KIKUSUI HENRO HOUSEShukubô (Temple Accomodation)by Hiroshi Kushima
(translated by David C. Moreton)

What is temple accommodation?

Temple accommodations are lodging facilities operated by temples. The first image I had of such places was that there would lots of empty large rooms and that they will open the gates impartially to those that ask for food and lodging as night approaches on their journey. It is with good intentions that they let you stay, so one should not expect service seen at hotels and ryokans. However, in actuality, this was not the case.

First of all, it is difficult for walking pilgrims to stay at a temple. In my case I was often refused. The first thing I found out when walking around Shikoku is that temple accommodation is geared for groups. As well, it is usual for temples to be closed during the off season and when there are no group reservations. Sometimes one is fortunate when there is a group and there is a room available to allow a walking pilgrim to stay the night.

If one looks at this situation from the viewpoint of the temple, one can understand the economic difficulties of heating a large bath and hiring kitchen staff for a few people. However, in the case of Temple 24 and Temple 37, which also run Youth Hostels, they are open just about all year around except for perhaps during August (Obon) holidays.

How much does it cost to stay at a temple?

The basic rate (fixed in 1999) is 5,500yen for one night and two meals. In the case of minshukus etc, the average cost is between 6,000-6,5000yen, so temples are comparatively cheaper. However, there are places which reserved rooms and special menus which makes it more expensive. For example, when reserving a room at Temple 6, Anrakuji, the price was 6,500yen. As well, at Temple 23, Yakuoji there are three choices of menu which affects the overall cost.

For temples that also operate youth hostels, there are two choices. For example, staying as a `youth hostel customer` allows one to stay at a cheaper rate. But when staying as a 'temple accommodation customer', one might receive different treatment. At Temple 37, Iwamotoji when one stays as a 'youth hostel customer', one must wash one's dishes.

Staying at a Temple

Temple Customer Room At Temple 37
Temple Customer Room
At Temple 37

There is very little difference between staying at a temple and staying at a regular ryokan. However, as far as I know, TV sets are not available in the rooms at a temple. After having a bath, eating dinner, reading sutras (in some cases, this is also done in the morning), (there is nothing to do but) sleep.

A [Reading sutras] ceremony is held in the Main Hall after dinner or before breakfast. This ceremony allows guests to experience the chanting of sutras which is not usually done in everyday life except during funerals and other Buddhist related events. It takes about 30 minutes and is optional, but since I was there, I choose to participate.

Main Hall of Temple 61
Main Hall of Temple 61

When one sits in the seiza style, one's legs fall asleep and so part way through the ceremony, one must move and sit cross-legged. However at Temple 61, the Main Hall is filled with chairs so this problem will not occur.

As well, as a pilgrim one must worship from the outside of the Daishi and Main Hall, however by staying at a temple, one is able to walk around and have the opportunity to view the decorations and statues. This can be said to be one of the merits of staying at a temple.

When I stayed at Temple 24, Hotsumisaki at Muroto Cape, I met a woman there who was staying for one week and participating in the Gumonji-ho in other words, saying a sutra one million times. She came this far as a pilgrim and felt the strange powers of Kukai at Muroto Cape and ending up stopping at this temple. Clearly a true pilgrim is not one who only walks quickly according to a fixed plan. By staying at a temple, one not receives the red stamp in the stamp book but is provided with a chance to get to know other pilgrims.

The Meals at a Temple

Dinner scene at Temple 38
Meal at Saba Daishi

Meals can be eaten either in your room or in the main dining room with other people who are staying there. When eating in the dining room, individuals will be placed at the same table allowing for discussion about the pilgrimage route.

Most people imagine that temple meals will be vegetarian, however, at least at the temples I stayed at, this was not the case at all. Without exception, there were times when such foods as sushi and fried chicken were provided.

When I called to Temple 61, Koonji to make a reservation I was asked, gA group of children will be staying this day, so the menu will be hamburgers. Is this alright with you?h Actually, the next day I cancelled due to a miscalculation in my distance and was not able to enjoy eating meat at a temple. Thus, a temple meal can consist of just about anything.

One can also order beer and osake. I have heard from other pilgrims that at one temple there was a large kettle placed in the middle of the table and for free one could drink as much Japanese liquor as one wanted.

When I stayed at a temple at Mt. Koya after completing the pilgrimage, I was finally able to partake of a vegetarian meal. During my pilgrimage I did not drink any alcohol, but at Mt. Koya I ordered a bottle and celebrated finishing my journey.

(translated by David C. Moreton)

Glossary TOP Copyright (C)1999-2000 Hiroshi Kushima / (C)2004 David C. Moreton