Are you bored with the standard travelling experience? Are you bored of regular hotels? Would you like to experience something different and memorable during your travels? If you are planning to explore Japan, then try the shukubo!

Shukubo means staying overnight in a temple, typically a Buddhist temple. In the beginning, staying overnight in a temple is done by pilgrims who are going through a spiritual trip.

That’s why some temples – especially those that are popular for spiritual destinations – often provides a place to stay for their guests. Nowadays, more and more temples around Japan are open for the public tourists, and anyone can do shukubo.

Koya-san
Koya-san, via wikimedia commons

Don’t you want to know more about shukubo? Of all temples in Japan, shukubo in Koya-san (or Koya Mountain) is believed to give you the best spiritual experience. Koya-san is a mountain in the Wakayama prefecture and it’s the center of an important Buddhist sect in Japan, the Shingon Buddhism.

The sect was formed in the 805 by Kobo Daishi (or Kukai), one of the most influential religious figures in Japan. In the beginning, there is only one temple build by Kobo Daishi on this mountain.

Nowadays, there are dozens of other temples surrounding this temple as well as Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum. Koya-san is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” in 2004, which proves how special this place is.

Koya-san
Koya-san, via wikimedia commons

There are several reasons why shukubo at Koya-san is the best in Japan.

First, because Koya-san itself is a site for spiritual pilgrimage. Therefore, it has a stronger spiritual atmosphere compared to other places. This is perfect for anyone who is looking for an inner enlightenment and tranquility during your visit to Japan.

Second, Koy-san is indeed a favorite destination for shukubo, so the Buddhist priests are relatively used to dealing with travelers and all of their culture shock.

Third, the temples in Koya-san are equipped to welcome foreign travelers who are interested in shukubo. More and more temples are offering online reservations who those who would like to do shukubo, and some do accept reservation through international booking sites like Agoda.

Koya-san
Koya-san, via Jordy Meow/wikimedia commons

Well, for all of you who are looking for a spiritual trip experience in Japan, try considering Koya-san as your destination. There’s no harm in running away from the hectic metropolitan life like Tokyo and Osaka. In fact, after shukubo, you might even feel refreshed and find a cooler, different way to look at the world and life. Don’t you agree?

Let’s check out some temples in Koya-san that are available for bookings through international booking sites:

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1. Kongo Sanmai-in, A Temple with Kamakura Architectural Style that Welcomes You to Koya-san.

The entrance gate to Kongo Sanmai-in
The entrance gate to Kongo Sanmai-in, via agoda

Of all temples in Koya-san, Kongo Sanmai-in is the most unique. This is due to its Kamakura period (1185-1333) architectural style, and not a lot of temples in Koya-san bears the Kamakura style.

Kongo Sanmai-in
Kongo Sanmai-in, via agoda

It’s not a wonder that Kongo Sanmai-in has such a strong Kamakura style-architecture. This temple was built in 1223 in memory of Minamoto no Yoritomo, an influential general in his day.

The person who initiates it is the wife of Minamoto no Yoritomo, one of the most influential female figures in Japanese history, Hojo Masako. Other versions claim that the temple was build in memory of Hojo Masako’s son, Minamoto no Sanetomo, the third shogun of Kamakura period. This is the ambience of the temple:

Inside the temple
Inside the temple, via agoda
Inside the temple
Inside the temple, via agoda
The interior
The interior, via agoda
Garden
Garden, via agoda

Kongo Sanmai-in regularly takes in shukubo guests. Each guest may stay in a room with tatami floor, at 6-8 tatamis wide or 8-10 tatamis wide, and several rooms have a view facing each other. Of course, since this is a temple, there is no entertainment offered here. However, you can pay extra to participate in their activity packages, such as calligraphy, morning prayers, meditation and several other religious activities.

Guest amenities
Guest amenities, via agoda
Guest amenities
Guest amenities, via agoda
A view from one of the rooms
A view from one of the rooms, via agoda
Bathroom
Bathroom, via agoda

FYI, one of the best times to stay at Kongo Sanmai-in is in the end of April – beginning of May. During that time, the Syakunage flowers (Rhododendron) surrounding the temple will bloom, and the temple will look festive with its pretty pink flowers.

Address: 425 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
Access: 14 minute ride from Koyasan, atau 10 minute walk from Senjuin-bashi Bus Stop
Check in: 14.00, Check out: 09.00
Rate: start from JPY5564/night or USD48.7/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult) Check the Latest Price!
Amenities: vending maching, parking

Book now from Booking.com
Book now from Agoda.com

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2. After Centuries Being Known as the Temple of the Emperor’s Family, Now You Too Can Stay at Koyasan Fudoin

The entrance gate to Koyasan Fudoin
The entrance gate to Koyasan Fudoin, via agoda

Fudoin is one of the 12 temples built by a high priest called Saiko in 906. This temple plays an important role for the Japanese royal family in the past, because it was the main temple for Yamashina family, a line of the Japanese royal family. The empress of Emperor Toba, Bifukumonin, was even buried in this temple.

