are an early riser or not, the sound of the gong will break your sleep shortly before 6 am each morning.
Most temples usually welcome their guests in their morning prayers. Many will ask you to participate directly, while others will tell you just to observe quietly.
Morning prayer in the temple, known as gongyo, typically starts around 6 am and takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete.
To help you in participation, they will provide books so that you can join in their chanting and incense to make offerings at the altar.
Besides, you may have a chance to try shakyo during your stay.
Do you know what shakyo is?
It is the act of copying a sutra by tracing characters, which is a method of spreading Buddhist teachings. Today, it is regarded as a meditative and spiritual practice.
You have to sit back straight with a cross-legged position on the floor. Then concentrate on your breathing while chanting sutras with the monks.
The monks can hold their stable positions perfectly. But don’t worry if you can’t do it properly.
You are not used to this practice. Right?
Well, while doing this, you will find in a moment that your mind starts to wander and your legs become restless.
The chants end with the sound of a bell, leaving a soothing vibe on your body and mind.
The level of difficulties and guidance will vary from temple to temple.
You can also experience zazen meditation or waterfall meditation surrounded by natural beauty, while all will be eager to share the history and philosophies of their lives.
What more you can get is enjoying their traditional baths and gardens, which can be a peaceful spot to contemplate.
While sitting on the polished wooden balcony of the temple, don’t forget to take out a moment to appreciate those meticulously kept gardens.
Also, be thankful for observing the koi carp moving lazily in the pools, the gravel garden, raking into symbolic patterns in the ghostly light shed by lanterns.
Well, I have given an elaborate idea about temple lodging in Japan.
If you are interested, you might want to know some more information regarding the suitable temple for shukubo, how to book them, or the probable cost.
Don’t worry. I will let you know all about this for your convenience.
How Much Will A Temple Stay in Japan Cost?
For temple lodging, you have to make the booking in advance. It is typically done with the temple by phone, fax, or email.
Most of the temples are only able to communicate in Japanese. You can take help from the local tourist association in this case.
Some temples have English-speaking monks, where you can make the booking directly.
Online booking is also available on websites such as Booking.com, Japanican, or Japanese Guest Houses.
Now come to the probable cost.
Staying in a Japanese temple for one night will typically cost between 6000 Yen to 11000 Yen, including dinner and breakfast.
However, it can be more expensive in popular and common tourist areas such as Mount Koya. Here the starting cost will be above 11,000 Yen.
Some temples even offer cheaper plans, excluding meals.
I need to mention another important thing, which is that some temples only accept cash for payment purposes.
So, don’t forget to bring cash with you while going for a shukubo.
What not do at a Japanese temple?
When visiting a Japanese temple, there are many things that should be avoided in order to maintain the sanctity of the sacred space and to show respect for the customs and culture of the Japanese people.
Whether you are a visitor from another country or from within Japan itself, it is important to be mindful of your behavior while in a temple and to respect the etiquette that is followed within.
Some important things to avoid when staying at a temple in Japan are talking too loud, smoking and using alcohol, engaging in physical contact such as hugging, engaging in inappropriate behavior such as playing loud music, and wearing offensive clothing.
All of these things can be seen as disrespectful to the temple and its inhabitants, and should be avoided at all costs.
As a respectful guest, it is also important to leave the temple premises in the same condition as you found it, which means ensuring that all of the trash that you create is disposed of properly and that the area remains clean.
Finally, it is important to be conscious of the local customs and traditions that are observed at Japanese temples and to always remain mindful of the importance of respecting others’ beliefs and space.
In conclusion, it is important for tourists to remember etiquettes when staying at a Japanese temple. Respect for the host and their customs is key.
Following the etiquettes of being respectful, modest with dress and behavior, not making too much noise, showing appreciation with a small gift, and not taking anything away from the temple are all important for a positive and enjoyable experience for both tourists and the temple’s hosts.
Following these etiquettes is a sign of respect and admiration for the religious temples and their deep-rooted cultural traditions.
Best Shukubo Temple Stays in Japan
Most of these lodgings are common in popular pilgrimage areas near Kyoto, Osaka, Mt. Mitake in Tokyo, Koyasan in Wakayama, Zenkoji in Nagano, Osorezan, and Dewa Sanzan.
But the most famous destination to experience a temple stay is Mount Koya, which is situated near Osaka.
Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture
If you want a temple stay near Osaka, you can consider Koyasan.
Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture is perhaps the most popular place to experience temple lodging in Japan.
The history and absolute beauty of Koyasan with the season changing undoubtedly gives it the edge over other options for shukubo.
Besides, the community has made the reservation easier for foreigners. You can easily book a temple room in English through their website.
More than 50 temples in Koyasan offer the outsiders to lodge within their walls, offering an insight into monks’ lives.
This site dates back to more than nine centuries.
Later, it was rebuilt around 150 years ago after a destructive fire.
