With many visitors wanting to have unforgettable experiences on their travels, the new trend of ‘Shukubo’ in Japan (sleep with the monks) is constantly gaining new followers.
The ‘Shukubo’ trend allows travelers to spend the night in mystical and ancient Buddhist temples in the company of monks.
In the serene world of Japanese Buddhist monks, life takes on a distinct form, intertwined with discipline
After all, this is what the word “shukubo” means, i.e. “sleep with the monks”. “Some people still use the lodges when they travel to show their faith, but the number of these people is decreasing,” said Kaiji Yamamoto, a senior monk at Zenkoji Temple in Takayama, located in the central mountainous prefecture of Gifu.
“Today, more and more travelers are using shukubo as a unique place to stay and offer a completely calming experience,” he told DW.
As the BBC writes in its tribute, in the peaceful world of Japanese Buddhist monks, life takes on a special form, intertwined with discipline. These monks follow a unique method of meditation, often standing upright, supported only by a modest pillow.
In this position, they maintain a constant state of awareness, embodying the Buddhist quality of sustained concentration. This approach to faith is only one aspect of a monk’s lifestyle, which revolves around spiritual devotion and mindfulness.
Their days usually begin with pre-dawn meditation, followed by a simple breakfast consisting of vegetarian or vegan offerings. As the sun rises, the monks chant to enhance self-awareness and inner peace.
Now these accommodation options in such environments are for the Japanese as well as the tourists, an offer to taste the monastic life, as well as take a look at the meditative practices of the monks.
In each shukubo guests are surrounded by a minimalist and focused approach to everyday life. It is an echo of the very essence of Buddhist teachings and offers an immersive catharsis from one’s fast-paced daily routine.
The common rooms and the sessions with the monks
In the early years of shukubo, accommodations were quite modest, in keeping with the ascetic practices of the pilgrims. Visitors often slept in communal 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 of a multi-course meal include seasonal vegetables and plants harvested from the mountains around the temple, along with tofu and soy-based foods. Together, these ingredients are believed to bring balance and alignment to the body, mind and spirit.
From these basic principles, shukubo accommodations have evolved significantly. Some temples offer accommodation that is on par with good quality hotels but, at the same time, retains the atmosphere of the traditional temple environment.
Visitors can take part in meditation sessions, prayer meetings, yoga, copy calligraphy and take guided hikes in the surrounding mountains.
On special occasions, visitors can also take part in purification rituals that include standing under waterfalls and reciting prayers.