Find your inner peace in a sacred place
Historically, monks traveling great distances would stop and stay in places known as shukubo. After seeing an increasing number of visitors in need of lodging after a long journey, shukubo began to open their doors to regular travelers and visitors. More recently, there are a number of visitors who like to stay at different temples to experience the various styles of shukubo.
Taking a rest is important for one's physical health, but oftentimes our mental health is neglected. Staying in a shukubo gives you a sense of tranquility and allows you to live like a Buddhist monk. Even if it is only for a day, it will give you the chance to absolve yourself from your worldly troubles and stress.
Rooms and meals may vary depending on the temple
Shukubo all tend to be pretty similar, but each one is unique in its own way. Restrooms are generally shared spaces, though some temples do offer suites or rooms with a private bathroom. When booking a shukubo stay, be aware that some temples only accept cash, so it is best to confirm the payment method in advance. Also, the room price typically includes dinner and breakfast. A small yet important detail when staying in a shukubo is to respect the monks and do your best to disturb them as little as possible. They are there to help you and want to give you a wonderful cultural experience, however, please keep in mind that they are also working on their daily training.
Traditional Japanese style rooms and meals
Traditional Japanese rooms usually have a light cotton filled mattress called a futon that you lay out on the tatami mat flooring and sleep on. Tatami is a traditional type of flooring material commonly used in Japan. It is made from rush grass and rice straw and is similar to what you may have seen in some martial arts training gyms.
Temple meals are also unique as they adhere to Buddhist principles and guidelines. Meals at the temple are called Shojin ryori, or Buddhist cuisine. Shojin ryori does not use meat, fish, dairy, or egg products. It is very similar to that of a vegan dish.
Regarding alcohol, each shukubo has its own rules about the consumption of it. Some shukubo will allow you to order alcohol as a medicinal food or drink, while others strictly forbid it.
As always, it is best to check with the shukubo in advance if this is something you think you might be interested in.
During your stay, you will have the chance to relax and clear your mind while soaking up the serene atmosphere of the temple garden and its beautiful surroundings that are meticulously maintained by the monks. A shukubo is the perfect place to let all of your troubles and worries melt away and experience a truly Zen moment.
Participate in the daily routine of a monk
To get the full experience, you will have the option of participating in early morning devotions known as “gongyo.” The type of gongyo offered depends on the Buddhist sect in which the shukubo is associated with. Like other religions, Buddhism is divided into different sects that all have slightly varying beliefs. Some of the more common sects include Pure Land (Jodo)Buddhism, Shingon, and Nichiren Buddhism. Each has a unique way of performing gongyo that may include recitation of different sutras, the use of prayer beads, or clapping. Meditation training is another activity that is often available to visitors.
Booking a shukubo (Available in English)
Booking a shukubo can be done online, and rest assured, there are many English sites available. Here are some shukubo that offer booking options in English.
Booking a shukubo (Available in Japanese)
Here are popular shukubo that can be booked online that are only available in Japanese.
* The information on this page may be subject to change due to COVID-19.
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