Japan's Buddhist temples open 'shukubo' doors to tourists

taiwannews.com.tw -- Nov 09

For centuries, holy men, pilgrims and nobles journeyed the sacred paths that crossed Japan in search of knowledge and enlightenment. At the end of a long day tramping the mountain paths, they invariably sought out an "otera," or temple, to rest their weary bodies.

The simple accommodation that temples were able to offer, along with traditional meals and prayers, became known as "shukubo."

And now that pilgrims are a rarity in Japan, the temples are opening their sliding wooden doors to travelers from around the world.

In the early years of shukubo, the accommodation could be fairly spartan, in line with pilgrims' ascetic practices. Guests often slept in shared rooms, took part in meditation and prayer sessions at different times of the day and night with the resident monks.

Traditional Buddhist "shojin ryori" meals were served without any meat, fish or other animal products.

Typical ingredients in a multi-course meal include seasonal vegetables and plants gathered from the mountains surrounding the temple, along with tofu and soybean-based foods. Taken together, these ingredients are believed to bring balance and alignment to the body, mind and spirit.

From these basic beginnings, shukubo accommodation has evolved significantly. Some temples offer accommodation that is on a par with good quality hotels but, at the same time, preserve the atmosphere of the traditional temple surroundings.

Modern-day visitors can take part in meditation sessions, prayer meetings, yoga, copying calligraphy that make up sutras and guided treks in the surrounding mountains. ...continue reading