A Shukubo is a temple lodging in Japan that allows visitors to stay overnight within a Buddhist temple. Most people who participate in pilgrimages in Japan often use this chance to experience a Shukubo, because you not only get the opportunity to stay on the sacred grounds, but the entire experience allows you to see first hand the humbling and simplistic yet wholesome lifestyle of monks.
Most people find staying at Shukubo’s a fulfilling experience, and everything from staying in a traditional Japanese room with tatami flooring and futons, to waking up in time for 6:00am morning prayers, to dining on simple yet flavorsome vegetarian Buddhist meals (shojin ryori), will leave a lasting impression on anyone.
Note that although many find Shukubo experiences to be comfortable, it is not a place where you would expect to be pampered, or experience everyday luxuries. Most bathrooms are shared amongst guests and sometimes monks themselves, and rooms don’t always have locks. Wi-Fi and alcoholic beverages are sometimes, but not always, offered onsite. Simplicity is key here.
To assist you in your search, we’ve listed below some fantastic choices for a memorable Shukubo stay in Japan.
1. Koya-san Eko-in
As one of the longer standing temples in Japan, Shukubo Eko-in is an extremely popular Shukubo for visitors in Japan. It offers all the basics for a comfortable temple lodging stay, including comfortable Japanese-style rooms, delicious Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, and morning prayers which are open to guests.
If you’re after a slightly more demanding schedule, you can attend the Goma fire ritual (there are raving reviews of this by many attendees), and participate in some meditation; you can also go hiking around the scenic surroundings (you are on Mount Koya after all!), and even try your hand at Buddhist writing with a brush and ink (provided in the comfort of your own rooms).
Why Guests Love It: many of the reasons why guests have given this Shukubo five stars include all the additional activities that you can participate in as a guest, the large and comfortable rooms that also provide lovely views of the gorgeous garden, and the grand structure of the temple (wooden cedar panels). More than once, the night cemetery walk was highly recommended.
Book It Now: Shukubo Koya-san Eko-in
Jokiin is one of the most highly rated Shukubo’s within Koya-san. It’s an incredibly authentic and stunning temple lodging that has kept to its roots through its many years of providing a humbling Buddhist experience to all its visitors. Most people who have stayed here have been thoroughly impressed by how much traditional and culture is embedded in every action and detail here.
Whilst you should expect to let go of creature comforts for a day or two here, it does provide all guests with a flat-screen TV in the guest rooms, and it also provides Wi-Fi for all guests throughout the property. How good’s that!
Why Guests Love It: If you’re after authenticity, it appears that Jokiin is the place to be. As many guests have praised, nothing here felt like it was made for tourists – everything was exceptionally deep-rooted in Japanese culture and incredibly warming. The highlight of many guests’ trip included the vegetarian meals, so if you want the full experience, we recommend booking both breakfast and dinner.
Book It Now: Jokiin Shukubo
3. Koyasan Fudoin
Another great selection from Koyasan, Shukubo Fudoin is as traditional as they get. The architecture of this place just oozes incredible Japanese history, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous water paintings within the Shukubo itself – there are some incredibly impressive stuff!
From the prayer hall to the Japanese-style rooms, to the public baths to relax in after a day of exploring the surrounding temples and museums, there is almost nothing to fault with this lodging at all.
Why Guests Love It: Most guests describe this as a place that’s clearly not just an accommodation, but an entirely unique experience in its own. It’s impressed hundreds with its warm welcome by the staff members, the Zen ambience throughout the entire lodging, the delicious vegetarian meals that have raving reviews, and many people have commented on how clean this lodging is.
Book It Now: Koyasan Shukubo Fudoin
4. Waqoo Shitaderamachi
Whilst most Shukubo’s tend to be condensed in the Koyasan area, there are plenty spread throughout Japan, and Waqoo Shitaderamachi provides the perfect choice for those in Osaka looking for something that’s affordable, and convenient.
Whilst it’s not as authentic as staying at a Shukubo in the mountains, Waqoo Shitaderamachi does have its merits. It’s extraordinarily close to popular areas such as Tsutenkaku and Shinsekai, but, as one lodger has noted, it’s “a quiet escape from the city buzz but still very close to nice bars and restaurants”.
You will still be able to sleep on a semi- traditional Japanese bedding (raised above the floor), try writing Buddhist texts, eat delicious vegetarian meals, and participate in mornings prayers, so the experience will be amazing (without the travel!).
Why Guests Love It: One of the biggest factors of this lodging is just how comfortable it was for the guests there, especially the raised fluffy futons on the rooms. The cleanliness of the rooms and bathrooms are also highly rated, and the mix of traditional and modern facilities has been highly praised.
Book It Now: Waqoo Shitaderamachi
As one of the few Shukubo’s located on Mount Shigisan, Gyokuzoin holds a special place in people’s hearts, especially after they’ve had a memorable stay at the lodging. One of the terms coined by a past traveler was “magical”.
This is almost a one-stop shop, as it is located in Nara, which is not too far to travel some main cities like Osaka or Kyoto, however, its peace and tranquility are second to none. Some might even say one night here is nowhere near enough. You can spend your time here exploring the beautiful temple compound itself, or you can go sightseeing around the mountain itself, and relax back at the public hot bath onsite afterwards.
It is situated pretty high up, so your view out the window will most likely be framed by beautiful trees, with the city’s twinkling lights just below during the night time. Don’t miss out on the fire ceremony, the walk through the temple at night, and the morning prayers!
Why Guests Love It: Magical, magical, magical. These words have been uttered over and over by various guests who have stayed at this place, and who can blame them? Being situated high up in the mountains means that at any time of the day, your view will be absolutely breathtaking. The tranquility here has been praised endlessly, and people have left feeling revitalized like never before. The biggest highlight for people though? The fire ceremony.
