What’s it like to sleep in a Buddhist temple in Japan? Our sincere opinion

When we talk to you about , although something more austere (no tea or Japanese sweets). One of the monks, in our case I would tell you that the youngest, kindly accompanied us to our room after they kindly explained to us what the experience would consist of.

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And now comes the first point against. When you think of sleeping in a Buddhist temple, you think of sleeping IN a Buddhist temple. Well, no, in this case, the monks have assembled a building that is not even in the enclosure of the original temple (it is an annex building) in which you do all your life during your stay: sleep, eat, bathe … So of course, first disappointment. Grab your bags and take them to the building across the street.

The room of the Kongo Sanmai-in

Really, it’s not that we expected luxuries when we booked that night to sleep in a Buddhist temple, but when you pay more than 200 euros for a room you expect at least a private shower (which you are also supposed to have paid for), amenities or a comfortable mattress. And we didn’t have any of that in the Kongo Sanmai-in, really.

Dormir en un templo budista: nuestra habitaciónSleeping in a Buddhist temple: our room

As in most traditional hotels, you’ll sleep directly on the tatami on a futon, so be prepared because if you’re not used to it may be a little uphill (I spent the first night in Magome). One of the hardest things for me (in the literal sense) was the pillow, which was like a sack of rice. Seriously, neck torture.

In addition to the room where the futons are, our room had a simple bathroom with WC and washbasin in which there was not even hand soap.

We didn’t have a shower in the bedroom bathroom. And believe me, this wouldn’t have been a problem if it hadn’t been for the restrictive temple bathroom schedule, which conditioned how we had to organize our visit to Koyasan, but I’ll tell you that a little further below.

Dormir en un templo budista: nuestra habitaciónSleeping in a Buddhist temple: our room

Another thing that made us strange, especially for us, who traveled with a lot of valuable equipment, is that the door of the room could not be closed from the outside, so if you want to go to shower or dinner, your belongings are left quite exposed.

We didn’t want luxury, just a little detail for a hotel (because it’s still a hotel, as we were shown) that costs 200 euros per night.

The baths in the Kongo Sanmai-in

As I told you above, we had no shower in the room despite having a private bathroom in the room (and having paid for it). And this became a problem at the time when we had to organize our day according to the opening hours of the showers (they are only open from 16:30 to 21:00 hours). To give you an idea, they weren’t open in the morning, so you couldn’t shower when you got up, as we always do.

Okay, I adjust and shower at night. Neither, because the schedule forces you to take a shower before dinner, which means that you have to ‘cede’ part of your tourist time to the moment of bathing. Call me crazy, but when you feel like enjoying the places calmly, it’s a pain to have to be thinking about going back to the hotel because otherwise you won’t be able to shower.

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Es probable que esto no pase en todos los templos budistas que permiten alojamiento en Koyasan, pero lo mejor es que lo consultes antes de hacer la reserva para saber a qué atenerte.

Aside from the schedule, the showers were pretty good: austere, but very clean. They also had a small ofuro (hot tub) that we didn’t have time to use due to our busy schedule 😛 (after dinner we wanted to visit the Okuno-in cemetery).

If we go in to analyze more mundane things, in the bathrooms there was only gel and shampoo. No conditioner, no cream, no comb, nothing else… And when you’ve gotten used during the trip to finding all that in the bathroom of hotels, the truth is that it gets weird.

Food at the Kongo Sanmai-in

Normally, reservations to sleep in a Buddhist temple include dinner and breakfast, which in this case, and following the rules of Buddhism are vegetarian in all cases.

According to Buddhist teachings, the shojin ryori must be completely vegetarian and is based on the concepts of five flavours, five cooking methods and five colours. Every meal should include a grilled dish, a fried dish, a vinegar dish, a plate of tofu and a plate of soup. Imagine all that for breakfast! 😛

Dormir en un templo budista: cena en la sala comúnSleeping in a Buddhist temple: dinner in the common room

Take a good look at this and keep it in mind, because most restaurants in Koyasan (if not most) are only open until noon. Unlike other traditional accommodations, in this case you can not choose the time of dinner or breakfast. They have a fixed schedule that you have to adapt to.

Tanto la cena como el desayuno se realizan en una sala común con el resto de huéspedes. Los monjes, dejan preparadas tus bandejas en el suelo al lado de unos pequeños cojines y un cartel con el número de tu habitación, lo que provoca que algunos platos se queden fríos. Sé que no paro de quejarme, pero es que realmente, comer en el suelo es algo bastante incómodo. Forma parte de la experiencia, sí, pero no deja de ser incómodo.

