November 26, 2022

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Japan’s Buddhist temples open ‘shukubo’ doors to tourists | Travel

For centuries, holy guys, pilgrims and nobles journeyed the sacred paths that crossed Japan in search of knowledge and enlightenment. At the close of a very long day tramping the mountain paths, they invariably sought out an “otera,” or temple, to relaxation their weary bodies. The uncomplicated accommodation that temples ended up able to supply, alongside with traditional foods and prayers, became known as “shukubo.”



And now that pilgrims are a rarity in Japan, the temples are opening their sliding picket doorways to travellers from all over the entire world.

“Some individuals nevertheless use the lodgings when they are on journeys to demonstrate their faith, but the variety of individuals folks is lowering,” said Kaiji Yamamoto, a senior monk at Zenkoji Temple in Takayama, situated in the central mountainous Gifu Prefecture.

“Right now, a lot more and much more travellers are utilizing shukubo as a unique place to keep and to produce a totally calming expertise,” he told DW. (Also Read through | Japan holds tourism expo right after 4 a long time to revive travel market)

Expertise the daily life of a Buddhist monk

In the early a long time of shukubo, the lodging could be relatively spartan, in line with pilgrims’ ascetic tactics. Guests typically slept in shared rooms, took component in meditation and prayer classes at distinctive moments of the day and night with the resident monks.



Classic Buddhist “shojin ryori” foods have been served without having any meat, fish or other animal merchandise.

Typical ingredients in a multi-study course food involve seasonal vegetables and crops gathered from the mountains surrounding the temple, together with tofu and soybean-based foods. Taken with each other, these substances are believed to deliver harmony and alignment to the human body, mind and spirit.

From these basic beginnings, shukubo lodging has progressed appreciably. Some temples offer accommodation that is on a par with fantastic good quality accommodations but, at the same time, protect the environment of the conventional temple environment.

Fashionable-day readers can take component in meditation sessions, prayer meetings, yoga, copying calligraphy that make up sutras and guided treks in the encompassing mountains.

On distinctive instances, website visitors may well also be ready to choose aspect in cleaning rituals that entail standing beneath waterfalls and reciting prayers.



“Desire in shukubo is rising, I consider, mainly because an growing number of men and women are intrigued in discovering about Buddhism and having component in coaching these types of as ‘zazen’ meditation, mindfulness, and other varieties of actual physical and mental conditioning, as nicely as dealing with a distinctive kind of tradition,” Yamamoto mentioned.

It will help, he included, that a lot of temples are positioned in rural components of Japan that attractiveness to overseas guests who have by now explored the towns and are seeking to encounter historical traditions.

Shukubo tradition meets major business

Keen to faucet into expanding interest from organizations at house and abroad, several temples have also started to present company retreats, workforce-developing stays, conventions and incentive excursions, alongside with remote-working prospects.

Houkouji Temple, in rural Shizuoka Prefecture to the southwest of Tokyo, is between the homes that has staged company situations, creating use of an ornate most important hall that can seat various hundred people for meditation sessions, lectures and conferences.



The sprawling 15,000-square-meter temple compound also has a tea ceremony home, conference rooms, accommodation for up to 50 friends and a shojin ryori refectory.

Mai Sato is founder and CEO of Tokyo-centered ShareWing Inc. which operates the Otera Continue to be model and signifies 10 temples across Japan.

“Temples are a great put to expend the evening, to rest, to pause and to working experience Japanese culture, traditions and Buddhism by meals, ordeals and discussions with the temple’s priests, somewhat than by viewing a temple as an normal sightseeing exercise,” she advised DW.

“The substantial halls and Japanese-model rooms are wonderful illustrations of traditional Japanese architecture, with website visitors able to knowledge that art of historic Buddhist statues and paintings, a lot of of which are registered as nationwide treasures,” she reported.



“Time spent in the sacred air and the prosperous pure ecosystem is also extremely exclusive. And that is a big change from a resort in a city centre of a bustling vacationer resort,” she included,

At Zenkoji Temple, senior monk Yamamoto is looking forward to welcoming overseas site visitors after extra, now that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic has passed and the nation’s borders have reopened.

“A shukubo is overwhelmingly diverse from staying at a resort or inn,” he said. “It is a dwelling tradition, not a made facility for amusement or enjoyment and a guest can experience all the traditions and background that have been passed down through the generations.”

And Yamamoto and his monk colleagues are preparing to the moment once again maintain the temple’s one of a kind “kaidan meguri” ritual.



“In the kaidan meguri ceremony, a participant will have to walk down the temple’s stairs without any light-weight to clearly show the way,” Yamamoto reported. “If you are in a position to come across the lock in the doorway in the pitch black, then it is said you will acquire bravery and overcome any fears of the darkish.”