Koyasan Fudoin Temple
Koyasan Fudoin Temple, via agoda
Koyasan Fudoin
Koyasan Fudoin, via agoda
Serenity in the temple
Serenity in the temple, via agoda
Serenity in the temple
Serenity in the temple, via agoda

At the moment, Fudoin is quite active in welcoming travelers who are interested in shukubo. At the temple, travelers can do many activities (some of them are subject to extra charge), such as the morning prayer, calligraphy and Ajikan.

Ajikan is a meditation technique developed by Kobo Daishi. By performing ajikan, guests are invited to look into their own self, to feel the presence of Buddha, and finally to find their inner peace. For all of you who are getting tired of your daily lives, maybe it’s time to try shukubo at Fudoin and find you rinner peace here.

Are you curious what kind of facilities are available at Fudoin? Check out these pictures:

Bedroom
Bedroom, via agoda
Bedroom
Bedroom, via agoda
Corridor
Corridor, via agoda
Vending machine and TV room
Vending machine and TV room, via agoda
Library
Library, via agoda

Address: 456 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Koyasan 648-0284
Access: 13-14 minute ride from Koyasan
Check in: 15.00, Check out: 10.00
Rate: start from JPY12411/night or USD111/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult) Check the Latest Price!
Amenities: WiFi, garden, common lounge, library, vending machine, baggage storage, parking

Book now from Booking.com
Book now from Agoda.com

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3. Houzenin, A Temple with a Two-Star Hotel Amenities.

Houzenin Temple
Houzenin Temple, via agoda

Another temple in Koya-san is friendly with foreign travelers is the Houzenin Temple. Friendly here means you may find it at many international booking sites, so you do not need to go through the hassle of making phone reservation or going through their official website that is only available in Japanese.

The gate to Houzenin Temple
The gate to Houzenin Temple, via agoda
Houzenin Temple
Houzenin Temple, via agoda
Garden
Garden, via agoda
Interior
Interior, via agoda

Houzenin has 20 guest rooms, 1 large hall, 2 medium halls, and all of them can fit up to 60 individual guests or 100 guests (if you book as group). All guests will stay overnight in a room with tatami, and the rates include breakfast. You can check out the ambience of this temple in the following pictures:

Corridor
Corridor, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
Bathroom
Bathroom, via agoda
Breakfast menu
Breakfast menu, via agoda

Address: Koyasan 568, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Koyasan 648-0211
Access: 12-13 minute ride from Koyasan
Check in: 14.00, Check out: 09.00
Rate: start from JPY9500-12600/night or USD81.5-111/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult) Check the Latest Price!
Amenities: garden

Book now from Agoda.com

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4. Located Across Danjo Garan is the Saizen-in Temple with Its Legendary Garden.

Gate to Saizenin Temple
Gate to Saizenin Temple, via agoda

According to history, Kobo Daishi is the first Buddhist priest who built a temple in Koya-san. The first temple built by Kobo Daishi is the Danjo Garan. Afterwards, hundreds of temples were built around Danjo Garan, which leads Koya-san into a main spiritual destination in Japan.

One of the temples near Danjo Garan that offers shukubo is the Saizenin Temple. It is located right across of the Danjo Garan Temple, so you can say that Saizenin is quite conveniently located.

Other than that, Saizenin offers some interesting elements. Saizenin has a room donated by the founder of Panasonic, Konosuke Matsushita (1894-1989), and he wrote 44 books in that room. This temple also bears a garden designed by a well-known landscape architect, Shigemori Mirei (1896-1975).

Saizenin
Saizenin, via agoda
Altar
Altar, via agoda

 

Sainzen-in has 28 guest rooms, 1 large hall and 1 medium hall that fits 70 individual guests or 120 guests (if you book as a group).

All guests will not only be served a vegetarian menu, but they can also participate in morning prayers at the hondo (the main hall of the temple), listen to morning sermons and walk around the garden. Appearance of the bedroom and other amenities are as below:

The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
Bathroom
Bathroom, via agoda
Menu offered at the temple
Menu offered at the temple, via agoda

Address: Koyasan 154, Wakayama 648-0211
Access: 9 minute ride from Koyasan
Check in: 14.00, Check out: 09.00
Rate: start from JPY9954/night or USD81.5/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult) Check the Latest Price!
Amenities: family room, luggage storage, garden, parking

Book now from Booking.com
Book now from Agoda.com

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5. At Fukuchiin Temple, You Can Experience Shukubo and Spa in One Spot!

Gate to Fukuchiin Temple
Gate to Fukuchiin Temple, via 高野山 宿坊 福智院 Koyasan Fukuchiin/facebook

In Koya-san, there are approximately 50 temples that offer shukubo. Of the dozens of temples, Fukuchiin might steal your attention because it offers a relatively rare facility (for a temple, especially in Koya-san): a spa and an outdoor onsen. Hmm, isn’t that great?

