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The History of Shukubo
Originally the lodgings for the Buddhist monks, the story goes that Shukubo (temple lodging) became available for ordinary pilgrims around 1,200 years ago during the Heian Period. From that time, there seemed to be Shukubo that was managed by persons other than Buddhist monks. About 400 years ago, when it became the Edo period, Shukubo became even more popular. Currently, many Shukubo places where tourists can stay have appeared turning them into tourist destinations with a on the temple.
Rules of Shukubo
Currently, there are many Shukubo facilities where you can lodge in a carefree manner but those should really be called hotels or guest houses. A typical Shukubo facility is different because to the last it is a temple facility so it is essential to follow the minimum rules. In particular, there are many cases where there is a strict curfew and in order to be prepared for the next morning of study an early bedtime is often fixed. So be sure to properly adhere to the nighttime rules. Regarding other minute rules, each lodging differs so before you stay a night be sure to confirm what they might be.
Things you must prepare before Shukubo
Shukubo facilities are attached to the temple but these days there have been many places that provide hotel-like facilities and many places usually provide everything you need for Shukubo. However, what you will need to prepare differs based on the place. In particular, whether or not shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, towels, yukata and the like are provided tends to differ depending on the place so be sure to confirm beforehand.
Things you can experience during Shukubo
During Shukubo you can experience many things relating to Japanese culture. What you experience differs based on the place but you can typically experience things like copying sutras by hand, sitting in zazen (cross-legged position) and so on. In particular, one of the unique temple experiences is the early morning devotional exercises. For that short time it is a little bit like training but it sharpens the mind and gives you an intuition that you can’t obtain anywhere else. Furthermore, to have a full personal experience, it would be better to say in advance what kind of activities you would like to do.
When dining at Shukubo, vegetarian food that does not contain any meat or fish is common. However, it’s never anything insubstantial and there are many Shukubo facilities that boasts a high-quality, varied selection of foods like a Japanese ryokan. You can experience the fresh, good flavor of natural vegetable that you wouldn’t normally get in your everyday diet.
HP: www.koyasan.or.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Recommended Shukubo Facilities
1. Mount Koya (Wakayama)
With tourists coming from both inside and outside the country the most popular Shukubo facilities are dotted across Wakayama Prefecture’s Mount Koya. Mount Koya is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site and the current number of temples exceed 100 with around 30 being available where ordinary tourists can freely lodge at. There are lodgings which obsessively follow a strict vegetarian diet, inns that have rooms reminiscent of high quality Japanese ryokans and furthermore there are lodgings that come with open air baths and so on. Each Shukubo facility has its own original facilities that give it a unique charm
HP: http://eng.shukubo.net/temple-lodging.html （English）
2 Zenkoji (Nagano)
Rivaling Mount Koya in high popularity with tourists from overseas are the Shukubo facilities around Zenkoji in Nagano prefecture. There are many facilities where you don’t need to prepare anything in advance and with 40 nearby Shukubo facilities, it will be easy to make a reservation. Among them, there are many cheap Shukubo places that can be used in place of a youth hostel.
HP: http://www.zenkoji.jp/shukubo/ (Japanese Only)
3. Myoshinji (Kyoto)
Not only can you experience the temple lifestyle but there are many nearby sightseeing spots and the fact that you can lodge for a reasonable price is appealing. The charm of the Myoshinji Shukubo is that you can use it as a base for sightseeing in Kyoto which is known as a world-famous sightseeing spot. Because tourists from overseas often lodge here, there are staff available who can correspond in English making your stay even more pleasant.
HP: http://www.myoshinji.or.jp/faq/faq_10.html （Japanese）
HP： http://www.myoshinji.or.jp/english/stay/ （Enlgish）
4. Mount Osorezan Kichijo Kaku (Aomori)
At the northernmost tip of Honshu, there is a Shukubo lodging located in Aomori prefecture, Kichijo Kaku. After all is said and done, the biggest charm of this Shukubo is the onsen. In the past, this Shukubo was said to heal the physical tiredness of the pilgrims to the temple and it is situated 40 minutes by car from the nearest station. It’s a bit difficult to get to but to that extent, you can experience the mystery in the midst of nature’s beauty.
HP: www.aptinet.jp/Detail_display_00004276.html (Japanese Only)
5. Taiyoji (Saitama)
Taiyoji in Saitama prefecture, is a known Shukubo lodging relatively close to the heart of the city. Without having any of the atmosphere of the workday reality, it is a temple that seems like it’s located in an unexplored region deep in the heart of nature. It has been ranked number 1 in the Nikkei Shinbun’s Shukubo ranking and even has English language explanations on its homepage so you can use it with a peace of mind.
HP: http://www.taiyoji.com/syukubo.html (Japanese)
6. Togakushi Shrine (Nagano)
Having been mentioned in Japan’s oldest historical books “Kojiki” is Togakushi Shrine located in Nagano prefecture. It is said to be a place where many deities gather and it is a famous “power spot” where you can receive strength if you visit. In addition, it is cool during the summer so you can pass the time comfortably and in winter you can enjoy skiing nearby.
HP: http://togakushi-jinja.jp/stay/index.html (Japanese Only)
7. 浄蓮華院 (京都)
Within the mountains a little way off from the center of Kyoto city, located in Ohara is Jorengein. Sitting in zazen, hand copying sutras, vegetarian cuisine, etc. this is a Shukubo lodging where you will definitely experience the temple culture from start to finish. You can freely choose whether or not to participate in the morning religious services so for those who would like to take it easy in the morning, this is an appealing point.
HP: www.kyotodeasobo.com/stay/hotel/12 (Japanese Only)
8. Koutakuji Shukubo (Tottori)
Koutakuji’s Shukubo lodging located in Tottori prefecture is so far, the Shukubo lodging of which its attraction is its surprising hospitality that defies convention. In place of Japanese style meals, Italian style vegetarian cuisine is offered, the beds are in Western style bedrooms, it has a stylish atmosphere and it’s become a big hit among young women. It’s probably unsuitable for those persons who want to savor the ancient Japanese atmosphere but for those who would like to experience passing the time hand copying sutras in a fashionable space, this Shukubo is recommended for you.
HP: www.koutakuji.com/ (Japanese Only)