Koyasan Shukubo (Temple Lodgings) 高野山の宿坊
Get spiritual at a 1,200-year-old monastic center and World Heritage site
This light belonged to the shukubo, monastic lodgings for weary travelers. Today Koyasan's numerous shukubo provide the same service for modern train-riding pilgrims, offering unique accommodation and insight into Buddhist Japan.
- A night lodging at a traditional shukubo temple
- Otsutome, the morning Buddhist service performed by monks
- Trying ajikan, a form of Shingon Buddhist meditation
- Traditional Japanese vegetarian food prepared by the monks
How to Get There
Reaching the Koyasan monastic complex requires a long, slow train ride through the mountainous forests of Wakayama, which is truly worth it.
Koyasan is most easily accessed from Osaka's Namba Station. Get a train for Gokurakubashi Station at the end of the Nankai Koya Line. From there, take a five-minute cable car. You can also reach the area by train from Wakayama Station.
Koyasan is part of UNESCO's Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range
There are currently 52 shukubo lodges available
Like many old-school Japanese establishments, credit cards are not accepted
Beer is served at some shukubo
A rare retreat
Spending a night in Koyasan's traditional shukubo offers an intimate encounter with Shingon Buddhist monastic life. Shingon is a form of esoteric Buddhism, Japan's version of the Vajrayana lineage that spread to Japan via Tibet and China in the early ninth century.
More than just lodging
Taking part in certain Buddhist practices and activities during your stay will help you understand monastic life more deeply. Monks teach Ajikan at many of the temples. This art of visualized meditation is particular to Shingon Buddhism. For those looking to reset their inner balance, try walking meditation through the well-kept halls and gardens.
You might also try therapeutic calligraphy, known as shakyo, that involves copying ancient Buddhist sutras (writing over faint printed Chinese characters).
Experience the monks intoning these holy texts with hypnotic chanting delivered through whorls of incense smoke at the 6 a.m. service known as Otsutome.
The original soul food
The vegetarian Buddhist cuisine known as shojin ryori is the repast of choice at all of Koyasan's shukubo . Each meal is prepared based on the principle of five, offering five distinct colors and flavors. Without using meat, fish, or strong flavors, the subtle yet satisfying soy-based dishes change with the seasons to nourish body and soul. Note that shojin ryori is often vegan, though not always.
Ready to reserve?
Reservations can be made through the official website of the Koyasan Tourist Association and Shukubo Temple Lodging Association. As Shingon Buddhism's holiest ground and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, Koyasan can get busy. Make sure to book your stay well in advance. For procedures and conditions, visit the website. All information is available in English.