A unique travel experience in Japan: sleeping in a Japanese temple allows you to immerse yourself in the mysterious atmosphere of monastic life.
Shukubo, which literally means "sleeping with the monks", is a must for many foreign visitors during a trip to Japan.
This accommodation experience in a Buddhist temple gives you the opportunity to discover the daily life of Japanese monks, to learn about vegetarian cooking, shojin ryori, and occasionally attend religious rituals in the morning.
Shukubo are open to all foreign visitors, regardless of gender, nationality or religion.
Reservations are usually done in the same way as any hotel or ryokan. While some temples will take reservations by phone, there are many who offer online booking directly on their websites.
When in doubt, it is of course possible to go through a travel agency in your home country or Japan, to make the appropriate reservation. Here at Japan Experience, we can arrange it for you as part of a tour.
The largest number of shukubo are found in Koyasan, in Wakayama prefecture.
The shukubo is an integral part of the Buddhist monasteries that manage them. It's therefore necessary to respect some rules of propriety in regard to the religious nature of the place:
- take off your shoes at the entrance of the temple
- wear modest clothing in the temple
- observe the time schedule (dinner, bathing, waking up)
- respect the curfew (some temples lock their doors at night!)
- respect the privacy, calm and quiet of the place
Austerity or Comfort?
Despite the spartan picture sometimes associated with Japanese monasteries, you are guaranteed to find all the basic comforts in your bedroom: tatami floors, futon, blanket, lamp etc.
However, don't be surprised to find no radio, TV, and no private bathroom. In the style of traditional ryokan inns, you will share a common bathroom with other guests.
No menu is provided for dinner, either: there is one set meal for everyone, without meat or fish! That said, some temples do tolerate alcohol and will offer beer, wine or sake.
Whatever your religious beliefs, attending the liturgical ritual held in the morning is a meaningful experience, which for many is the main attraction of staying at a shukubo.
Every Buddhist sect has its own rituals: between collective meditation sessions, recitation of sacred sutras, or fire ritual of esoteric Buddhism, visitors are spoilt for choice.
Participation in the morning ritual is not mandatory. For those interested, know that you will need to get up early, around 5am or 6am!