Now, it is a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
You can experience the best Koyasan temple lodging in Eko-in.
This temple accommodation includes a vegetarian meal, instruction in meditation, and an opportunity to take part in morning rituals, including chanting and a fire ceremony.
Well, something best always comes at a higher cost. Right?
As I said earlier, the cost in Koyasan will be expensive. So, the starting cost will be 11,500 Yen.
Another best temple to stay in Koyasan is Fudo-in. Here the probable cost will be 14,580 Yen.
And the popular temple Shojoshin-in will cost 10,800 Yen.
Anyway, no matter where you stay, you should definitely plan for an evening tour to the cemetery at Okunoin.
This two kilometers long cemetery is the largest in Japan, containing some 200,000 tombstones.
Overnight Temple Stay in Kyoto
The abundance of temples in Kyoto makes it another ideal location for shukubo.
You will find a wide range of options here.
Among them, one is the Shunkoin Temple Guest House. It is a part of a larger Zen temple, widely known as Miyushinji, that offers morning meditation classes. Here the cost starts from 4,500 Yen.
If you want a bit of a hybrid experience, you can consider Omuro Kaikan Hall at Kyoto’s Ninnaji.
You can enjoy non-vegetarian meals here. There is a chance to witness the morning ceremony and the temple’s beautiful grounds as well.
You have to spend at least 11,000 Yen for that, which also includes two meals.
Another great option can be the small temple, Rokuo-in, in the Arashiyama area. It offers lodgings only for women. Including breakfast, the probable cost will be 4,500 yen.
Myoshin-ji Daishin-in is another shukubo option, which is very popular with foreign travelers. It costs 4,700 Yen with a breakfast facility.
Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
The Shingon temple of Natadera, in Ishikawa Prefecture, is a hidden gem for an extraordinary temple lodging experience in Japan.
This temple features beautiful expansive grounds.
The fascinating thing about this temple is its lodging is located on a small mountain with spectacular views of the Japan Sea and nearby Mount Hakusan.
It will cost 13,000 to 15,000 Yen per person, including two meals.
Shukubo Komadori Sanso, Tokyo
Temple lodging in Tokyo is limited, but one of the notable ones is Komadori Sanso. It is located in the western part of Tokyo.
Komadori Sanso is the most popular temple lodging around Mt. Mitake for its rare takigyo practice.
It is a waterfall meditation that starts early in the morning after a short walk.
Before participating in the meditation at the Ayahiro waterfall, you will be asked to purify yourself, do some exercises and change into a white robe or loincloth.
The flowing water will help you clear your mind. You can also enjoy the preserved and serene beauty of nature that changes with the seasons.
Top features of this shukubo include free Wi-Fi access in all the rooms and public areas, luggage storage, and car parking facilities.
Besides this, they also offer various types of unique recreational activities such as hiking trails, hot tubs, etc.
Well, you have to spend 6,000 Yen per night for a private room or 6,500 Yen per night for a family room with shared facilities.
Overall, Shukubo Komadori-Sanso can be an excellent choice for your stay in Tokyo.
Eiheiji Temple, Fukui Prefecture
If staying in a monastery in Japan really attracts you that much, then I will recommend Eiheiji in Fukui Prefecture.
This temple complex was established by Dogen. He was a pioneering figure in Zen Buddhism who initiated the Soto school in the 13th century.
You have to make a reservation for this location in writing before a month of your requested time.
But remember, it is not a place for a casual stay. It’s only for those people who have a real interest in Buddhism.
If you are one of those, I must say it will be worth trying for you.
Well, that’s all about shukubo. Before concluding, I will mention a few things to keep in mind.
You shouldn’t go for a shukubo expecting to be pampered. You can stay comfortably but not bask in luxury.
Then again, you probably want to go there for a bit of peace, so that’s where you have to concentrate!
You might have got a broad idea about temple lodging by this time. If its charms attract you in a true sense, you can stay in Japan temple to experience the simple and ascetic lifestyle of Buddhist monks.
It is an ideal way to understand life inside a temple, which has hardly changed in millennia.
It will be worth it for someone who is used to the faster pace of city life.
Therefore, try it and complete your Japan trip with a deep sense of peace.
Temple Stay in Japan: FAQs
Can you live with monks in Japan?
Temple lodging or shukubo in Japan can give you the opportunity to live with monks. You can observe their lifestyle closely while also enjoying their simple vegetarian meal shojin ryori, participating in their morning ceremony, meditation, and other traditional and religious activities.
Where do Japanese monks live?
Usually, Japanese monks live in temples. A notable area is Koyasan near Osaka, which is considered one of the holiest sites in Japan and also one of the premier destinations for Buddhist pilgrims in the country.
This area was picked up 12 hundred years ago by the monk Kobo-Daishi for its lotus-like geography. This shallow valley near Mount Koya is the headquarters of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism, where a large number of monks live in numerous temples.