If you are visiting Japan and looking for a peaceful stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Shukubo might be ideal for you. Many Buddhist temples offer visitors the opportunity to spend a night in the traditional temples and learn about its daily life. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime getaway to experience temple meals, prayers, and meditation. Shukubo has been around for a long time. Centuries ago, these were open to pilgrims and nobles who made a tiring journey on the mountain paths. They searched for the Shukubo for a night or two. These accommodations are still popular, especially around shrines like Kyoto, Mount Mitake in Tokyo, Zenkoji in Nagano, and Koyasan in Wakayama.
Accommodation Traditional Stay
While a stay at Shukubo may not compare to a five-star experience, it is quite comfortable, even though there have been hardly any changes in a millennium. Especially if you are looking for a therapeutic retreat. From the polished wooden balcony of the living room, you can admire the beautiful temple garden and listen to the chanted prayers of the monks. Your bedroom will have a tatami floor and a thick unrolled futon. Sliding wooden doors will give you privacy. And in case you still want to stay connected to the modern world, some temples offer Wi-Fi connections!
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To the sound of the temple gong, expect to be served Shojin Ryori or vegetarian Buddhist cuisine. Sitting on low tables and square zabuton cushions, you can enjoy the evening meal. This was introduced to Japan with Buddhism in the 6th century. However, it is still a rarity outside of temples.
Typically, you will be served a dozen or more small lacquered plates and bowls with small portions of each course. To accompany it, a mound of steaming rice, broth with locally sourced seasonal vegetables and herbs, vegetable tempura and freshly made tofu. While some temples serve beer and sake, others only offer you tea.
Shortly before 6 a.m., you will hear the temple gong. You are welcome to join the temple monks for Gongyo or morning devotions. While the head monk chants sutras, you can meditate with your back straight and focus on your breathing. Other activities to try during your stay are Shakyo, or the art of copying a sutra by tracing characters and taking a trip to traditional baths or gardens for peaceful contemplation. And don’t forget to admire the beauty of the lanterns at nightfall.
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