Booking a Temple Stay atop Koya-san
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
When I first started planning a trip to Japan about three years ago, I stumbled upon a mountaintop covered in 117 temples, some of which tourists could actually stay in and experience a day in the life of Buddhist monks: Koya-san. It was the one thing I knew I wanted to experience in Japan. Not long after, that trip fell through and the temple covered mountain was forgotten.
Fast forward to our almost last minute spring break Japan trip. After Andy found a great deal on flights to Japan, I picked up the planning right where I left off, knowing that I had to make this temple thing happen. We also wanted to see Tokyo, which we were flying into, and Kyoto, so I had to figure out how to book a temple stay and get to the remote temples from one of those major cities. (More on the transportation later.
Trying to book a stay, I hit dead end after dead end with the websites I had found. I was starting to think I was too late and everything was booked or at least inaccessible for an English speaking traveler.
Then my Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) came in the mail and pointed me in the right direction. We love these books and have used them for local gems in almost every place we’ve been. Here’s the most updated one for Japan:
It pointed me toward Koya-san Shukubo Association. You can fill out a request form online, in English.
I think I actually jumped up and down when I read that.
There are a few options to choose from when requesting a room and since I had no idea what to expect and Lonely Planet said “generally, the more you pay, the better the room and the meals,” I didn’t want to go for the cheapest option. The options are:
¥9,720. to ¥11,000./person/night – Old Japanese style(Bath/toilet common style)
¥12,000. to ¥13,000.up/person/night – Modern Japanese style(Bath/toilet common style)
¥14,000. to up/person/night – Room with garden view(Bath/toilet common style)
¥16,000. to up/person/night – Room with a private bathroom
I still have no idea what the actual difference is between old Japanese style and modern Japanese style, besides the fact that modern is more expensive. Considering that we were only planning to stay one night, and breakfast and dinner were included, I decided to splurge and requested the garden view room. At least I knew what I was splurging for.
The next morning, I woke up to an email reply. A room in Rengejo-in was available. Lonely Planet describes this temple as having “superb rooms, a wealth of gardens, fine painted fusuma (sliding doors) and interesting art on display. English is spoken and sometimes an explanation of Buddhist practices and meditation is available.”
I may have jumped up and down again.
Above is a picture of our room with beds laid out for the night. As you might imagine, they were not the most comfortable. BUT we loved this experience. Read part one of the full description: Accidentally Meditating with Monks. More coming soon!
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