Fukuchiin
Fukuchiin, via booking
Fukuchiin
Fukuchiin, via 高野山 宿坊 福智院 Koyasan Fukuchiin/facebook

Aside from their onsen, Fukuchiin is also known for their amenities. The temple has a banquet room, conference room, gallery, main lobby, and a coffee shop! Wow, is this a temple or a hotel? And even more exciting, this temple has several gorgeous gardens. You can enjoy a view of the garden while talking a walk, or perhaps simply immersing in it from afar while sipping a cup of coffee or hot tea.

Outdoor onsen
Outdoor onsen, via booking
Garden
Garden, via 高野山 宿坊 福智院 Koyasan Fukuchiin/facebook
Coffee shop
Coffee shop, via 高野山 宿坊 福智院 Koyasan Fukuchiin/facebook

Compared to other temples, Fukuchiin makes an effort in managing shokubo as a tourist attraction. That’s why they offer several types of rooms to choose from. They offer the standard rooms, rooms with a view of the garden, and rooms with a private bathroom. They look pretty much like this:

Standard room
Standard room, via booking
Room with a private bathroom
Room with a private bathroom, via booking
Private bathroom
Private bathroom, via booking
Communal bath
Communal bath, via booking

Address: 657, Koyasan, Koya-cho Ito-gun, Wakayama, 648-0211
Access: 1 minute walk from “Keisatsusyo-mae bus stop”
Check in: 15.00, Check out: 09.00
Rate: start from JPY9954/night or USD81.5/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult) Check the Latest Price!
Amenities: meeting rooms, shops, onsen, parking

Book now from Booking.com
Book now from Agoda.com

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6. Can’t Stay Away from the Internet? No Doubt the Ekoin Temple will be Your Favorite!

Ekoin Temple
Ekoin Temple, via booking

Shukubo signifies a ritual, the search of enlightenment and the exploration of tranquility. However, you may not necessarily have to get away from all worldly things, such as the internet.

Take the Ekoin Temple for an example. This over-1000-years-old temple may be a favorite among modern life lovers, because they provide a specific spot to access the internet. Isn’t that neat?

Ekoin Temple
Ekoin Temple, via booking
Garden
Garden, via agoda

Aside from the internet corner, Ekoin Temple also offers a variety of activities you can participate in. They include morning prayers, silk painting, meditation and many more.

For extra charge and by reservation, you may also request for a specific prayer, either for a deceased family member, for your safety, for your wealth, etc. The temple has a library and a quite large joint bath house.

Prayers at Ekoin
Prayers at Ekoin, via agoda
Library
Library, via booking

The amenities in the temple is quite attractive too, especially for a temple. The rooms are relatively bigger compared to other temples, and they are comfortable. The room rates include dinner and breakfast, so it is considerably economical. These are the rooms:

The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda

Address: 497, Koyasan, Koya-cho Ito-gun, Wakayama, 648-0211
Access: 2 minute walk from “Karukayadomae bus stop”
Check in: 14.00, Check out: 10.00
Rate: start from JPY10614/night or USD92.6/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult) Check the Latest Price!
Amenities: luggage storage, library, internet, parking, bilingual temple: Japanese and English

Book now from Booking.com
Book now from Agoda.com

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7. Don’t Forget to Check out the Yochi-in Temple, a Temple Built by A Prince Nearly 1000 Years Ago.

Gate to Yochi-in Temple
Gate to Yochi-in Temple, via agoda

Yochi-an is an old temple in Koya-san. It was built in 1127, which means it’s almost 1000 years old. The initiator is a prince named Kakuho, who is the fourth son of Emperor Shirakawa. Even though it is built by a royalty, this temple is open to anyone. So do not hesitate to visit it!

Yochi-in
Yochi-in, via agoda
Yochi-in
Yochi-in, via booking
Yochi-in
Yochi-in, via booking

Yochi-in is one of the temples in Koya-san that takes specific effort to target foreign travelers who would love to experience shukubo. It is easier to reserve a shukubo experience at the Yochi-in Temple as it is available on many international booking sites.

And, even though the local priests do not speak much English, all guests can find a brochure and directions in English, and this helps guests to understand the ritual in the temple.

Their brochure in English
Their brochure in English, via booking
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda
The bedroom
The bedroom, via agoda

Address: 293 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama 648-0211
Access: 10 minute walk from “Senjyuin-bashi bus stop”
Check in: 15.00, Check out: 10.00
Rate: start from JPY13064/night or USD111/night (weekdays, low season, 1 adult) Check the Latest Price!
Amenities: garden, hot spring bath, parking

Book now from Booking.com
Book now from Agoda.com

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Access to Koya-san:

The easiest way to access Koya-san is through Namba Station or Shin-Imamiya Station in Osaka. Here are the shortest route to reach Koya-san from Namba Station or Shin-Imamiya Station:

Namba (Osaka) –Koya-san Station.
Namba (Osaka) –Koya-san Station. Screenshot by: vie
Shin-Imamiya Station (Osaka) – Koya-san Station.
Shin-Imamiya Station (Osaka) – Koya-san Station. Screenshot by: vie

 

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