Traditional temple

Temple camping in Japan at Daitaiji of Wakayama 【Photos】

Many temples in Japan offer dormitories, but this one has an even cooler option.

When traveling to Japan, one of the most unique forms of accommodation is a shukubo, or temple dormitory. While they don’t provide all of the cozy amenities of a hotel, shukubo offer a memorable way to experience traditional and local culture of Japan and are generally open to guests of all faiths.

Daitaiji, a picturesque riverside temple in the town of Higashimuro-gun, Wakayama prefecture, has a shukubo, but as we recently discovered it also has a camping!

Camping at the temple is something we had never tried before, but keen to change that, our Japanese language reporter Saya Togashi drove to Daitaiji on a late november afternoon. The campground sits below the temple hondo, or main hall, and is bordered by a grove of bamboo and trees

The side closest to the forest is for tent campers, while the other side of the clearing is for people staying overnight in RVs or RVs, like Saya was.

The motorhome / motorhome side has electrical connections.

Upon check-in, you are given bags to sort your trash into and you can leave them with temple staff when you leave. There is also water and sanitary, the remains of the on-site preschool that the temple managed.

So far this is pretty standard camping stuff, but at one end of the clearing you will spot this structure …

… and if you take a look inside, you’ll see it’s a zazen-do, Where zen meditation room.

Zen meditation is just one of many activities available to campers, as well as learning how to prepare choshuku, the rice porridge traditionally eaten for breakfast by temple monks in Japan, a descriptive tour of the temple’s historic Buddhist statuary and the transcription of the sutras. On the other hand, if you are looking for pure relaxation, there is also a sauna tent by the river.

For her first activity, Saya decided to literally try her hand at transcribing sutras (fees vary depending on the activity; for that, it’s 1,000 yen [US$8.70]).

Don’t worry if your calligraphy isn’t the best, or even if you’ve never written anything in Japanese before. You are given a translucent sheet of paper to write on, and you can follow the example, or at least use it as a guide, as you train each character. The session lasts about an hour, with the apparent advantage being that having an activity to focus your physical and mental attention on will prevent you from dwelling on past regrets or future worries.

By this time, sunset was approaching, and Saya was then able to participate in one of the free activities offered to guests: ring the temple bell!

The bell is located on an elevated part of the ground, and as the sun dips towards the horizon, the abbot of the temple leads the participants there to sound the signal for the end of the day (at 5 p.m. in winter and 6 p.m. in summer).

As Saya swung the log and struck the bell, the sound echoed through the cool evening air, echoing in a way that cleared her head and sparked a certain nostalgic and bittersweet feel in her. heart.

Then it was time for dinner. Guests of the campsite are allowed to barbecue or cook on their campfires. Saya, however, had left her grill at home, so instead she dined on a sous vide burger steak and freshly cooked rice in her one-person rice cooker. Daitaiji doesn’t sell cooking supplies, so you’ll want to bring any prepared meals, ingredients, or snacks with you.

After gazing at the beautiful stars of the countryside night sky for a while, Saya hit the bag and got up early the next morning for her zen meditation session.

Since Zen meditation requires sitting still with the same posture for long periods of time, she was grateful for the thick mats and cushions. This is not just for the convenience of Zen beginners, as the temple also serves as an evacuation shelter during natural disasters, and at such times the rugs are used as bedding for those who cannot return home. this night.

While she was meditating, Saya experienced something unusual, although she didn’t notice it until after her session was over.. We are already in the time of year when the weather in Japan is decidedly cold in the morning, and when Saya got up one of her first thoughts was that she wished she had brought thermal underwear. . While she was meditating, however, that cold feeling completely evaporated, but not because the temperature was getting hotter. After the session was over, she immediately noticed the cold again, which gave her a new appreciation for the effects of Zen.

▼ As mentioned above, the temple also has a shukubo dormitory, the common room of which can be seen here.

With the noon departure, Saya had time to unwind and soak up the relaxing vibes of nature a little longer before needing to pack. Thinking back on her stay, she was surprised by just how relaxed, friendly and happy the place was, since she admits having had a preconceived idea that the temple accommodation would come with a more austere atmosphere.

With a total of just nine pitches (four for tents / RVs and five for RVs / RVs), Daitaiji Campground definitely has a relaxed and local feel, and at 3,000 yen (US $ 26 ) at night it’s extremely affordable too. The campsite even has a website in English, showing that they are happy to welcome travelers of various religions and nationalities.

Location Information
Daitaiji / 大 泰 寺
Address: Wakayama-ken, Higashimuro-gun, Nachikatsuura-cho, Shimowada 775
和 歌 山 県 東 牟 婁 郡 那 智 勝浦 町 下 和田 775
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