Book It Now: Gyokuzoin Temple
6. Takayama Zenko-ji
We’ve mentioned before that creature comforts are usually left at the door at the Shukubos, however, if we were to pick one that best tries to meet comfort and Shukubo authenticity half way, it would be Temple Zenko-ji, located in Takayama, in Gifu prefecture.
The exterior aesthetic of the temple is already one that will leave you in awe, and whilst it is a temple lodging through and through, you’ll find that the private parking option, Wi-Fi provided throughout the property, amenities such as a bidet, hairdryer and free toiletries, and mattress heaters in winter really take this Shukubo up a notch. This stunning temple is one that may appeal to the younger crowd.
Why Guests Love It: The location of this Shukubo was a big reason why many people chose it, as it’s very conveniently located between the old station and the old town. Although it does provide shared bathrooms, people still found it super comfortable as it’s a quiet hotel and the bathroom is modern. Also, activities such as a kimono session were highly praised.
Book It Now: Temple Hotel Takayama Zenko-ji
This one’s for those who are after a slightly off the beaten path experience. Located in Minobu, Shukubo Kakurinbo is a warm authentic temple lodging that ticks all the right boxes for those looking at a comfortable, quintessentially Japanese temple stay that’s not completely cut off from the outside word (there is Wi-Fi available), but still far away from the crowds enough so that your inner self will feel the peace.
Staff here are extremely attentive and welcoming. You’ll be surrounded by many other small temples that you can explore during your stay, and there is a wedding kimono fitting activity that you can also participate in – an extremely popular activity for the ladies!
Why Guests Love It: The food here has been described as exquisite by multiple guests, and one has even mentioned how it appears to be adjusted for the Western palette. It’s a place to go just to wind down and relax, and whilst one guest has mentioned that a car is worthwhile to rent whilst being around this area, other guests have been picked up and dropped off at Minobu station, so you can decide how you’d like to go about transportation.
Book It Now: Temple Lodging Shukubo Kakurinbo
Another temple lodging that is slightly off the beaten path (Minamiaso), Ryokoji Shukubo is a humble temple lodging that combines traditional Japanese lodging authenticity with modern creature comfort facilities for the ultimate Shukubo experience. All rooms have tatami flooring and provide fluffy futons for guests, and are fitted with a balcony providing stunning mountain views. They’re also fitted with private modern bathrooms with a bidet and free toiletries.
Why Guests Love It: The most praised feature of this temple lodging? The FOOD. Almost all guests have mentioned the quality of the vegetarian meals being absolutely outstanding, so if you’re looking to book this place, make sure you include the meals in your rooms! Also, if spacious rooms are your thing, then this might just be the place for you – one person’s even described it as, “You have almost four rooms to yourself. It feels like you just moved into a new Japanese house.”
Book It Now: Ryokoji Shukubo
This temple lodging is an absolute gem. From its location high up in the mountains, to its bizarrely slightly-smaller-in-size yet extraordinarily comfortable rooms with absolutely breathtaking views, it’s a winner in our eyes. It’s got everything you would expect from a temple lodging, including the peace and serenity, soft futon bedding, shared bathroom facilities, and excellent vegetarian cuisine.
However, if you’re looking for something beyond that, you’ll be able to able to unwind in the public indoor baths made from fragrant cypress wood, participate in trekking to a waterfall to train by sitting underneath the falling water, dress up in yukatas, and even opt for Western meals instead of traditional Japanese meals (you’ll need to book this in advance, but we highly recommend going for the Japanese option).
Why Guests Love It: The incredible views are one of the main praises this place has received, and if you look at where the lodging is located, you’ll understand why (psst, it’s right near the top of the mountain, and it’s surrounded by luscious trees). The indoor public bath is heaven-sent for all guests, and a favorite activity for most guests is simply relaxing in their seating area, taking it all in, enjoying the silence and listening to the soft sounds of nature.
Book It Now: Shukubo Komadori-Sanso
10. Kansho-in Sanrakuso
Knock out two birds with one stone and stay at Shukubo Kansho-in Temple Sanrakuso if you’re also looking at visiting Daisen Temple – it’s what majority of other visitors appear to be doing! This lodging is located at the foot of Mount Daisen, making it a wonderful choice for those looking to explore the area and the mountain.
All rooms are fitted as traditional Japanese rooms, with tatami floors and Japanese futon bedding, a sitting area, flat-screen TVs, and shared bathrooms. There is free Wi-Fi throughout for you to connect to, shojin ryori is provided for dinner, a Japanese set menu is provided for breakfast, and activities that can be participated in including experiencing Sutra transcriptions, traditional Buddhist meditations, and relaxing in the public spa facilities (which are stocked with luxury amenities such as Shiseido washes).
Why Guests Love It: Location, location, location. For anyone visiting the Daisen area, we strongly urge you to stay at this Shukubo. It’s a light, comfortable stay, with authenticity that entwines with modern creature comforts, and for that kind of price, it’s quite worth it!
Book It Now: Shukubo Kansho-in Temple Sanrakuso
If you’re looking for a unique way to experience lodging in Japan, we recommend that you don’t think twice about looking at Shukubos.
They’ve not extraordinarily expensive, they’re spread out all over the country so you can choose one at your convenience (although Mount Koya in Wakayama has the highest concentration of Shukubos and thus the greatest range to choose from), and they’ve been proven to be quite memorable from majority of past visitors.
It’s definitely a change from the night life of Japanese cities, and you might find that you enjoy it even more.
PS: If you are looking for another traditional type of accommodation in Japan, make sure you also check out our beautiful Ryokan Collection.