Dormir en un templo budista: cena en la sala comúnSleeping in a Buddhist temple: dinner in the common room

Dinner in a Buddhist temple

The dinner we were served at the Kongo Sanmai-in consisted of several dishes with a lot of tofu, of which only the white rice and the two soups were hot. There was a vegetable tempura that looked great, but of course, cold is not the same, even though it was still good. There were also beans, mixed vegetables, tofu cooked in various ways, and a salad of seaweed and vinegar that Fran loved (and hates vegetables).

Dormir en un templo budista: cena en la sala comúnSleeping in a Buddhist temple: dinner in the common room

Looking back over time, it wasn’t really a luxury dinner, but almost everything we tasted was pretty good. But you have to be very open-minded. In addition, there is free refill of rice, so if there is nothing to convince you, you can always eat rice 😉

If you want to see everything we ate better, you can do it in the video at the beginning of the post.

Dormir en un templo budista: cena en la sala comúnSleeping in a Buddhist temple: dinner in the common room

Breakfast in a Buddhist temple

The next morning’s breakfast consisted of white rice, miso soup, vegetables and seaweed, a small tortilla, nori seaweed and tea. The truth is that accustomed to breakfast milk and toast with oil and tomato, it is very rare to start the day like this. Yet we have nothing bad to say about the food, because it was right.

Dormir en un templo budista: desayuno en la sala comúnSleeping in a Buddhist temple: breakfast in the common roomDormir en un templo budista: desayuno en la sala comúnSleeping in a Buddhist temple: breakfast in the common roomDormir en un templo budista: desayuno en la sala comúnSleeping in a Buddhist temple: breakfast in the common room

The moment of prayer in a Buddhist temple

After an extremely short night, first thing in the morning (about 6:00) a kind of alarm sounds in the temple announcing that it is time to go and pray. On this occasion we did go inside the halls of the Kongo Sanmai-in temple to attend a morning prayer ceremony by the Buddhist monks of the temple.

Dormir en un templo budista: rezo matinal de los monjesSleeping in a Buddhist temple: morning prayer of the monks

Describing what we live there is complicated. The monks stand with their backs to the guests and begin to sing their prayers (sutras) with melodies that seemed hypnotic to me and sounds that they generate with metal instruments. The ceremony lasts about 30 minutes and then allow you to visit the areas of the room that are normally closed to visitors.

Dormir en un templo budista: rezo matinal de los monjesSleeping in a Buddhist temple: morning prayer of the monks

Without a doubt, if it was worth sleeping in a Buddhist temple, it was because of what we experienced that morning. And I’d say almost just for that.

Farewell to Kongo Sanmai-in

Contrary to what we live in the Iwaso, the truth is that the farewell at the Buddhist temple was quite cold. Once we finished breakfast and collected the things from the room (you have no option to shower) we had to go to the temple area to pay. As we queued up to do so, we coincided with several Spaniards who coincided with us in the disappointment of the experience.

Things we liked about sleeping in a Buddhist temple in Japan

The natural environment surrounding the temple is wonderful.Dormir en un templo budista: Kongo Sanmai-inSleeping in a Buddhist temple: Kongo Sanmai-inAlthough we don’t lodge in the temple itself, it’s a beautiful temple and one that deserves a visit even if you don’t stay there to sleep.generally, though quiet, the monks were very kind to us, especially the older ones.we were able to taste flavors in the food that we wouldn’t have tasted otherwise because we ate dishes we wouldn’t have asked for voluntarily.

Things we didn’t like about sleeping in a Buddhist temple in Japan

It was a huge disappointment to sleep in an annex building that was not even inside the hotel grounds. there were no amenities of any kind, not even hand soap. you pay for a private bathroom but you don’t have a shower and the shared bathroom schedule is only from 16:30 to 21:00. eating on the floor is definitely not our thing, definitely. In general, that everything is set up as a business focused simply on making money was quite disappointing.

How much does it cost to sleep in a Buddhist temple in Japan?

You have a lot of different options (and of all prices, but not cheap at all) when it comes to staying in a Buddhist temple in Koyasan. As we told you, we stayed at Kongo Sanmaiin and paid 26,920 JPY for a night in a most austere room (not that we were looking for luxury) with a private bathroom that didn’t even have a shower of its own. But the price of the room included dinner and breakfast, and that’s something to keep in mind.

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